Boycott of Berlin’s Israel-backed Pop-Kultur festival gathers pace

Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu is among seven acts to pull out of Berlin’s Pop-Kultur festival over Israeli embassy sponsorship. (Portuguese Distortion)

This article has been updated since it was first published.

Berlin’s Pop-Kultur music festival is set to open on Wednesday, but at least eight acts will be missing from its line-up as the boycott over its acceptance of Israeli embassy funding gathers pace.

On Wednesday, the multiple award-winning Edinburgh-based hip hop and pop trio Young Fathers announced via Twitter that they were pulling out of Pop-Kultur.

Young Fathers were among a number of artists who had urged Radiohead not to go ahead with its controversial concert in Tel Aviv in July.

The Finnish black metal band Oranssi Pazuzu joined the exodus on Tuesday, stating that the controversy over the Pop-Kultur festival’s receipt of Israeli government funds “resulted in giving a political character to the festival and therefore to all the artists participating.”

“We do not want to endorse any state, governance or agenda; open or hidden,” the band added.

Solidarity

Thurston Moore, the American musician best known as a member of Sonic Youth, has also added his support to the boycott call, urging Pop-Kultur to cancel the Israeli embassy sponsorship “in solidarity with [the] Palestinian call for cultural boycott.”

Moore, who played at Pop-Kultur last year, also canceled a performance in Tel Aviv in 2015, respecting the Palestinian call.

Last week, six acts pulled out of Pop-Kultur: Mohammad Abu Hajar of Syria’s Mazzaj Rap Band; Egypt’s Islam Chipsy; Syrian DJ Hello Psychaleppo; Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi and British experimental dance music collaboration Iklan ft. Law Holt.

Smearing Arab artists

British artist and musician Annie Goh pulled out of a panel on gender and the electronic music scene.

“As an artist and academic, I am taking a stand against participating in the festival due to its partial sponsorship by the Israeli embassy, in solidarity with Palestinians who have called for a boycott of Israeli state institutions until they adhere to international law,” Goh wrote.

Goh called charges of anti-Semitism against the Arab artists who were the first to announce their cancellations “despicable.”

She also criticized the “polarizing language” in a communication sent to artists by Pop-Kultur organizers, which “unfairly depicts” the BDS movement “as putting pressure on Arab artists to boycott.”

“This is not true,” Goh added.

“Outrageous lies”

Pop-Kultur last week acknowledged that it received about $600 in travel funding from the Israeli embassy, whose logo appears on the festival’s website.

That statement also repeats the claim that campaigners “put an enormous amount of pressure on all the Arabic artists in our line-up.”

PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, condemned 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.”

PACBI rejected the festival’s claim that the goal of the cultural boycott is “to boycott completely any cooperation with Israeli artists and intellectuals.” It emphasized that the Palestinian call is for “an institutional boycott of Israel and institutions that are complicit in its denial of Palestinian human rights. It does not target individuals.”

Ignoring the problem

The German Jewish groups Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East and Jewish Antifa Berlin have added their voices to the boycott call and criticized the way German media have reported on the campaign, faulting them for hinting that the cancellations were due to the artists’ Arab backgrounds.

“Once again media outlets and politicians chose to ignore the problem of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and instead blame the artists or label their protest as connected to anti-Semitism,” the Jewish groups said in a joint statement.

Activists from around the world, including the UK, Poland, France, South Africa and in Berlin, are urging artists that the best way they can personally support justice, equality and human rights is to pull out of Pop-Kultur as long as its organizers are willing to accept support from the Israeli government.

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I wrote a email to Pop Kultur to protest/

Of course no answer. That's the best way to act. Thee is a problem. Ignore the problem. Maybe the problem will disappear by itself. Oh pity the problem is still there.

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Once again we will be told that the cultural boycott has absolutely no impact and must be outlawed everywhere. That's the hasbara emanating from the Ministry of Strategic Affairs- which mirrors the contradiction expressed in the claim that Israel is both Jewish and democratic.

Well done to the artists who reject sponsorship and participation in an event being used to whitewash (you should pardon the expression) apartheid.

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