The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel - 9 May 2018
Israel seeks associations with international festivals, such as Pop-Kultur Berlin, to art-wash its image abroad in the explicit attempt to distract attention from its crimes against Palestinians. For a supposedly progressive festival to accept sponsorship from a decades-old regime of oppression and apartheid like Israel’s is unethical and hypocritical, to say the least.
Most recently, Israel has implemented a shoot-to-kill-or-maim policy — announced in advance — against thousands of peaceful protesters in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip who are struggling to achieve freedom. The dozens killed and thousands injured were not shot by accident: an Israeli forces spokesperson even said, “nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured. We know where every bullet landed.”
The International Criminal Court has warned Israel that its killings in Gaza may amount to war crimes. In light of Israel’s continued violation of Palestinian human rights, accepting Israeli government propaganda money amounts to intentional complicity in art-washing Israel’s egregious violations of international law.
A few months ago, the New Zealand sensation, Lorde, announced the cancellation of a scheduled gig in Tel Aviv. When faced with an ugly intimidation and smear campaign by Israel lobby figures, dozens of world renowned artists, including Oscar-winning Hollywood stars, stood squarely in support of Lorde.
One Israeli official summarised the overt policy of cultural whitewashing like this: “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
Pop-Kultur festival’s insistence on accepting Israel’s sponsorship, no matter how it spins it this year, leaves us with no choice but to appeal to all participating artists to withdraw, unless the festival rescinds Israel’s sponsorship.
An event sponsored by apartheid South Africa would have triggered the same calls for boycott by human rights defenders and progressives in South Africa, Germany and elsewhere. Similarly, refraining from normalizing Israel’s system of injustice is the least that Palestinians expect from progressive artists and cultural organizations in order not to undermine our nonviolent struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
Will you stand on the right side of history?
* PACBI’s guidelines for the cultural boycott of Israel state: “[A] public event/activity carried out under the sponsorship/aegis of or in affiliation with an official Israeli body or a complicit institution constitutes complicity and therefore is deserving of boycott.”
Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East and Jewish Antifa Berlin - 9 May 2018
Our joint statement last year said: ‘By presenting the embassy’s logo on its homepage the festival helps – willingly or not – the state of Israel to whitewash its occupation and human rights abuses … We find it shameful, that a festival putting such focus on diversity, reflection and international dialog, allows itself to be used in such a way.’
Eight artists canceled their participation in last year’s festival in protest of this support. Accepting support from the Israeli government plays into its well-known “Brand Israel” propaganda strategy, which uses arts to whitewash its ongoing violations of international law.
Since March 30th this year, Israeli forces have massacred Palestinian protesters in Gaza, with more than 40 killed and over 5,000 injured. The festival´s insistence on accepting support from the Israeli government’s embassy – as it intentionally targets unarmed Palestinian protesters – serves as a stamp of approval for these crimes.
We know full well the risk to those in Germany, especially Palestinians and Arabs, who criticize Israel’s support, as is evident in last year’s smears and false accusations from German media, as well as from the festival itself.
We reject these smears and false accusations of antisemitism, which are used to silence legitimate critique of Israel’s human rights violations. We stand with any artists who cancel their performances this year in protest at Israel’s support.
It is not antisemitic to stand with human rights. From our perspective, it is representative of basic Jewish values. Furthermore, we reject the instrumentalization of our identity as Jews – many of us cultural producers ourselves – to whitewash injustice. We say enough. No more.
Cancellation: Shopping (UK) - 9 May 2018
As a band, Shopping are and will always be completely opposed to any form of oppression and discrimination, including homophobia, transphobia, colonialism and racism. We stand firmly against antisemitism and Islamophobia. For these reasons, and in harmony with the principles of the nonviolent, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, we affirm our solidarity with the Palestinian call for BDS.
Brian Eno - 10 May 2018
Festival organisers - 11 May 2018
As it was in 2017, Pop-Kultur has once again been declared a boycott target of the international BDS-Network (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and PACBI (Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) in 2018. The goal of this campaign is the economic, cultural, and political isolation of Israel. We have received e-mails requesting that the official cooperation with the Israeli Embassy be discontinued and that the embassy’s logo, which is included on our website as a measure of transparency and represents the travel and accommodation contribution of €1,200, be taken offline. Various artists have also received messages in which they were asked to boycott the festival. The British band Shopping has cancelled its performance.
We will collaborate with the Israeli embassy this year because our 2018 lineup includes three Israeli artists. We will receive a total travel and accommodation contribution of €1,200 from the embassy. Currently the Israeli embassy is one of three festival partners contributing artist and travel support. The Bureau Export is contributing €3,400 for six French artists, and the British Council is contributing £18,000 (British Pounds) to the Project “Mix the City” to be presented at Pop-Kultur. This type of collaboration is common at festivals, events, and exhibitions of all genres.
Pop-Kultur maintains a clear and steadfast position: We are not intimidated by boycotts. If there are artists who don’t want to perform at our festival because we receive travel and accommodation support from the Israeli embassy in Berlin, we very much regret that. However, the boycott, the refusal to perform, is not our decision. We are always open to engaging in constructive dialogue. We believe that discourse and dialogue are the only means through which to deal with conflicts in this world. We as cultural workers have a special responsibility for establishing networks across borders, even when we disagree.
Berlin Against Pinkwashing - 12 May 2018
Cancellation: Richard Dawson (UK) - 17 May 2018
— richard dawson (@richarddawson12) May 17, 2018
In response to the Palestinian campaign For the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel´s call for artists to boycott the upcoming Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin, and following correspondence with both them and the festival, I regret to inform we’ve decided to cancel our performance. The killings on Monday of protesters in Gaza by Israeli government forces is the latest in a long string of atrocities acted upon the Palestinian people. Even if performing at Pop Kultur meant I was endorsing such a government in only the very slightest of ways, I cannot in good conscience lend my music or my name to this.
Cancellation: Gwenno (UK) - 22 May 2018
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel - 25 May 2018
In their eloquent statements, the artists make it clear that accepting sponsorship from the Israeli embassy, while Israel kills unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza and commits grave violations of Palestinian human rights, is profoundly problematic.
Shopping, Richard Dawson and Gwenno remind us of international artists who refused to normalize apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.
As conscientious artists, they’ve refused to be part of art-washing Israel’s crimes and have stood in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
We renew our call to all participating artists and cultural workers to withdraw from Pop-Kultur until the festival ends all forms of collaboration with Israel’s regime of oppression.
Cancellation: John Maus (US) - 5 June 2018
Festival director Katja Lucker - 6 June 2018
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel - 9 June 2018
“[BDS] campaigns around the world present the most promising way to overcome the failure of world governments to stand up to Israel’s intransigence and lawless behavior”.
— Stephane Hessel, Holocaust survivor and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Despite the growing number of cancellations facing Pop-Kultur Berlin festival due to the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship, the festival director told the German media that the question of dropping this sponsorship “really does not arise”.
This arrogant dismissal of the repeated criticism from Palestinians and progressive artists — that accepting this sponsorship constitutes an act of complicity in art-washing Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid — betrays apathy, and worse, to Palestinian human rights.
The Pop-Kultur festival insists it will “collaborate” with Israel despite its latest massacre in Gaza and what Amnesty International has condemned as its shoot-to-kill-or-maim policy. This indicates Pop-Kultur festival’s conscious collusion in the desperate attempts of Israel’s far-right regime to “rebrand” itself through art and culture.
The prominent composer and producer Brian Eno has called Pop-Kultur festival’s partnership with the Israeli embassy “a whitewash”.
The festival director’s shameless — and evidently baseless — attack on the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated BDS movement for Palestinian rights as “stupid” and “anti-Semitic” inherently reduces Palestinians to lesser humans, by slandering our nonviolent struggle to achieve freedom, justice and equality.
It is a racist attack on the most popular Palestinian-led human rights movement that is endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society, including trade unions, cultural networks and women’s associations.
Conflating opposition to Israeli policies — illegal settlements, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, etc. — with anti-Jewish bigotry is a form of anti-Palestinian racism that is intended to silence critics of Israel. It also does a disservice to the ongoing struggles against real anti-Jewish racism, as progressive Jewish groups in Europe and the US have often argued.
Anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2005 Palestinian civil society Call for BDS categorically opposes all forms of racism and discrimination. BDS calls for nonviolent pressure, similar to that exerted on apartheid South Africa, to end Israel’s flagrant violations of international law and for safeguarding the human rights of the Palestinian people.
Adhering to the UN definition of racial discrimination, the BDS movement does not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, or homophobia.
We reiterate our call for all progressive artists to withdraw from Pop-Kultur festival due to its partnership with the Israeli embassy and its now abundantly evident anti-Arab racism.