Artists have withdrawn from the line-up of Berlin festival Pop-Kultur after the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) called on all participating artists to withdraw from the event due to its acceptance of sponsorship from the Israeli embassy.

BDS said in a statement that Israel seeks associations with international festivals, such as Pop-Kultur Berlin, to art-wash its image abroad in the explicit attempt to distract attention from its crimes against Palestinians.

For a supposedly progressive festival to accept sponsorship from a decades-old regime of oppression and apartheid like Israel’s is unethical and hypocritical, to say the least, the statement read.

BDS added that most recently, Israel has implemented a shoot-to-kill-or-maim policy -- announced in advance -- against thousands of peaceful protesters in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip who are struggling to achieve freedom. The dozens killed and thousands injured were not shot by accident: an Israeli forces spokesperson even said, “nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured. We know where every bullet landed.”

The International Criminal Court has warned Israel that its killings in Gaza may amount to war crimes.

In light of Israel's continued violation of Palestinian human rights, accepting Israeli government propaganda money amounts to intentional complicity in art-washing Israel’s egregious violations of international law, BDS further stated.

A few months ago, the New Zealand sensation, Lorde, announced the cancellation of a scheduled gig in Tel Aviv. When faced with an ugly intimidation and smear campaign by Israel lobby figures, dozens of world renowned artists, including Oscar-winning Hollywood stars, stood squarely in support of Lorde.

Quoted by BDS, one Israeli official summarized the overt policy of cultural whitewashing in the following terms: “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

Pop-Kultur festival’s insistence on accepting Israel’s sponsorship, no matter how it spins it this year, leaves us with no choice but to appeal to all participating artists to withdraw, unless the festival rescinds Israel’s sponsorship, said BDS.

It added that an event sponsored by apartheid South Africa would have triggered the same calls for boycott by human rights defenders and progressives in South Africa, Germany and elsewhere. Similarly, refraining from normalizing Israel’s system of injustice is the least that Palestinians expect from progressive artists and cultural organizations in order not to undermine our nonviolent struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Newcastle singer-songwriter Richard Dawson has followed UK band Shopping in issuing a statement announcing they are now boycotting the event.

In response to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel's call for artists to boycott the upcoming Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin… I regret to inform we've decided to cancel our performance,” ran Dawson’s statement on 17 May.


“The killing on Monday of protesters in Gaza by Israeli government forces is the latest in a long string of atrocities acted upon the Palestinian people,” he said. “Even if performing at Pop-Kultur meant I was endorsing such a government in only the very slightest of ways, I cannot in good conscience lend my music or my name to this.”