Open letter to UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019


Dear UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin festival 2019,

Artists for Palestine UK has joined the call from Palestinians, and also from Israeli artists and Israeli human rights defenders, and from LGBTQI+ campaigners in Berlin, for participating artists to withdraw from Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019, in protest at the festival’s continued partnership with the Israeli embassy.

As you may know, 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. For this reason, Palestinians asked Pop-Kultur Berlin to end its partnership with the Israeli state.

Art matters. The arts should not be used to whitewash a regime whose apartheid character has become explicit and undeniable.

We hope that UK-based artists who are scheduled to appear at Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019 will chose to stand with Palestinian artists and their audiences – be they living under military occupation in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza, be they living as second class citizens within Israel’s borders in historic Palestine, or in exile in the refugee camps and in the diaspora. 

Last year, Israel targeted and completely destroyed the al-Mishal Cultural Centre in Gaza. The UN has found that photo-journalists in Gaza have been deliberately targeted and shot by Israeli army snipers since 2018. Palestinian photographers and journalists in the occupied West Bank and Jersualem are routinely harassed, assaulted and arrested while trying to do their job.  Palestinian on-line space is heavily policed and many face arrest simply for reporting on their own experience.  For example, a Palestinian poet was recently released from almost three years in jail and under house arrest for the ‘crime’ of posting one of her poems on Facebook. 

The Israeli state has buried and erased Palestinian cultural heritage since its founding, and today the government is systematically removing historic documents from its own archives in order to conceal proof of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. Two weeks ago the Israeli state blew up 13 Palestinian apartment blocks in occupied East Jerusalem, demonstrating the impunity with which Israel continues ethnic cleansing policies in plain sight, confident that our government/s will not press for sanctions in order to defend the Palestinian population.

As with South African apartheid, when all avenues for seeking justice have been exhausted, boycott is a non-violent weapon of the weak against the powerful. Our strength lies in our collectivity. We urge you to join the fourteen artists from six countries, including eight from the UK, who withdrew from the last two editions of the festival following appeals. Please support the Palestinian call, and to refuse Pop-Kultur Berlin’s normalization of Israeli apartheid.

Yours sincerely,

Artists for Palestine UK

Photo credit: Palestinian band ‘Al-Anqaa’ play in the ruins of the Al-Mishal cultural centre, Gaza, shortly after the Israeli military destroyed it in  August 2018 (©MEE/Mohammed Asad)

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