German festival cancels Young Fathers for supporting Palestinian rights

Young Fathers is standing firm despite how a German festival canceled a scheduled show by the award-winning band because it refused to renounce support for Palestinian rights.

Palestinians are now calling for a boycott of the Ruhrtriennale festival.

“Regrettably, Young Fathers will not appear at Ruhrtriennale festival this year as the organizers have decided to cancel our show due to our views opposing the current Israeli government’s grave violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people and our support of the nonviolent and anti-racist human rights movement, boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS),” the Scotland-based band announced on Wednesday.

“We feel it is a wrong and deeply unfair decision by the festival to take this stance and to also ask us to distance ourselves from our human rights principles in order for the appearance to go ahead,” Young Fathers added.

The band reaffirmed that throughout its history it has opposed “all forms of hatred and racial discrimination.”

“And we, like BDS, ‘do 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,” Young Fathers added.

Young Fathers said that by backing BDS, it supports “one of the only peaceful protests a person can take, in the hope to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that allows Palestinian refugees the right to return to a safe homeland, and that allows Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths (and none) to live together in peace.”

Last year Young Fathers pulled out of Berlin’s Pop-Kultur Festival because it accepted funds from the Israeli embassy.

Since then, dozens more UK bands and big name international artists Lorde, Gilberto Gil and Shakira have canceled shows in Tel Aviv or pledged support for the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

Intolerance in Germany

On Tuesday, the Ruhrtriennale festival made good on its threats to cancel the 18 August performance by Young Fathers if the band didn’t renounce the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.

“This decision was preceded by a request by the Ruhrtriennale that the band distance itself from the campaign ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions,’” the festival stated.

“Regrettably, the Young Fathers have not distanced themselves from BDS,” the festival’s artistic director Stefanie Carp said. “We explicitly do not conclude from this that the band is anti-Semitic, and, in this context, I consider it important to emphasize that criticism of the policy of the current Israeli government is not per se equivalent to anti-Semitism.”

“However, the Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign,” Carp added.

This admission is important: Ruhrtriennale’s objection to BDS – or anyone supporting it – is not in order to oppose alleged anti-Semitism by Young Fathers – a charge from which the festival explicitly exonerates the band.

Rather, the festival’s objection appears motivated by hostility to the Palestinian struggle for liberation and equal rights itself.

The festival is objecting to any form of protest or action to achieve Palestinian rights, including the kind of nonviolent civil society boycott initiatives that helped end Jim Crow segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa.

There is growing intolerance in Germany for people who believe Palestinians should enjoy full and equal rights free from Israeli military occupation, apartheid and settler-colonization.

Support for Young Fathers

PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, is urging “conscientious artists to support Young Fathers and boycott Ruhrtriennale festival in solidarity.”

“Its shameful McCarthyism and desperate attempt to shield Israel’s regime of apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing from accountability are glaring forms of complicity,” according to PACBI.

“The German establishment’s blind support for Israel’s fanatic regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid radically contradicts public opinion,” PACBI said. “The German public opposes Israel’s regime by a 5-1 margin, according to recent polls.”

A number of artists, including Harry Potter actor Miriam Margolyes, writer Ahdaf Soueif, screenwriter Paul Laverty and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore are expressing that support using the hashtag #SupportYoungFathers.

The UK’s Greenbelt music festival also tweeted its “support to Young Fathers for their commitment to the cultural boycott of Israel, highlighting the human rights of the Palestinian people.”
Six songs from the Mercury Prize-winning Young Fathers feature in T2 Trainspotting, Danny Boyle’s sequel to the 1996 cult classic film Trainspotting, based on novels by Scottish author Irvine Welsh.

Boyle called one of those songs, “Only God Knows,” the “heartbeat for the film.”

Watch a video above for the song “In My View,” from Young Fathers’ latest album Cocoa Sugar.




Germans think 2 wrongs make a right, but they're still a racist country with an inherently racist ideology - and this proves it.


it's a shame, but I guess when one advocates boycotting one can't complain when one is boycotted. The BDS movement has more work to do to gain legitimacy, but it will prevail.


"I guess when one advocates boycotting one can't complain when one is boycotted."

The BDS movement specifically targets institutions, not persons. In the case of Israel, speakers, academics, entertainers and the like who are directly involved in the commission of war crimes or complicit through their institutional support for these acts and are funded by Israeli state agencies, constitute legitimate targets for public pressure- which is what a boycott is- a form of public pressure. In the case of this festival, the invitation to perform was withdrawn due to the outspoken stance of the Young Fathers in favor of the BDS campaign against Israel. This was made clear by the festival director. So we're not presented with an instance of counter-boycott. Public pressure played no role in revoking the band's invitation. Quite the reverse, inasmuch as we still don't know how the decision was arrived at. And there was certainly no issue of the three band members being involved in the commission of or support for war crimes. On the other hand we have to ask, if the band had received funding from one of Israel's many "cultural" slush funds and sang songs in support of say, the two-state solution, would they have been dis-invited?


“However, the Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign,” Carp added.

What an odd and provocative declaration. Leaving aside the question of how permitting this band to perform would have entailed subsuming the entire event unwillingly under the BDS campaign, people will wonder whether the festival's anathema extends beyond the example cited. Are there other non-violent mass protest movements in the world that also made it onto the Ruhrtriennale's list of banned activities? Or does this test apply only to Palestinians and their supporters?

Zionists are always complaining that Israel is being singled out for special opprobrium. But here we seem to have yet another instance of the PEP doctrine- Progressive Except for Palestine. Unless the festival organizers can show a consistent approach to all entertainers who support various boycott, sanction and/or divestment campaigns- or explain in clear language why this particular BDS movement is uniquely undeserving of tolerance- the whole slimy mess should just be avoided by the public.

In which case, maybe it's time for an alternative festival, one that doesn't impose loyalty oaths and litmus tests to protect apartheid and war crimes.