Palestinians boycott German nightclub that recruits for Israeli army

Mural of an overlap of Israeli and German flags painted on a wall

Mural by artist Günther Schaefer depicts an amalgamation of the Israeli and German flags on the East Side Gallery, an open-air gallery consisting of remnants of the Berlin Wall. (Maurizio Manetti / Flickr

Palestinians are calling for a boycott of three German clubs for their anti-Palestinian racism.

The venues, Conne Island in Leipzig, Golden Pudel in Hamburg and ://about blank in Berlin, have repeatedly canceled performances by supporters of Palestinian rights and banned Palestinian symbols.

“All three are complicit in promoting Israel’s regime of apartheid, settler-colonialism and occupation and shielding it from criticism and accountability in accordance with international law,” PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, stated.

Although it brands itself as a meeting point for leftists, Conne Island has been under scrutiny and is facing a boycott by German leftist circles for its embrace of supporters of the neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany, known by its initials AfD.

AfD is the third-largest party in Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.

This is not the first time support for Israel and the far-right party align.

Rafi Eitan, the Mossad agent credited with capturing the leading Nazi Adolf Eichmann in 1961, recorded a video praising AfD last year.

Recruiting for the Israeli army

Conne Island’s website also contains a recruitment page for German nationals to volunteer to help the Israeli military.

The night club’s page attempts to persuade young Germans to join the “Sar-El” program, which recruits international civilians to volunteer at Israeli army bases, by likening it to a “vacation” and a chance to escape the dreary German winter.

The page describes the volunteer experience down to the daily meals offered by the army, and lists one motivation for joining as a way to “spare Israel millions of dollars each year.”

A head booker at Conne Island admitted to Israeli newspaper Haaretz that artists who supported the international call for a cultural boycott of Israel through the viral hashtag #DJsForPalestine would likely be banned from performing at the club.

PACBI called this an “explicitly McCarthyist political test of loyalty to Israel.”

The booker, who was given a pseudonym by Haaretz, said he was “obsessed” with Israel.

Conne Island and //:about blank have both banned the Palestinian checkered scarf – or kuffiyeh – worn by many as a symbol of Palestinian resistance.

//:about blank brands itself as an inclusive space that invites “people of color, Black people, refugees, migrants, queers, [transgender] and [intersexual] people and disabled people to party with us.”

Still, the club barred several people, including refugees, from entering the club wearing their kuffiyehs.

PACBI urged “artists and cultural workers to refuse offers from these repressive, anti-Palestinian venues” until they “end their shameful complicity in whitewashing Israel’s decades-old oppression against Palestinians, especially by ending their censorship.”

In May, the Bundestag passed a motion equating support for BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights – with anti-Semitism.

Though nonbinding, the motion fosters a McCarthyite atmosphere that has encouraged venues to discriminate against Palestinians and their supporters.

The motion also calls for withholding public funds from organizations that support BDS or question Israel’s “right to exist.”

American rapper Talib Kweli was disinvited from three concerts in Germany over his support for Palestinian rights and BDS following the passage of the resolution.

Boycott Pop-Kultur

Meanwhile, Palestinians are again calling for a boycott of Berlin’s Pop-Kultur festival this week to protest its continued sponsorship by the Israeli government.

The Israeli government has sponsored the festival in the past, prompting some 14 artists to withdraw, “just as they would have withdrawn from an event in Germany partnered with the South African regime during the height of apartheid there,” PACBI stated.

Israeli activists have also written a letter supporting the boycott.

Their call is joined by LGBTQ+ and Jewish activists in Berlin, and Artists for Palestine UK, whose cultural boycott pledge has been signed by some 1,350 artists and cultural figures.

“The far-right Israeli government cynically exploits the arts to improve its image abroad and to distract from state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against millions of Palestinians on the basis of their identity,” Artists for Palestine UK stated.

PACBI is anticipating fewer artists will cancel their performances this year because the festival organizers “are screening all potential artists, excluding all those who might take issue with the festival’s collaboration with Israel’s regime of oppression.”

For that reason, “the festival can no longer attract the diverse range of progressive artists that it could just a few years ago.”

Actor supports Palestinian rights

Palestinians have welcomed the decision by award-winning actor David Clennon to withdraw his audition for a new television series, in support of Palestinian rights.

Sycamore is an American-Israeli TV series produced by entertainment giant Netflix.

Clennon was preparing an audition tape when he found Tel Aviv listed as a filming location.

The actor found that the producers of the show, Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz, also produced the Netflix series Fauda.

Fauda was “created by former members of Israeli army death squads,” according to PACBI.

It serves as “an anti-Arab racist, Israeli propaganda tool that glorifies the Israeli military’s war crimes against the Palestinian people.”

“In addition to substantial revenue for the companies and the Israeli economy, the Israeli government will benefit from the prestige of creative partnerships with Hollywood,” Clennon wrote.

“I’ve come to think of Israel as a European settler-colonial state, which practices apartheid to control the Indigenous population it has conquered militarily.”

“I chose not to participate in the whitewashing of Israel’s image,” he added.

Clennon said he was “inspired by the example of so many others” to turn down the invitation to audition.

The actor has been a longtime supporter of Palestinian rights.

Clennon endorsed BDS –including the academic and cultural boycott of Israel – in 2014, when Israel launched its massive military assault on the Gaza Strip.

More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed during that assault – about one in every 1,000 Gaza residents, including 550 children.

Israeli fatalities included nearly 70 soldiers and six civilians.

Tags

Add new comment

Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.