Knebworth festival-goers debate ‘antisemitic’ display
PUBLISHED: 16:25 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:53 17 July 2018
An events company at a Knebworth festival has been advised by the Zionist Federation after its handling of ‘antisemitic’ material was branded ‘insensitive’.
Thousands of revellers enjoyed the sunshine at Knebworth’s Geronimo Festival on June 30 to July 1, but the experience was marred for some visitors when they visited a tent set up by events company Fiery Jack Entertainment.
Fiery Jack specialises in medieval-style displays and entertainments, and they had set up a tented mini-museum of 25 historical board games.
Among these was a facsimile of an 1807 game called ‘The New and Fashionable Game of the Jew’.
An explanatory text written by Fiery Jack, next to the game, explains that the player must “emulate the stereotypical Jewish banker” and make as much money as possible.
The text added that the game was “arguably antisemitic, but this game was believed to be of educational value”.
One anonymous festival-goer said: “If this were hanging in a museum with enough context to state that this game is unequivocally racist and discriminatory, that would be fine.
“However it was hanging at a children’s festival and only stated that it was “arguably” antisemitic, whereas it plays on the deepest stereotypes of traditional antisemitism.
“The staff at Fiery Jacks need to be educated on what is one of the oldest and most spiteful forms of racism in the world.”
He claimed that Fiery Jack staff had been dismissive when he complained that the game had been insensitively presented.
He clarified that he didn’t think the festival itself was at fault, because “the organisers cannot vet every single detail of every single stand”.
A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “In less enlightened times, governments around the world only permitted Jews to work as bankers, leading to the antisemitic trope that Jews are money-obsessed.
“It is important to educate young people about the hatred that Jews have suffered, but it is insulting and irresponsible to state at an attraction for children that this centuries-old antisemitic game is only ‘arguably antisemitic’.
“This is a subject that needs to be taught sensitively, and this sloppy poster should be reconsidered.”
A spokesperson for Geronimo Festival said that the festival has agreed to pay for a new panel, with more context, to be designed and written in consultation with the Zionist Federation (ZF).
She added: “To be clear we don’t advocate any form of discrimination of any sort.
“We feel on reflection that the panel in question could cause upset.”
A spokesperson for Fiery Jack said he felt “harassed and victimised” by the ensuing social media attention, which had resulted in numerous calls from members of the public.
He said that he had been advised to contact police by Stop Hate UK.
“Fiery Jack feels that the board has been misunderstood,” said the spokesperson.
“He is sure that the producers did not produce it as an anti-semitic game but as a statement of acceptance with a reflection of modern changes at the time,” which he believes included growing acceptance of Jews into society.
However, he is “very pleased that we can now say that we are associated with the ZF”.
Arieh Miller, executive director of the ZF, said that their discussion had been “lengthy but positive and proactive”.
“Furthermore, the ZF was pleased to hear from Fiery Jack, that we will work together to improve the description and Fiery Jack have committed not to display the game until a properly researched and full description of the game and the history behind it can be included.”
The ZF added their thanks to the company “for their understanding of the offence caused, and their willingness to rectify this and to take proactive measures to ensure that offence will not be caused in the future”.