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Cancellation: Mazzaj Rap (Syria) – 11 August 2017

Participation is acceptance… We will never accept.

Again we find ourselves in a position where we are left with no other option than to boycott; an action that stems from our political commitment which made Mazzaj what it is. Therefore we proudly declare our boycott of Popkultur festival.

A couple of month ago, Abu Hajar from Mazzaj was invited together with Jemik Jemowit to perform at Popkultur-Berlin, one of the most important music festivals in the town. The two musicians worked for a long time together in order to prepare a new music project that includes their music in addition to their critiques towards the “welcoming culture, the whiteness of Germany, the fortress Europe”. They decided to call their project “ausländerbehörde- foreigners/aliens bureau”, as this institution represents the peak of oppression of people who are obliged to provide “reasons” for why they want to stay in Germany. The two musicians decided to use this institution’s name as it exposes the shallowness of the German government’s attempt to portrait itself as welcoming, tolerant and open.

This project is the musician’s declaration of their break with the European values of modernity and cosmopolitanism.Despite our efforts to make sure that the events have no partnership with or endorsement of institutions, states or organizations that act against our political or social convictions, Mazzaj has previously been exposed to a situation in which we had to boycott – only hours before its beginning it became clear that another festival was trying to whitewash the colonial, racist and discriminatory behavior of the Israeli state. Since we found no indication of a problematic position of Popkultur in the previous years’ editions, we accepted to participate; everything was ready for our gig, until some days ago when we discovered that the embassy of the Israeli state is a partner in this year’s edition of the festival.

It did not take us a minute to know what we had to do; we will not participate in a festival that accepts the partnership with an embassy representing a state and a government –Led by right wing party Likud and Netanyahu – which openly declared on many different occasions anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Black attitudes. Given this and its perpetration of all previous government’s colonial behavior, we understand the partnership with an embassy as an attempt to whitewash the image of its government and an endorsement of its behavior.

The festival’s declared aim to bring artists from different backgrounds together on one stage cannot be achieved under such conditions.

Our stand is not against a culture, but resistance against a discriminatory, colonial government. It is not merely an opinion that we disagree with, but a whole set of oppressive structures, manifesting themselves in the policies of the Israeli state.

It is not only a matter of differing opinions, as it is demonstrated in what we assume is our common understanding: Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic bands should have no platform to promote their discriminatory attitudes and hate speech. We would not consider the presence of such a band as an opportunity for a constructive exchange. Our refusal to share the platform with the representatives of an oppressive government is in line with the above understanding.

Considering this and to be consistent with our political commitment against any form of oppression, colonialism or discrimination we proudly declare our withdrawal from the festival as long as it endorses the discriminatory policies of the Israeli state by collaborating with and displaying its logo. Hence we consider the participation in it as an acceptance to all what this embassy represents.

We call for all the participating artists to take a similar position to prove that art is still a message that goes beyond a single act on a stage, that art is a position against all what is regressive and discriminatory in this world.

Original Statement

Cancellation: Islam Chipsy & EEK (Egypt) – 13 August 2017

We, ISLAM CHIPSY BAND announce our withdrawal from the “Pop Kulture” Festival, which is going to be held in Berlin this month, because of the participation of the Israeli Embassy as one of the sponsors of the festival and to show that we were not aware of this until today.

We make it clear that through our music, we seek to resist violence, persecution and discrimination of any kind against each other. This is reflecting our personal believes.

Original Statement

Archive

Cancellation: Hello Psychaleppo (Syria) – 14 August 2017

Cancellation: Emel Mathlouthi (Tunisia) – 15 August 2017

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – 15 August 2017

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel salutes the artists who have cancelled their participation in Pop-Kultur to protest Israel’s sponsorship. As in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, a regime of oppression and racism should never be welcomed in cultural spaces claiming to advocate for openness, inclusion and human rights.

Israel conditions its funding of Israeli artists’ international tours on signing a contract that commits them to “promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art.”

One ranking Israeli officials has admitted: “We are seeing culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture.”

Another official openly called for sending “well-known novelists, theatre companies, exhibits and writers overseas “to counter the international outrage at Israel’s human rights violations by showing Israel’s “prettier face” .

We strongly condemn Pop-Kultur’s acceptance of Israel’s sponsorship as a conscious act of complicity in whitewashing Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid.

We call on all participating artists to be on the right side of history, the side of the oppressed, by cancelling their performances unless the festival rescinds this shameful sponsorship.

Original Statement

Artists for Palestine UK – 15 August 2017

Dear colleagues, you know that you have the power to tell the Israeli government you disapprove of its actions.   You have the power to tell the Palestinians they are not alone under occupation and in exile.   Please use your power.

Please withdraw from Berlin Pop-Kultur.

Original Statement

Mazzaj Rap – 16 August 2017

After our decision to boycott Pop-Kultur Festival 2017 because of their partnership with the Israeli government, trolls of German Antideutschen and supporters of the Israeli criminality started attacking us repetitively with vicious terms; we were called “Nazis, Islamists, Antisemites”.

As stupid as this “line of argument” is, it reveals much about the movement’s Eurocentricsm. Those forms of hatred “Antisemitism and Nazism” evolved and were practiced within the European context. It evolved only in Western culture and political literature that the term Semite includes only Jews; for based on where we are from – if we believed in race theory which we do not – we are called Semite as well.

Therefore if you use those terms against a band that clearly positions itself against Nationalism, Classism, Eurocentrism, Sexism, Racism, and any other forms of discrimination based on division, you’re more revealing your own bigotry than ours.

So clearly, all the comments and threats in this style that we are receiving are not something that we take very seriously.

Our stand against the discriminatory, racist and colonial policies of the Israeli government is shared by our Jewish comrades as it goes beyond identity politcs.
We understand boycott as tool to raise a debate about what role art and cultural production has in society.

We see boycott as a tool to highlight that culture and cultural production must not be used by any opressive discriminatory, exclusionary or racist system no matter what forms of oppression, discrimination, exclusion or racism it practices.

Further we would like to distant ourselves from any “Nationalist or Pan-Arabist” motivation for our boycott. A call to boycott should not only be addressed to Arab artists, but all participants presenting at an event funded by the Israeli embassy. Taking an active stand against all forms of discrimination shall not only concern Arab participants, but everyone who believes in the role of art and artists as those who are supposed to keep on questioning what is not questioned and tackling power relations in order to dismantle them.

Therefore please ask all the other participants (http://www.pop-kultur.berlin/en/program/) to join the call for boycott, write them in your own words or use our statement.

Original Statement

Cancellation: Iklan feat. Law Holt (UK) – 17 August 2017

Festival organisers – 17 August 2017

The international BDS (»Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions«) Movement has identified Pop-Kultur as one of the targets of its global campaign. The goal of the movement is wide-reaching boycott against collaboration with Israeli artists and intellectuals as well as boycott against any artistic performances in Israel.

We have Israeli artists in our festival programme, just as we have artists from Tunesia, Syria, Russia, Poland, the UK, and other countries. The culture department of the Israeli Embassy in Germany contributed a 500 (five hundred) Euro grant towards travel costs for artists. For this reason, the embassy is listed on our website, as are the rest of our cultural partners.

The BDS campaign has put an enormous amount of pressure on all the Arabic artists in our line-up. At this point, four artists from Arabic countries have cancelled: Abu Hajar, Emel Mathlouthi, Islam Chipsy & EEK und Hello Psychaleppo. Artists from Germany, other countries in Europe, and the USA have also reported that they have received emails, Facebook comments, or Twitter messages from BDS activists. We therefore assume that all artists or their agents have been or will be contacted. The BDS Movement claims that Pop-Kultur has been »co-organised« or «co-financed« by the Israeli state, which is not true.

We believe that the only way to deal with conflict in this world is through critical discourse and dialogue. As artists and cultural workers, we in particular have the responsibility for building relationships and networks across borders, even if we disagree on certain points.

Original Statement

Festival organisers (via London Palestine Action) – 17 August 2017

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – 17 August 2017

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) condemns the Pop-Kultur festival for spreading outrageous lies about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights in a desperate attempt to divert attention from its shameful acceptance of Israel’s sponsorship and its resultant complicity in whitewashing Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid.

Frustrated that its insistence on accepting sponsorship from Israel, despite its egregious human rights violations, led to the withdrawal of all Arab artists, the Pop-Kultur organizers claimed that the goal of the cultural boycott of Israel is “to boycott completely any cooperation with Israeli artists and intellectuals.”

This is a straight lie.

BDS, which is called for by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, including artists, calls for an institutional boycott of Israel and institutions that are complicit in its denial of Palestinian human rights. It does not target individuals. Palestinians are appealing to all conscientious artists to boycott Israel as many had boycotted apartheid South Africa.

Many leading Jewish artists and intellectuals, including Israelis, have endorsed the cultural boycott of Israel as a form of nonviolent pressure to bring about an end to its policies of military occupation, institutionalized racism, ethnic cleansing, siege and denial of refugee rights.

PACBI’s objection to this year’s edition of Pop-Kultur was explicitly mentioned in the statement released by the campaign two days ago: “We call on all participating artists to be on the right side of history, the side of the oppressed, by cancelling their performances unless the festival rescinds this shameful [Israeli] sponsorship.”

Original Statement

Cancellation: Annie Goh (UK) – 20 August 2017

Berlin against Pinkwashing - 20 August 2017

Jewish and Israeli organisations – 21 August 2017

Jewish and Israeli organisations ask Pop Kultur Berlin to drop Israeli embassy
  
“We, Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East and Jewish Antifa Berlin, call upon the “Pop-Kultur” festival to cancel its partnership with the Israeli embassy,“ begins a joint statement by two Jewish organizations in Germany. The groups are joined by Jewish organisations from around the globe, weighing in on the issue of Israeli embassies‘ operations and their partners abroad.
 
Last week, Emel Mathlouthi (Tunisia), and bands Mazzaj (Syria), Islam Chipsy (Egypt), Hello Psychaleppo (Syria), and Iklan featuring Law Holt (UK) all cancelled their participation in the Pop-Kultur Berlin festival, joined by Annie Goh (UK) on Sunday. The six acts pulled out of one of Germany’s biggest music festival because of its partnership with the Israeli embassy.
 
In the flurry of cancellations, Jewish groups, including Israel based BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, American based network Jewish Voice for Peace France based Union Juive Française pour la Paix, South African Jews for a Free Palestine, Coloradans for Justice in Palestine, and UK based Free Speech on Israel are adding their voice to the BDS movement’s call to the festival to cut ties with the embassy.
 
“Israel openly and actively uses culture as part of its state branding campaign strategy. The Israeli foreign ministry openly acknowledges spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to improve Israel’s image, “the Boycott from Within statement explains. “Brand Israel” was conceptualised a decade ago, in order to change Israel’s deteriorating image around the world, which has been badly damaged after decades of occupation, apartheid and military attacks. The strategy’s aim is to actively shift the focus of the conversation around Israel from its military regime and its crimes, to its perceived cultural or hi-tec achievements, or- ironically- its so-called “Democracy and respect of human rights“.
 
The organisations also highlighted the moral obligation towards the protection of human rights, with South African Jews for a Free Palestine saying “We strongly believe in the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, “Repairing the World” which embodies social action and the pursuit of social justice… We’re horrified at the German media, politicians, and festival’s vilification of human rights defenders,“ they warn. “There is nothing antisemitic about demanding accountability for war crimes.“
 
The organisations‘ criticism of German media’s handling of the story pointed out the dangers of dehumanising and misrepresenting dissenting voices, “cancelling artists have been harassed, and received numerous threats online from supporters of the Israeli government,“ the two German groups cautioned. “We are very disturbed from the way those cancellations were received by the festival’s management and the German media. Many German-speaking media outlets, the festivals management and even Berlin´s culture senator, Klaus Lederer, has hinted that the cancellation is due to the artists’ Arab background… once again media outlets and politicians chosen to ignore the problem of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and instead blame the artists or label their protest as connected to antisemitism.“
 
Granate Sosnoff, Communications Strategist for Jewish Voice for Peace (USA), brought the focus back on the artists‘ role, saying that “artists have an important role to play, just as artists did during the fight to end South African apartheid… [the] apartheid government relies on artist participation to make all appear normal. For artists to play in an event in Berlin sponsored by the Israeli embassy it crosses a line into endorsement of apartheid, whether artists share that sentiment or not. We applaud the artists who have withdrawn from Pop-Kultur festival.”
  
–Organisation statements–
 
[1] Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V. (Jews for Just Peace in the Middle East), Jewish Antifa Berlin
 
[2] BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within
 
[3] Union Juive Française pour la Paix (French Jewish Union for Peace)
 
[4] South African Jews for a Free Palestine
 
[5] Coloradans for Justice in Palestine
 
[6] Free Speech on Israel statement

Thurston Moore – 22 August 2017

Cancellation: Oranssi Pazuzu (Finland) – 22 August 2017

Emel Mathlouthi – 23 August 2017

Mazzaj Rap – 23 August 2017

In response to the predominantly racist and misinformed reaction to our call to boycott Mazzaj-Band would like to clarify our position regarding the boycott of Popkultur 2017.

A short summary:

  1. Several artists took the decision to boycott independent from and several days BEFORE the official BDS callout.
  2. The organisers of Popkultur and Senator Dr. Klaus Lederer demonstrated with their defamatory and racist statements, that “cultural dialogue & exchange” is nothing more than patronising tokenism. With their vicious accusations of “Fake-News” (sic) and reduction of the artist’s position to their “Arab-ness”, Christian Morin & Martin Hossbach exposed their ugly euro-centrism and discrimination against the artists because of their assumed identity. We demand an apology for their defamations, which we see part and parcel of the hate speech and threats we received.
  3. Stop the abusive use of the anti-Semitism accusation. It lacks any kind of historicity in this particular context and ignores the fact that we did not boycott Jews, but an oppressive government.

The artists refused to take part in the whitewashing of the Israeli state and therefore cancelled their performance in the festival, did so because of their dedication to actively expose and resist oppression and discrimination. We reject the claim that “culture and politics have nothing to do with each other”, or that an “important chance for cultural dialogue was missed”. To be clear: This is not an “Arab boycott”. All artists, independent from their background, can be instrumentalised to give oppression a nicer face or conflate position of power with opinion. That’s why they can also take active stand against it and we call upon you to not take part in events that endorse oppressive regimes or attitudes.

Our boycott is a tool to highlight that culture and cultural production must not be used by any oppressive discriminatory, exclusionary or racist system no matter what forms of oppression, discrimination, exclusion or racism it practices. That’s why we took the decision to boycott and reject the organisers of Popkultur’s claim that we “followed a call by BDS”. No, the boycott and exposure of the Israeli partnership was an individual decision that resonated with many.

The amount of money that the Israeli embassy contributed or what for is not relevant here, more important is that it is displayed as a partner and its actions therefor normalised and endorsed. Members of the current right-wing government not only repeatedly declared anti-Black and anti-Arab attitudes, it implements these attitudes also on a structural level. The discrimination and persecution of people because of their identity is not an opinion that can be exchanged in an intercultural dialogue.

The comparison between our boycott and the abhorrent anti-Semitic boycott campaigns in Germany as well as the accusations of anti-Semitism fail to notice that firstly, our boycott is directed against an institution, not against people because of their identity and secondly, these defamations expose the Euro-centrism dominating the debate and thinking in Germany.

In line with this understanding, our criticism of the Israeli state is a stand against any form of discrimination against Jews, as we understand Israel’s claim to represent Jews all over the world as an expression of white supremacy. It shouldn’t be necessary to explain that not all Jews consider the European concept of Nation-states and settler colonialism as way to safety and freedom, but instead fight against discrimination everywhere.

Hopefully many more artist will prove that a stand against oppression is not a question of identity or background, but that the exclusion of oppression is a necessity for a healthy encounter and debate between artists.

Original Statement

Cancellation: Young Fathers (UK) – 23 August 2017

Young Fathers have a long history of opposing any form of hatred including racism and anti-semitism and we support the principle of a peaceful solution that allows Palestinians the right to return to a safe homeland and that allows Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths (and none) to live together in peace. This is a very tiny act on our behalf in the grand scale of things but one we still believe is worth it.

Original Statement

Sleaford Mods - 23 August 2017

Sleaford Mods said their manager Steve Underwood would withdraw from a panel at the festival, in a subsequently deleted tweet.

Sleaford Mods’ manager did not pull out of the festival. The group subsequently released a statement emphasising that they did not perform at the festival.

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – 24 August 2017

In their statements announcing the cancellations, many of the artists stressed their firm stands against all forms of discrimination and oppression and the responsibility of artists to be true to their beliefs.

The eloquent statements from the artists stand in stark contrast to the festival’s crude attempts to falsely portray the Palestinian boycott call as directed at individual Israeli artists, shrewdly omitting the fact that the protests were clearly aimed at the Israeli government involvement.

 

Original Statement

Festival organisers – 30 August 2017

We will continue to cooperate with the Israeli embassy in the coming year, so if you do not want to play in these conditions, you should stay at home.

Original Statement

Artists for Palestine UK – 29 September 2017

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) strongly condemns threats made against British artist Kate Tempest as a result of her support for Palestinian rights. A poet, spoken word artist and author, Tempest is one of more than 1200 UK-based artists to sign APUK’s pledge to uphold the cultural boycott of Israel. This conscientious decision by so many principled artists stands in stark contrast to the shameful intimidation tactics, including personal threats, directed against Tempest, which led to the cancellation of her concert, scheduled for October 6th 2017 at Berlin’s former airport Tempelhof. Tempest’s management said that she did not want to perform in an “aggressive atmosphere”, having received “personal threats via email and over social media”, adding that they did not want to risk the safety of her team.

Last month eight artists cancelled appearances at Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin, in protest at the festival’s decision to partner with the Israeli embassy in Germany. In response, the festival organisers, media commentators and local politicians condemned these conscientious artists, often in racialised terms, and promoted straight lies about the terms and aims of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) human rights movement. As the festival drew to a close, the purveyors of this defamatory and abusive rhetoric found a new target, with Kate Tempest identified by German media as a signatory to the APUK pledge. One recent article asked, “Can an anti-Israel activist appear in Berlin?”. Another demanded the city’s Mayor Michael Müller cancel the concert.

Despite this McCarthyite campaign, which included pressure on Kate Tempest to denounce the BDS movement, Tempest has now reaffirmed her support of the cultural boycott of Israel, in a statement explaining that signing the APUK pledge in 2015 was “an act of protest”. Tempest says she is “horrified by the actions of the Israeli government against the Palestinian people”, adding that that she is “a person of Jewish descent”. APUK have spoken to Tempest’s management to express our solidarity and offer our support.

The campaign to cancel Tempest’s show and the threats against her are an outrageous and dangerous interference with freedom of artistic expression. They also represent an ugly counterpoint to the Palestinian civil society call for the cultural boycott of Israel, which targets the institutional scaffolding of apartheid, and as such does not target individuals. This shameful episode comes in the repressive context of three German cities attempting to outlaw BDS, with Berlin’s Mayor Müller recently announcing that, like Frankfurt and Munich, his city intends to prevent public funds and spaces being used by BDS activists.[1]

This move raises the chilling spectre of artists being asked to affirm or deny their support for the Palestinian BDS movement ahead of any appearance in Germany’s major cities. APUK condemns in the strongest terms these repressive measures, which ultimately cannot succeed, as long as people of conscience continue to join Palestinians in their nonviolent struggle for human rights. APUK stands firmly in solidarity with Kate Tempest and the many other artists of conscience who support the notion that Palestinians are entitled to the same protections, rights and freedoms as the rest of humanity.

Original Statement

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