Cinema screening October 7 film graffitied by suspected pro-Palestine activists

Police are treating this act of vandalism as a hate crime
Police are treating this act of vandalism as a hate crime

Police are treating graffiti by suspected pro-Palestine protesters on a cinema showing a documentary about the Hamas terror attack as a potential hate crime.

The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, north London - an area with a high Jewish population - was sprayed with red paint before Thursday evening’s screening of a documentary about the October 7 attack on the Supernova Festival.

The graffiti - described as looking like blood - read “say no to artwashing”. The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation, and officers are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.

Protests are expected outside the cinema at 7pm to coincide with the time of the screening.

Phoenix Theatre
The graffiti - described as looking like blood - read 'say no to artwashing'

During the afternoon, local members of the community rallied to try to wash off the graffiti.

One volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s just an outrage. People who are survivors of this massacre are coming here and they could have been confronted with red graffiti that honestly looked like blood.

“One of the people here knows someone who survived the massacre and she was coming tonight. Imagine the trauma if she saw this. People from the community have gone together to clean it up.

“It claimed that the film was artwashing - but it’s not. It’s footage from the festival. It shows what happened. There’s no agenda.

“People have clearly got the wrong idea about this film. And to take it out on The Phoenix - a charity? It’s awful.”

The documentary, ‘Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre’, is a one-hour film being screened as part of the Seret International Israeli Film Festival. It features eyewitness accounts from survivors of the massacre that took place at the festival last year.

Various Jewish organisations have already responded to the graffiti - with UK Jewish Film saying it was “appalled”.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, they said: “We condemn any attempt to bully and intimidate cinemas into censoring films and are proud to show films that reflect Jewish and Israeli life.”

Meanwhile, the Campaign against Anti-Semitism added:

The Phoenix Cinema is an independent, single-screen community cinema which opened in 1912. It has been run by a charitable trust since 1985 and is one of the oldest continuously running cinemas in the UK.

Workers inside the cinema refused to comment on the graffiti.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “Police were called at 10:11hrs on Thursday, 23 May to reports of criminal damage at the Phoenix Cinema in High Road N2.

“An investigation has been launched. There have been no arrests. While enquiries are ongoing, at this time the incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime.

“Police had already been made aware of protests expected at the venue regarding a film screening on Thursday night.

“Officers will be there to make sure those attending can protest safely whilst at the same time minimising serious disruption to the community.”

Phoenix cinema
Pro-Israel demonstrators gathered en masse outside the cinema as the screening took place - Sonja Horsman

A petition signed by more than 10,000 members of ‘The Jewish Community in north London’, has also been launched. It read: “While we uphold the right to freedom of speech, this right must be balanced with our community’s right to live in safety and peace.

“We urge the authorities to relocate this protest to a different venue, far from our quiet and peaceful neighbourhood, to avoid creating an unnecessary crisis.”

A Just Giving account to raise £1,500 to cover the cost of repairing the vandalism, has already raised more than £5,000.

The fundraising page said: “This act of vandalism was truly outrageous and has left us in urgent need of support. We are seeking voluntary contributions to cover the costs of cleaning and repairing any damage caused by this senseless act. Our fundraising campaign aims to ensure that this historic institution can continue to serve our community for years to come.”

On October 7, 2023, Hamas militants stormed into Israel from Gaza, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 others back to Gaza as hostages.

In response, Israel launched an airstrike campaign in Gaza, followed by a ground invasion. More than 33,000 Palestinians have since been killed since the start of the war, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, said that there has been a dramatic increase in university-related antisemitic incidents following October 7 last year.

In CST’s 2023 incident report, the charity recorded 182 university-related antisemitic incidents, which is an increase of 203 per cent from the 60 incidents recorded in 2022.

Furthermore, in its annual report published in February, the charity concluded that there had been a “hate explosion” since the Hamas terror attack in Israel on October 7.

According to the latest figures, there has been a 589 per cent increase in the number of incidents compared with the same period in 2022 and described the unprecedented rise as a “watershed moment for antisemitism in the UK”.

The figures have spiked to a record high of “truly unprecedented” 4,103 cases of recorded antisemitic incidents, with 66 per cent (2,699) of such cases occurring after 7 October. Such a figure, says the report, “on its own, eclipses any annual antisemitic incident total reported to CST”.

It is the highest figure that the charity has ever recorded in a single calendar year. The 2023 report also marks the first time that the CST recorded an anti-Semitic incident in every single police region in the UK.