Partying on ethnically cleansed land

Several women sit in front of pile of debris

Bedouin women sit in front of the rubble of demolished houses in Umm al-Hiran on 18 January 2017. 

Faiz Abu Rmeleh ActiveStills

Palestinians are calling for the boycott of a music festival taking place where Israel plans to ethnically cleanse tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins.

The InDnegev music festival is scheduled to take place in the Naqab desert in southern Israel from 24 to 26 October.

The area is where Israel is taking the first steps to forcibly displace tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins and put them in refugee camps.

Adalah, a legal advocacy group, is challenging a mass displacement that seems imminent.

An Israeli government department discussed displacement plans earlier this month that, if approved, will see Israeli forces evict the Bedouins from their homes and place them in “desert refugee or displacement camps” where they may stay for up to six years.

The Naqab Bedouins hold Israeli citizenship. But like all Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, they lack basic rights and suffer some 65 Israeli laws that directly and indirectly discriminate against them.

Israeli authorities are not offering just or permanent housing solutions, says Adalah.

Judaizing the Naqab

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is urging artists to withdraw from the festival just as they would from one in apartheid South Africa.

The InDnegev festival is sponsored by the Negev Development Authority, the government agency responsible for the “displacement,” or ethnic cleansing, of the Bedouins.

“This takes the ‘Brand Israel’ program of art-washing apartheid through culture to its logical conclusion,” PACBI stated.

With little hint of irony, the festival’s website instructs festival-goers “to respect your neighbors in the camping area” and not to bring “armed weapons, knives… and gas canisters” to the site.

But the action to remove the Bedouins from their homes is only part of a larger plan to Judaize the southern region.

The Israeli government has been intent on expelling villagers from Naqab’s Umm al-Hiran Bedouin village in order to build a Jewish-only settlement in its place. They are even trying to force the Palestinians to agree to their own expulsion.

Israel has demolished another village in the Naqab, al-Araqib, more than 130 times since 2010.

Just a few kilometers away in the Gaza Strip, Israel routinely shoots at Palestinians with live ammunition and tear gas canisters for demanding their right to return to lands they were expelled from in 1948.

“We urge all international artists to withdraw from the festival, to avoid participating in the blatant attempts of Israel’s regime of apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism to whitewash its war crimes and human rights violations against Palestinians,” PACBI stated.

Dancing on looted land

But ethnic cleansing provides the beat to other events.

The DGTL Tel Aviv 2019 festival is taking place this week in Yarkon Park, built atop the ruins of Jarisha, a small Palestinian village near Jaffa that was depopulated during the 1948 ethnic cleansing of some 800,000 Palestinians that cleared the way for the establishment of the State of Israel.

Festival promoters claim to be “always mindful of our environmental and social impact,” though such concern does not seem to extend to the Palestinians who were never allowed to return to the lands and homes from which they were forcibly displaced.

Palestinian civil society is therefore asking artists to withdraw from this festival.

It is crimes such as “ethnic cleansing, apartheid and occupation, that Israel seeks to art-wash through its association with otherwise progressive festivals and artists,” PACBI said.

Similarly, Palestinians are urging artists to withdraw from the Indo Fest TLV festival taking place this week.

The festival was indefinitely postponed last year after a boycott campaign and this year may see a repeat.

Bollywood star and TV personality Sophie Choudry said the “show is not happening” on Twitter, but no official cancellation announcements have been made on the festival’s website.

Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy Michael Oren urged Bollywood artists to visit Israel during a trip to the Indian city of Mumbai in recent years.

Oren clearly stated the purpose of his trip.

“In Mumbai inviting Bollywood to Israel. Meeting producers from India’s massive film industry. The goal: create Israeli jobs and fight BDS,” he said on Twitter.

India has in recent years been the largest customer in the world for Israeli weapons.




There's no place in Israel that hasn't experienced the disaster known as the nakba, under the heel and the lash of Zionism. For that reason, music festivals in Israel invariably take place on a site of ethnic cleansing, and their purpose is to mask the state's grisly history and present day crimes in a wave of techno-beat amnesia. In fact, every arts gathering in Israel not explicitly dedicated to defying that state should be the subject of boycott resolutions and actions. PACBI leads the way in alerting writers and performers as to the facts behind these hasbara charades. Israel's cultural whitewashing exercises must be exposed and challenged by us all.

Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.