Arab bands boycott Berlin pop festival because of Israel

The German branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting the Jewish state had been in contact with the Arab bands.

August 18, 2017 02:13
2 minute read.
Arab bands boycott Berlin pop festival because of Israel

These are some of the acts that will perform in the German capital next week.. (photo credit: POP KULTUR BERLIN)


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Musicians from Egypt, Syria and Tunisia pulled the plug on their participation in next week’s Berlin Pop-Kultur music festival because of Israel‘s role in sponsoring its artists to appear.

Klaus Lederer, who oversees the city’s cultural agency, said on Tuesday that the “call to boycott the festival with fake news about an alleged co-financing of the festival by the State of Israel is disgusting and appalls me.”

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The festival organizers denied that Israel is either a co-organizer or a co-financier of the three-day event.

The bands that pulled out of the festival are: Mazzaj Rap Band-Syria, Hello Psychaleppo from Syria, and EEK featuring Islam Chipsy from Egypt, as well as Tunisian singer Emel Mathlouthi.

According to the festival’s organizers, “The BDS campaign imposed immense pressure on all Arab artists in our line-up.” The German branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting the Jewish state had been in contact with the Arab bands.

Last year, the Munich-based bank DAB closed the account of the Berlin-based BDS Campaign because the account violated France’s anti-discrimination law. French banking giant BNP Paribas owns DAB.

The German government, the city of Berlin, the EU and other organizations are listed as co-sponsors of the festival. Israel’s embassy covered travel costs for artists from the country. The festival said Israel contributed €500 to pay for the transportation of Israeli artists.

Berlin Mayor Michael Müller, from the Social Democratic Party, did not immediately respond to a Jerusalem Post inquiry. Müller has been under fire this year for ignoring rising Iranian regime, Hezbollah and Palestinian antisemitism targeting Israel in his city.

Mazzaj Rap Band-Syria wrote on its website: “It did not take us a minute to know what we had to do; we will not participate in a festival that accepts the partnership with an embassy representing a state and a government led by right-wing party Likud and Netanyahu.”

The band said pro-Israel Germans called Mazzaj “Nazis, Islamists, antisemites.”

Islam Chipsy wrote on its Facebook page it withdrew from the festival “because of the participation of the Israeli Embassy as one of the sponsors of the festival.” Hello Psychaleppo cited the same reason as for its cancellation.

Mathlouthi wrote on her Facebook page that she will not attend because “the festival is sponsored by the Israeli Embassy.”

The festival organizers said in response to the cancellations: “We believe that discourse and dialogue are the only the way to deal with conflicts in this world. We, as artists, have the responsibility to build networks that go beyond borders, also when we have different opinions.”

Israel's embassy wrote to the Post by email on  Friday: "Unfortunately there are people who believe that it’s possible today in Germany that artists can be pushed to boycott cultural events; only because there is an Israeli cultural participation. Israel advocates culture in Germany, cooperations and dialogue  in general – something that the supporters of this boycott do not strive for."

The embassy added, "These people demand that artists in Germany stand against Israel. This hurts first and foremost the cultural scene in Berlin. We regret attempts to muzzle people and that the German society are deprived of cultural inputs by this."

The festival will showcase more than 70 concerts on August 23-25.

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