Of Montreal drops out of festival, slams Israeli apartheid

Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal (Kmeron)

With a bold call for protests against Israel’s crimes of apartheid, US-based pop band Of Montreal has dropped out of Israel’s Meteor Festival just days before it is set to begin.

This follows the cancellation by headliner Lana Del Rey, who nixed her performance last Friday.

Seventeen artists – more than one-third of the festival’s original international lineup, according to Palestinian campaigners – have dropped out following sustained appeals by Palestinian and international activists to respect the boycott call.

“After exhausting all of the different possible ways of justifying playing an Israeli party festival, while the political and military leaders of the country continue their murderous and brutal policies against the Palestinian people, we came to the realization that there is no actual appropriate move other than to cancel the show,” Of Montreal stated on Facebook Tuesday evening.

“Now is not the time for escapism and celebrations,” the band added. “Now is the time for activism and protests against Israeli apartheid, Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the human rights atrocities being carried out every day in Gaza by Israeli forces.”

The band also appeared to urge other artists still on the bill to cancel as well, saying that to “ignore the call to stand up in support of an oppressed group of humans is one of the worst things one can do.”

Fans and activists praised not just the band’s cancellation, but its honest indictment of Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians.

On Friday, American musician Shlohmo canceled his Meteor Festival performance, saying that supporting the oppressed through his absence “is more important to me especially after the government’s recent human rights atrocities.”

British DJ and producer Leon Vynehall and Turkish singer-songwriter Selda Bağcan announced they have also pulled out of the festival:

“#KamasiDontGo”

Using the hashtag #KamasiDontGo, activists continue to urge jazz musician Kamasi Washington, who has stated his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, to pull out of the Meteor Festival.

The Movement for Black Lives’ policy platform clearly expresses support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to advance the Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom.

Activists have frequently noted the parallels between US police violence against Black people and Israeli military violence against Palestinians, and are campaigning to end US-Israeli military and police training exchanges.

BDS activists in South Africa and Japan have also appealed to Washington:

Saying he was the “only notable standout” on the lineup after Lana Del Rey’s cancellation, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters urged Washington not to play the festival.

“To do so would be a betrayal of everyone who ever stood up for civil or human rights anywhere,” Waters said.

US hip hop artists Pusha T and A$AP Ferg remain on the lineup, despite appeals by fans to cancel their gigs.

The Israeli government and groups aligned with it are slamming the BDS campaign and attempting to market performances in Israel as apolitical celebrations of art and culture.

Creative Community for Peace, a front for the far-right Israel lobby group StandWithUs, has been urging its supporters to “reach out” to Pusha T and thank him “for performing in Israel.”

Artists who cross the Palestinian picket line will be “demonstrating the universal quality of the arts and its ability to break down boundaries,” the lobby group claims.

But the festival is due to take place on land in the Galilee that is inaccessible to millions of Palestinians simply because they are not Jewish.

In an apparent sign of desperation, Israeli officials have claimed that grassroots activists successfully calling on artists to stay away from Meteor are actually bots – fake social media accounts.

It is, in fact, Israel that has funded and operates fake grassroots campaigns to make up for its lack of broad popular support – a tactic known as astroturfing.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).