AN actor said he had "sleepless nights" before quitting his union membership after bosses "took a strong side" in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Murray Hecht is among several Jewish members to cancel their Equity membership after union chiefs called on members to attend a pro-Palestinian march.

Murray, an actor and director who had been an Equity member for ten years and was chairman of the Brighton and Sussex general branch, said he had been contacted by many upset Jewish members who felt it was inappropriate for the union to be taking a strong stance on the issue.

President Maureen Beattie and general secretary Paul Fleming had urged members on Twitter to join a pro-Palestinian march, while Ms Beattie also called on people to sign a petition for sanctions to be placed on Israel.

Actress Dame Maureen Lipman has since cancelled her Equity membership, while Doctor Who star Tracy-Ann Oberman said Equity was "fanning the flames of antisemitism".

Murray said several Jewish actors are now considering creating a new union for performers.

He said: "Equity is a creative union, but suddenly they are taking a side in something which is a really complex issue.

"I had a couple of sleepless nights but my conscience would not let me stay.

"It feels like a betrayal for Jewish members - it's hard enough as it is for Jewish people.

"There are many people who have worked hard to get their Equity card. I'm one of many Jewish members who have now walked out."

Murray added that Ms Beattie's actions went against Equity's own Safe Spaces campaign, which is intended to ensure rehearsal spaces are free of intimidation or harassment.

He said: "Maureen Beattie came up with a safe space policy we have to read out at the start of every meeting, where we say we will leave everyone's differences at the door.

"But you're not really leaving differences at the door if you're taking just one side.

"You don't encourage your members to go on a mob protest under the Equity banner, surrounded by antisemitic slogans."

Shirley Jaffe, who lives in Hove, has been an Equity member since 1954.

The 86-year-old former actress, who had a small part in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, said she had considered cancelling her membership.

She said: "I feel very strongly it was a wrong decision by our president and general secretary.

"Maureen Beattie was perfectly entitled to march, but not under the Equity banner. We're supposed to be an apolitical union.

"For the first time I've heard friends say they feel unsafe.

"It's also very hard on Murray - he's done such a wonderful job of encouraging people to come into the branch and making it a very welcoming place to be."

Equity has since said the calls on members to join the march were made by individuals, and did not represent the institution's view.

The union said in a statement: "After listening to the concerns put forward by some members regarding the union’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we would like to emphasise that while we condemn the recent military actions of the Israeli government, we are appalled by all of the violence directed against civilian Israelis and Palestinians, including the terrorist activity of Hamas.

"It is also the union’s position that any instance of antisemitism must be rooted out and denounced.

"In light of this, we categorically condemn the abhorrent abuse that has been directed towards members of the Jewish community in the past couple of weeks, as well as the small minority of hateful banners and rhetoric present on recent and otherwise peaceful Palestinian solidarity marches.

"Equity stands together with the Jewish community and the fight against antisemitism, and is having ongoing conversations with our Jewish members and their allies on how we can build on our work so far."