Austria’s Salam.Orient festival reacts to Arab artists’ pull out over Israel sponsorship


Nasser Kalaji

Updated: 16 October 2012

Marwan Abado has pulled out of Austria’s Salam.Orient 2012 music festival, bringing to five the number of Arab artists who have done so.

In recent days, Syrian singer Lena Chamamyan, Lebanese MC Malikah, and Palestine’s DJ Sotusura and MC Boikutt announced they were withdrawing from the festival because of sponsorship from the Israeli embassy.

Abado is a Vienna-based Palestinian singer, composer and oud player and his pull out was confirmed by Austria’s Wiener Zeitung newspaper in a report on the growing boycott of the festival.

It is also notable that the logo of Tunis Air, previously on the festival’s website, now appears to have been removed, suggesting the airline has pulled its sponsorship as well.

Festival reacts

On 15 October, Austria’s Salam.Orient 2012 music festival gave its first responses to the boycott actions.

“Salam.Orient 2012 is not, in any respect, a festival initiated by the Austrian government or the Israeli embassy or government. It is a production of Vienna Acts,” Norbert Ehrlich of the nonprofit group Vienna Acts, said in a statement emailed to The Electronic Intifada.

The festival, Ehrlich says, “has become the only annual event in Austria to offer a platform for the manifold cultures of the East.” Ehrlich provided several examples of the festival inviting acts in cooperation with various embassies in previous years, adding:

In 2012 Vienna Acts also invited a group from Tajikistan living in Israel to present a music program called “Buchara Groove.” For this evening – and only for this performance – we asked the Embassy of Israel for financial support to cover local cost (meals and hotel) which they agreed to cover. For this reason, the logo of the Israeli embassy is displayed on our website (alongside all other sponsors). Besides this, the Embassy of Israel has no influence on the programmation or content of Salam.Orient.

“We do not understand this boycott”

Finally, the statement concludes:

Owing to our activities since eleven years especially also for a better understanding of the Arab situation in different ways we do not understand this boycott.

Nonetheless we respect the decision of Lena Chamayan & Ensemble as well as of Malikah & friends not to participate in this year’s edition of Salam.Orient.

In her statement explaining her decision to withdraw, Chamamyan had said:

My problem is not with Judaism, nor with any other culture or belief, unlike how the festival’s management hinted. My problem is about accepting the Israeli authority’s inhumane politics and tendency for atrocities and human rights violation[s].

Palestinian call for action

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls on artists around the world to boycott events sponsored by the Israeli government, and in other circumstances that it sets out in its guidelines, as part of the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions aimed at pressuring Israel to respect Palestinian human rights.