Artswatch Palestine: September – December 2019

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

Cádiz – and London

On December 20th the press office of the City of Cádiz announced that the Cádiz Court (Juzgado de Instrucción número 1 de Cádiz) had dismissed a case brought by the pro-Israeli organisation, ACOM against the Council’s decision to cancel a festival of Israeli films, organized in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Madrid and set to take place in a municipal building.

The court’s decision overturns an earlier ruling. In making it, Judge Maria del Carmen Fornell found that ‘the suppression of the Israeli film cycle does not rest on antisemitic motives or exclusion on the grounds of nationality, nor does it demonstrate contempt for elementary norms of coexistence or dignity of the person.’

Responding to the decision, the Mayor of Cádiz, José María González, said that the cancellation of the film festival was ‘not an act of hate, but an act of love and respect for Human Rights, framed in defence of the freedom of the Palestinian people, in the rejection of the illegal Israeli occupation and apartheid.’

Gonzalez went on, ‘Civic institutions have the right and duty to protect human rights, and that is what the City Council of Cádiz is doing … [We] will ‘never remain indifferent to injustice … Reason and our heart are with Palestine. … We will continue fighting racism.’

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the new Conservative government has announced that it will legislate against councils which take action in support of BDS and similar movements. ‘We will stop public institutions from imposing their own approach or views about international relations, through preventing boycotts, divestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries and those who trade with them. We will create a coherent approach to foreign relations from all public institutions, by ensuring that they do not go beyond the UK Government’s settled policy towards a foreign country’. (Background Briefing Notes to Queen’s Speech December 2019.)

Jerusalem: a punishment for provocation

Artswatch, June 2018, reported the threats made by Culture Minister Miri Regev against the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem. According to Regev, the Barbur Gallery had been repeatedly guilty of “subversive activity” and of promoting ‘ceaseless pro-Palestinian provocations” that “seek to subvert the state’s existence and nurture fairy tales about the Nakba’. The Jerusalem municipality has also had Barbur in its sights – for more than a year it has been seeking to close the gallery, in response to its hosting of a gathering of the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence.

Now, reports Naama Riba in Ha’aretz (27th December), the municipality has got its way. The municipality’s education department had requested the building be turned into a kindergarten, and the gallery is accordingly being evicted.

Hagit Moshe, deputy mayor in charge of education, said in a statement to the press: ‘The voice of Torah and Zionism will be heard instead of Barbur’s slander.” She added, “I’m glad that the struggle I have been part of since the last term has succeeded and we have killed two birds with one stone – an important addition to the kindergartens and the closing of a gallery that specializes in provocation and damage to Israel’s good name under the guise of artistic freedom.’

Yossi Havilio, a lawyer who represented the gallery and is a Jerusalem city councilman, said that if a planned public campaign did not succeed, the gallery would pursue legal action in an effort to remain in the location.

Berlin: a new ban

 On 30th November, DJ and music producer Bella Cuts was booked to appear at a Berlin show hosted by the German feminist publication Missy Magazine. Two weeks beforehand, she was told that she had been disinvited: Missy Magazine refuses to work with anyone who publicly supports BDS.

Missy Magazine is consistent and forthright in its views. There is little difference between antisemitism of the left, and that of the far right. Left-wing analysis of the Israel lobby, it claims, is a modern-day version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The media are not biased in favour of Israel and those who claim otherwise are recycling antisemitic conspiracy theories. In fact, wherever ‘there’s criticism of Israel, you’ll usually find antisemitism.’

Bella Cuts has responded with a combative series of tweets. She cites the lengthening list of artists and activists who have been banned from performing or speaking in Germany. She writes:

‘In its 11 years of existence, Missy Magazine has not once reported on the struggles of Palestinian women – in the occupied territories or in Israel – against patriarchy and state-sanctioned racism. They have been completely erased.

‘Antisemitism must be fought, as must Islamophobia, and all forms of racism. Conflating support for BDS with antisemitism does not advance the fight against antisemitism – it only undermines the very real presence of both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiments that are currently on the rise in Europe.’

‘A feminism that does not speak out against all forms of racism,’ Bella Cuts concludes, ‘is simply not feminism.’

East Jerusalem: everyday harassment

Since Donald Trump announced that the USA would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,  efforts to disrupt and suppress Palestinian life have become more intense. The demolition of Palestinian homes has intensified; likewise settlement-building. Cultural repression has also been stepped up.

The Times of Israel (25th November) reported that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had ordered the closure  of the Jerusalem office of the Directorate of Education, the banning of activities by Palestine TV and the arrest  of the director of the al-Araz production company that hosts the channel. Middle East Monitor (6thDecember) reported that Israeli soldiers had arrested a Palestine TV crew on the set of the programme Good Morning Jerusalem, after confiscating their cameras and broadcast equipment. The crew were issued with 15-day ‘stop work’ orders.

The latest moves follow months of harassment directed at cultural institutions. Rania Elias, director of the Yabous Cultural Centre told the BBC : “Several times we’ve announced readings, concerts, and exhibitions, and they’ve been stopped by Israeli forces …They come one hour before the event with soldiers and an order saying that, according to the information they have, we are organising an event that is against the security of Israel.”

One of the events shut down was an event in memory of the doctor and writer Subhi Ghosheh, exiled from his homeland for nearly fifty years. The Sabeel-Kairos website offered a brief summary of his life and work:

‘He worked as a doctor in Jerusalem from 1953-71. He had a heart for the poor people he treated, often foregoing charges or paying for medication for those who had no money. He was also renowned as an expert on the history of Jerusalem and wrote about Palestinian culture.’

‘Culture is a kind of peaceful resistance,’ said Elias, ‘and a way of preserving our cultural identity and heritage … It gives people hope, and so they [the occupation forces] don’t want these events to happen.’

Morocco: refusing an invitation

 Docaviv – the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival –  describes itself as ‘among the world’s leading documentary festivals, with over 100 new local and international documentaries screened each year’. It is supported by, among others, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Docaviv invited an Amazigh film-maker in Morocco, Nadir Bouhmouch, to submit his film, Amussu, to its 2020 festival.

Replying to Docaviv Bouhmouch wrote:

‘Amussu is a film about resistance, about the fight of an [Amazigh] community for water, land and dignity. It is a cause which is not very different from that of Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, who are banned from digging wells on their own land, and who have to pay to use their own water supplies’.

Affirming his support for the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, Bouhmouch says that he would be very happy if everyone in Israel/Palestine were able to watch his film – but not under conditions of oppression. ‘The city in which you seek to screen our film remains inaccessible to Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, who – if they have a pass – must go through hours of humiliating checkpoints and violence. Or – when they don’t have a pass – simply can’t go at all.’ Rather than screen his film in these conditions, he will wait for the collapse of the apartheid regime, when it will be accessible to all who wish to see it.

Music, travel and invitations

 The band El Container, plays ‘an upbeat mixture of western rock and rap music in bold Arabic words’.

All six of its members grew up in East Jerusalem, and so have permanent residency in Israel, but their official nationality is ‘undefined’, and they have no passport. To travel outside Palestine/Israel they must apply to festivals online in the hope of endorsement for an entry visa, which rarely comes.  BBC journalist William Ralston notes in an informative article about music in Palestine that this ‘scuppers their chances of releasing their music because labels are reluctant to sign a band unable to tour across the primary Arabic markets, namely Lebanon, Syria, and Dubai’.

Despite these difficulties, the band has performed in Turkey, Italy, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt. They have declined other invitations because they’re sent with the wrong intentions. ‘They try to connect Israeli and Palestinian bands on the same stage to show that they can exist in the same space, so the music is never the focus,’ says band member Suleiman Harb.

 Dareen Tatour

+972 magazine reported on 3rd October that Dareen Tatour, the Palestinian poet arrested in 2015 over a poem she published on Facebook (see previous editions of Artswatch), is ‘finally free’. After years of house arrest, months in prison and an international campaign of protest, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the state’s petition to restore her overturned conviction for incitement to violence.

Attorney Gaby Lasky, who represented Tatour, said that the state’s attempt to appeal a reduced sentence for a poet spoke to its inability to accept the basic democratic principle of freedom of expression. The efforts to taint her poetry as a criminal act were now at an end, Lasky declared.

*Featured image – Cadiz poster translation:  ‘Apartheid free space – solidarity with Palestine’


Aurora: Don’t be a sword, cancel Tel Aviv

Aurora says she is a lily, not a sword. As Palestinian and Israeli musicians, we urge her to be true to her word, by refusing to let her music and image be exploited as a weapon of propaganda by the far-right Israeli apartheid regime. Israel explicitly uses all international artists to cover up oppression, particularly those who consciously dismiss moral appeals for them to refuse shows at complicit Israeli cultural institutions.

Barby Club in Tel Aviv, where Aurora is booked to perform two shows in November, is one such cultural institution. Barby brazenly wears its complicity like a badge of honour, most clearly when it handed out free t-shirts to Israeli occupation  forces engaged in the 2014 massacres in Gaza that left more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, dead.

These t-shirts were emblazoned with the phrase “fuck you, we’re from Israel” alongside the club’s own logo, who proudly posted images online. This incident alone should be enough to stir the conscience of any progressive artist, especially Aurora’s, whose own sense of morality is surely troubled by such a glaring example of a hyper-militarised society meshing seamlessly with culture, as it does in apartheid Tel Aviv today.

We are among the Palestinian and Israeli artists who wrote open letters to Aurora, calling on her to cancel her shows in apartheid Tel Aviv. Palestinian artists wrote that “when more than 150 Norwegian artists endorsed the Palestinian, Israeli and international calls to boycott Eurovision in apartheid Tel Aviv in May this year, they demonstrated their moral commitment to do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality.” Meanwhile, Israelis wrote that, as artists, they “can’t sit silent” as long as their “Palestinian counterparts suffer silencing, dehumanisation and violence”.

Another letter to Aurora was sent from Boycott from Within, whose public support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is now endorsed by a thousand Israeli citizens, mostly Jewish. They drew Aurora’s attention to the fact that last year’s so-called Jewish Nation-State Law “enshrines apartheid into Israel’s equivalent of a constitution”. This entrechment of apartheid was only the latest: Palestinian citizens of Israel were already subject to 65 racist laws

As in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the refusal of progressive artists to play Sun City, artists today are asked to do no harm to the nonviolent struggle of Palestinians, by refusing to perform in apartheid Tel Aviv. The growing solidarity between global grassroots movements and Palestinians, including LGBTQ+ organisations, feminist movements, Black liberation, and climate justice struggles, is best encapsulated by Angela Davis’s immortal statement that justice is indivisible.

We do not doubt that Aurora has good intentions. That much is clear from her various statements. The world we live in is often brutally indifferent to suffering, but people are calling on Aurora to cancel her shows at Barby because she can make a difference, because she has the power right now to take a stand and, crucially, not undermine a movement for freedom, justice and equality. Aurora says she sings for her Israeli fans, who are the future, but what future is there if one of the harshest occupations in history is art-washed by international performances?

When one sings on stage at the Barby club, one is 45 minutes away from the apartheid wall built by Israel to keep millions of Palestinians oppressed under martial law. Any statement an artist might make on stage in apartheid Tel Aviv would be overshadowed by the fact that they are crossing an international picket line established by the absolute majority of Palestinian civil society, including women’s organizations. As with apartheid in South Africa, only pressure from the outside on Israel’s far-right apartheid regime can compel it to end the denial of Palestinians’ fundamental human rights. 

We hope that Aurora continues to engage with those of us calling on her to reconsider her scheduled performances. She says that she stands “on people’s side, in the fight against injustice and violence”. We believe her. But we disagree that heeding the call of the oppressed Palestinians is “like looking the other way”. It is the opposite. Before her is the chance to look straight into the eyes of the oppressed, and to tell them she will hear them and heed their moral appeals. So far, despite many agreeable words, she has refused to do so.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a founding member of the largest coalition in Palestinian society that leads the global BDS movement for Palestinian rights, said that Aurora’s dismissal of Palestinian voices means she only “plays into the hands of the oppressor”. We hope that she will instead play a different tune: one of meaningful solidarity.

~ Samir Eskanda is a Palestinian musician
~ Ohal Grietzer is an Israeli composer and mixed-media performer 

* This article was originally published in Norwegian in Dagsavisen

* Photo credit: Mode Steinkjer

Aldeburgh DocFest disinvites author, invites Israel lobby CEO to discuss ‘GAZA’

On Sunday, Aldeburgh Documentary Festival will host a discussion that follows a screening of the acclaimed documentary ‘GAZA’, a film about Palestinian lives in the besieged enclave. Extraordinarily, the panel is advertised to include the CEO of the UK’s biggest pro-Israel public relations group, BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research). 

Clearly something has gone very awry with programming principles at Aldeburgh DocFest.  

Below, journalist and author Sarah Helm who has been reporting from Gaza during the ‘Great March of Return’ protests, describes how she was invited, and then disinvited, from the GAZA panel at Aldeburgh DocFest. Her statement gives an indication of the confused and troubling logic at work behind the scenes. 

It can never be appropriate or ethical for an independent cultural organisation to provide a platform for a PR company for Israel that is overtly complicit with the oppression of Palestinian people.  Filmmakers and audiences deserve better.

Artists for Palestine UK urges the festival programmers to get in touch, so that we can help connect Aldeburgh DocFest with one or more of the knowledgeable Palestinian artists, writers and speakers in the south of England who could enrich a proper discussion about Gaza, with reference to their own lived experience. 

“I’m the journalist “unplatformed” from the Aldeburgh DocFest screening of ‘Gaza’. The festival is this week-end. I was invited to be in a panel to discuss the documentary.

In the 1990s I was Jerusalem correspondent for the Independent and visited Gaza often. Since then I have worked in Gaza as a freelance for the Independent, Sunday Times, The New York Review of Books, Newsweek and the Observer, most recently spending three weeks there for The Sunday Times this summer when I wrote a piece about the border sniper shooting for The Sunday Times. When in August Jill Green, the DocFest organiser, invited me to join a panel to discuss the Gaza film, I naturally was pleased to accept.

But Ms Green then emailed me about a month or so later to say she was “embarrassed” to tell me that I was no longer invited because it had been decided the panel would not be “balanced” if it had me on it. She said she “knew my views” and had to have a more ‘balanced panel”.

The decision to “uninvite” me was particularly unsettling for me as I am currently working on re-erecting the lost stories of Palestinian refugees, whose stories have been buried or ignored over the years.

According to the DocFest program published on line, the “balanced” panel is now three men, one a representative of BICOM, the UK’s main pro-Israel lobby.

From details published there is no Palestinian voice on the panel and no woman and nobody who has recently spent time inside Gaza.

There is little doubt the organisers were pressured into removing me and it is extremely disappointing that a cultural event such as this should feel obliged to constitute a panel according to political calculations and pressures about what constitutes “ balance” – which is a highly tainted value judgement in any event. I pointed out to Miss Green that my views are based on painstaking in depth research over many years and I was surprised she knew what my views were as I am still formulating them.

My last book on a Nazi concentration camp for women won The History Today prize in 2015 and was not accused of being unbalanced.

Ms Green did not reply. By the time the panel chair emailed to say I could come along to the event in any case, I had made other plans.”

Sarah Helm

*Picture credit: ‘GAZA’ documentary

Open letter: the demand that artists disavow BDS is not a legitimate request

A museum in Aachen, Germany, has defied the city’s Mayor, who had said that respected artist Walid Raad should not be awarded the €10, 000 Aachen Art Prize, because, following the city’s inquiry, the artist had apparently “not distanced himself” from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The Association of Friends of the Ludwig Forum for International Art must now find an alternative venue for the award ceremony due the Mayor’s intervention and effective ban.

Today, a group of artists, academics, Jewish and Palestinian human rights defenders have addressed an open letter to Marcel Philipp, Mayor of Aachen. Artists for Palestine UK is happy to reproduce the letter below, in English.

*To add your name contact:
*Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen


The Honorable Marcel Philipp
Mayor of Aachen
2058 Aachen

October 2019

Dear Mayor Philipp,

We were disconcerted to learn that your decision to withdraw the city’s support for the 2019 Aachen City Art Prize ceremony was based on “tip-offs” and “inquiries” about the political views of Walid Raad, the award winner. The political stance you feel it is urgent to denounce is the alleged, world-renowned Lebanese-American artist’s support for the civil society “BDS campaign.” As you are probably aware, many artists and intellectuals advocate for the recognition and implementation of legal rights, worldwide. Rather than recognize this advocacy as a form of democratic engagement, you regard Mr Raad’s commitment to the rights of Palestinians to be scandalous, and worthy of condemnation.

We, on the contrary, are scandalized that you’d make your approval of the city’s decision to honor Walid Raad dependant upon his disavowal of the BDS movement. Palestinians living in Israel, in the territory Israel occupies – in violation of international law –, and in the Diaspora have the same inalienable rights you yourself enjoy as a German citizen. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was launched in 2005 by a broad alliance of Palestinian civil society, which requested nothing more than that all “people with a sense of justice” make use of peaceful means to pressure the State of Israel to fulfill its obligations, as mandate by international law.   

To demand that Mr Raad renounce the BDS campaign is not a legitimate request. That would amount to tacitly endorsing the confused reasoning with which you justify your demand. You argue that both the German Parliament and the NRW State Parliament have found “the BDS movement to be anti-Semitic… because it essentially questions or denies Israel’s right to exist.” This is an extremely biased and erroneous assessment of the BDS, and of democratic debate.

To treat an assessment reached by a parliamentary majority like a royal decree, is fundamentally at odds with democratic practices. The gravity of the charge of anti-Semitism calls all of us ––and you as a political office-holder especially–– to be careful and considerate in our examination of this case, as well as independent in our position. 

Pointing out that a state’s has obligations towards those living inside its borders under human rights and international law and trying to persuade it to fulfill those obligations is not equivalent to questioning or denying its right to existence. To equivocate criticism of  Israeli policy toward the Palestinians with anti-Semitism, on the other hand, requires one to view Israel as identical to the Jewish collective, therefore making all Jews responsible for Israel’s policies –a view that in our opinion, and contrary to ours, does veer onto Antisemitism. The BDS campaign does not conflate the state of Israel’s policies with the Jewish population, either inside or outside Israeli borders – as your research should have shown. It targets institutions and businesses (often international, and not necessarily Israeli) with boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions, as many other civic society campaigns do. It is a campaign meant to pressure a state to recognize and honor the rights of those it discriminates against, it is not a campaign meant to discriminate against a state or its people, and it has nothing in common with the resentment of Jews, which is the essence of anti-Semitism. Given the dangerous increase of anti-Semitism in Germany today, we find it deeply disturbing that a German mayor would not be seriously willing to engage and debate this matter.

You were bothered by the thought of the City of Aachen awarding an artist who (by supporting the BDS campaign, as you claim) “opposes artistic and cultural exchange.” In fact, the BDS movement criticizes Israeli cultural institutions and individual artists (including non-Israelis) who justify and whitewash Israeli policies that violate international law – or downplay these policies in the service of Israeli public relations: In no way does that hinder artistic and cultural exchange. On the contrary, it makes this exchange more inclusive.

What is the significance of an award like the Aachen City Art Prize? The prize is intended to help make an artistically valuable oeuvre become better known and supported – and to promote appreciation for and debate about the work in Germany. An award like this contributes to artistic and cultural exchange.

Do you believe that by discrediting artists who support Palestinian rights – indiscriminately and without any serious examination – you are supporting artistic and cultural exchange?  

There are a great many reputable sources of information about BDS that you could have consulted before coming to your judgement, and deciding to withdraw the City of Aachen’s support for the 2019 prizewinner, Walid Raad. Here are two:

The Administrative Court of Cologne: The Administrative Court’s proceedings regarding the German-Palestinian Women’s Association versus the Federal City of Bonn

The BDS Movement’s position on boycotting individuals

As we have explained, your decision to withdraw support for Walid Raad as the 2019 winner of the Aachen City Art Prize lacks any basis.

We ask you to accept the jury’s proper decision to honor an excellent artist and his work with the Aachen City Art Prize and to not prevent the presentation ceremony being held on city property.

Yours sincerely,

BDS Berlin

BDS Initiative Oldenburg

Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (CPJPO), Luxembourg

ECCP – European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, Belgien

Jewish Antifa Berlin

Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V.

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Palestinian Panthers Deutschland

Palästina spricht – Coalition for Palestinian Rights and Against Racism

Pericentre Projects, Kairo

Gilbert Achcar

Avi Berg, Berlin

Federica Bueti, Kunstkritikerin/Editorin, Berlin.

Sophia Deeg, Autorin/Übersetzerin, Berlin

Marguerite d‘Huart, Frankreich

Hermann Dierkes, ehem. Mitglied des Rates der Stadt Duisburg

Nancy du Plessis, Dokumentar Filmemacher/Solo Performerin, Berlin

Dror Dayan, Filmemacher/Filmwissenschaftler, John Moores University, Liverpool, GB

Pary El-Qalqili, Filmemacherin, Berlin

Claudio Feliziani, Filmemacher, Berlin

Dominik Finkelde, Professor für Philosophie an der Hochschule für Philosophie München

Sylvia Finzi, Künstlerin, Berlin/London

Ruth Fruchtman, Autorin, Berlin

Jochen Gester, Gewerkschafter und Verleger, Berlin

Doris Ghannam, Berlin

Nathan Gray, Künstler, Berlin

Hartmut Heller, Soziologe, München

Dr. Renate Hürtgen, Historikerin, Berlin

Shahira Issa, Künstlerin, Hamburg/Kairo

Ellen Keller, München

Angela Klein, Köln

Elfriede Krutsch, Berlin

Dr. Hadas Leonov, Softwareentwicklerin, Heidelberg

Marcella Lista, Kuratorin, Centre Pompidou

Anna Regina Mackowiak, München

Jumana Manna, Künstlerin, Berlin

Gabriele Martin, Berlin

Mónica Martins Nunes, Visuelle Künstlerin, Portugal

Miranda Pennell, Künstlerin/Filmemacherin, UK

Agnieszka Polska, Künstlerin

John Smith, Künstler/Filmemacher, UK

Sille Storihle

Tanya Ury, Künstlerin/Schriftstellerin, Köln


Offener Brief an den Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Aachen bzgl. des Kunstpreises für Walid Raad

October 2019

Sehr geehrter Herr Oberbürgermeister Philipp,

wie wir mit Befremden zur Kenntnis nehmen, sahen Sie sich nach „Hinweisen“ und „Recherchen“ zur politischen Haltung des designierten Preisträgers des Aachener Kunstpreises 2019 Walid Raad veranlasst, die Unterstützung der Stadt für diese Preisverleihung zurückzunehmen. Ihre Recherchen ergaben, dass der international renommierte libanesisch-amerikanische Künstler die zivilgesellschaftliche Kampagne BDS unterstützt. Dass sich Herr Raad, wie viele andere Künstler*innen und Intellektuelle weltweit, für die Anerkennung und Umsetzung von verbrieften Rechten, in diesem Falle denen der Palästinenser*innen einsetzt, ist also in Ihren Augen der Skandal.

Wir empfinden es eher als skandalös, dass Sie Ihre Zustimmung zur Verleihung des Aachener Kunstpreises an Walid Raad davon abhängig gemacht haben, dass er sich von seiner Überzeugung distanzieren sollte: Auch die Palästinenser*innen – sei es in Israel, in dem von Israel völkerrechtswidrig besetzten Gebiet oder in der Diaspora – haben unveräußerliche Rechte – wie auch Sie sie als Bürger der Bundesrepublik genießen. Nicht mehr und nicht weniger konstatiert die 2005 von einem breiten Bündnis der palästinensischen Zivilgesellschaft ins Leben gerufene BDS-Kampagne und fordert „Menschen mit Gerechtigkeitssinn“ weltweit dazu auf, mit friedlichen Mitteln Druck auf den Staat Israel auszuüben, damit er seinen völkerrechtlichen Verpflichtungen nachkommt.

Zu einer Distanzierung von dieser Kampagne war Herr Raad selbstverständlich nicht bereit. Denn es hätte bedeutet, eine verworrene Argumentation stillschweigend zu unterschreiben, mit der Sie Ihr Ansinnen begründen. Sie verweisen darauf, dass sowohl der Bundestag als auch der Landtag NRW „in parlamentarischen Beschlüssen die BDS-Bewegung als antisemitisch eingeschätzt“ hätten, „weil sie im Kern das Existenzrecht des Staates Israel in Frage stellt oder negiert“.

Doch selbst wenn ein Parlament mehrheitlich zu einer Einschätzung gelangt, ist diese unserer Auffassung nach – unter demokratischen Bedingungen – nicht wie ein hoheitliches Dekret umzusetzen. Sie als politischer Funktionsträger oder wir als Bürger*innen sind in einer so ernsten Angelegenheit wie der Frage, ob jemand oder etwas antisemitisch ist, nicht aus der Verantwortung entlassen, selbständig zu prüfen und zu entscheiden.

Sobald wir das tun, fällt uns auf, dass ein Staat in seiner Existenz weder in Frage gestellt noch gar negiert wird, wenn man ihn an seine menschen- und völkerrechtlichen Verpflichtungen erinnert und mit gewaltlosen Mitteln versucht, ihn dazu zu bewegen, dass er diesen Verpflichtungen nachkommt. Wenn wir versuchen zu verstehen, was eine Kritik der israelischen Politik gegenüber den Palästinenser*innen mit Antisemitismus zu tun haben soll, fällt uns dazu nur ein: Tatsächlich könnte eine solche Kritik antisemitische sein, wenn sie Israel als jüdisches Kollektiv auffassen und Juden/Jüdinnen für die Politik Israels zur Verantwortung ziehen würde. Genau das tut BDS nicht, wie Sie sich unschwer bei Ihren Recherchen hätten vergewissern können. Die Kampagne fordert ausschließlich zum Boykott, zu Desinvestition und Sanktionen gegen Institutionen oder Unternehmen auf (nebenbei: häufig internationale, nicht unbedingt israelische). Mit Jüdinnen/Juden oder einem Ressentiment gegen sie, also mit Antisemitismus, hat das schlicht nichts zu tun. Wir empfinden es als sehr beunruhigend, wenn der Bürgermeister einer deutschen Stadt heutzutage, da ein zunehmender Antisemitismus tatsächlich zu verzeichnen ist, derart nachlässig mit diesem Thema verfährt anstatt sich seriös zu informieren und auseinanderzusetzen.

Sie ereifern sich, die Stadt Aachen könne doch nicht ausgerechnet einen Künstler auszeichnen, der sich (mit BDS, wie Sie behaupten) „gegen künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch stellt“. Auch hier sind Sie einem Gerücht aufgesessen. Wenn BDS israelische kulturelle Institutionen oder einzelne Künstler*innen (auch internationale) kritisiert, sofern diese die völkerrechtswidrige Politik Israels rechtfertigen, beschönigen oder sich in irgendeiner Weise in den Dienst der israelischen Öffentlichkeitsarbeit zur Verharmlosung dieser Politik stellen, so verhindert das logischerweise keineswegs den künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch.

Was bedeutet eine Preisverleihung wie die des Aachener Kunstpreises? Wir nehmen an: Ein künstlerisch wertvolles Werk wird durch solch eine Preisverleihung noch breiter bekannt, wird gefördert – und fördert Wahrnehmung und Debatten hierzulande. Eine solche Preisverleihung trägt zum künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch bei.
Wir fragen Sie: Gedenken Sie, den künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch dadurch zu fördern, dass Sie Künstler*innen, die für die Rechte der Palästinenser*innen eintreten, unbesehen und ohne seriöse Prüfung diskreditieren?

Neben der eigenen Urteilskraft stehen auch Ihnen seriöse Quellen zur Verfügung, die Sie bedauerlicherweise nicht konsultiert haben, bevor Sie sich dafür entschieden, sich für die Stadt Aachen vom diesjährigen Preisträger Walid Raad zurückzuziehen.

Hier einige dieser Quellen:

Verwaltungsgericht Köln: Beschluss in dem verwaltungsgerichtlichen Verfahren des Deutsch-Palästinensischen Frauenvereins e.V gegen die Bundesstadt Bonn –…/14_L_1765_19_Beschluss_20190912.…

BDS Movement Position on Boycott of Individuals –…/bds-movement-position-boycott…

Wie wir gezeigt haben, entbehrt Ihre Entscheidung, sich von Walid Raad als Träger des Aachener Kunstpreises 2019 zurückzuziehen, jeglicher Grundlage.

Daher fordern wir Sie auf, Ihre Entscheidung zu revidieren. Sie sollten einem exzellenten Künstler und seinem Werk, von der Jury vollkommen zu Recht ausgewählt, den Aachener Kunstpreis zuerkennen und der Überreichung in städtischen Räumen nicht im Wege stehen.

Mit besten Grüßen,

BDS Berlin
BDS Initiative Oldenburg
Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (CPJPO), Luxembourg
ECCP – European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, Belgien
Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V.
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Palestinian Panthers Deutschland
Palästina spricht – Coalition for Palestinian Rights and Against Racism
Pericentre Projects, Kairo

Gilbert Achcar
Avi Berg, Berlin
Federica Bueti, Kunstkritikerin/Editorin, Berlin.
Sophia Deeg, Autorin/Übersetzerin, Berlin
Marguerite d‘Huart, Frankreich
Hermann Dierkes, ehem. Mitglied des Rates der Stadt Duisburg
Nancy du Plessis, Dokumentar Filmemacher/Solo Performerin, Berlin
Dror Dayan, Filmemacher/Filmwissenschaftler, John Moores University, Liverpool, GB
Pary El-Qalqili, Filmemacherin, Berlin
Claudio Feliziani, Filmemacher, Berlin
Dominik Finkelde, Professor für Philosophie an der Hochschule für Philosophie München
Sylvia Finzi, Künstlerin, Berlin/London
Ruth Fruchtman, Autorin, Berlin
Jochen Gester, Gewerkschafter und Verleger, Berlin
Doris Ghannam, Berlin
Nathan Gray, Künstler, Berlin
Hartmut Heller, Soziologe, München
Dr. Renate Hürtgen, Historikerin, Berlin
Shahira Issa, Künstlerin, Hamburg/Kairo
Ellen Keller, München
Angela Klein, Köln
Elfriede Krutsch, Berlin
Dr. Hadas Leonov, Softwareentwicklerin, Heidelberg
Anna Regina Mackowiak, München
Jumana Manna, Künstlerin, Berlin
Gabriele Martin, Berlin
Mónica Martins Nunes, Visuelle Künstlerin, Portugal
Agnieszka Polska, Künstlerin
Sille Storihle
Tanya Ury, Künstlerin/Schriftstellerin, Köln

Palestinian and Israeli Artists Urge Aurora: Don’t Play Israel!

Norwegian pop star Aurora is booked to play Tel Aviv on November 14th and 15th. Palestinian artists, and Israeli artists, have each launched appeals to the singer. 

Artists for Palestine UK is pleased to host both letters below.

Palestinian artists to Aurora

Dear Aurora 

It is with great regret we have become aware of your planned performance in Tel Aviv in November. You have quickly become one of the great new names in the international popular music scene, including among Palestinians and other Arabs. Regardless of your intentions, your decision to perform in Tel Aviv will be seen as endorsing Israel’s whitewash of its occupation and denial of human rights to Palestinians. 

Israel is intensifying its decades-old regime of oppression against Palestinians, especially its theft of Palestinian land and resources to build more illegal settlements and apartheid walls. UN investigators have concluded that Israeli occupation forces’ intentional targeting of journalists, medics, children and disabled people with sniper fire in Gaza “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Moreover, Israel’s 12-year-old siege of Gaza has reduced it into an “unliveable” territory, according to the UN. Israel’s military occupation counts per-capita calories allowed into Gaza to keep the two million Palestinians there on the verge of starvation.

Given this reality, many celebrities, including Lana del Rey, Lorde and Natalie Portman, have cancelled scheduled events or performances  in Israel. As during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, such expressions of solidarity by artists sends the right message that they will not lend their names to covering up Israel’s oppression and that they stand with the oppressed Palestinians, including artists, who are not allowed to travel freely to share our art and culture.  

The people of Norway have been among the most supportive of Palestinian freedom. The LO Trade Unions Congress resolution of 2017 in support of our nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, for instance, was a very important international victory for us Palestinians. It mainstreamed boycott as a tool of Norwegian solidarity with the oppressed. And when more than 150 Norwegian artists endorsed the Palestinian, Israeli and international calls for boycott Eurovision in apartheid Tel Aviv in May this year, they demonstrated their moral commitment to do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality. 

You describe yourself as a “down to earth” personality, uncompromising and not to be pushed around by producers and the like. This sounds like somebody who would be inclined to side with the oppressed and downtrodden, as did Lana del Rey and Lorde, rather than siding with the oppressors and perpetrators of war crimes. 

You may be approached by a group called “Creative Community for Peace” (CCFP), an Israel lobby group that presents itself as an “independent” entertainment industry organization trying to convince you why crossing the Palestinian nonviolent picket line to perform in Tel Aviv is good for your career and the “right” thing to do. CCFP carefully hides from artists that it is actually a front group for StandWithUs (SWU), a long-established right-wing, anti-Palestinian, pro-Israeli settler lobby group with long-time ties to Israel’s far-right government.

We Palestinian artists appeal to you to stand with the thousands of artists worldwide who refuse to allow their art to art-wash Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid and thus to contribute to our peaceful struggle for freedom and rights.


Shahd Abusalama, dancer

Raed Andoni, filmmaker 

Nai Barghouti, singer

Nabil Bey, musician, songwriter

Samir Eskanda, musician

Adnan Joubran, musician, composer

Remi Kanazi, poet

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Ramzi Maqdisi, actor 

Ahmed Masoud, author, playwright

Kareem Samara, musician



Israeli artists to Aurora

Dear Aurora,

We are Israeli artists, musicians, filmmakers, and authors, active for a just society here and for a better world. We respect and empathise deeply with your commitment to artistic independence and an artistic voice on pressing global issues. We would like to share our perspective on your planned concert in Israel. 

We, as Jewish Israelis who yearn to live in a peaceful, democratic society, recognise that there is no way to achieve that without ending our government’s oppression of millions of Palestinians. A society can’t be considered democratic, if millions have no vote and no say in the regime that rules them. Such is the situation in Israel, where millions of Palestinians are under military siege and occupation. 

Playing in Israel at this moment necessarily means making a political statement. On one hand, it would be wonderful to hear your message calling to action around pressing global issues. On the other, this message will be delivered in Tel Aviv, which Israel uses as means of public relations, to distract from its military occupation, apartheid policies, and ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Palestinian people.

In Tel-Aviv itself Israel displaces the Palestinians of Jafa, vis-a-vis the Tel-Aviv-Jafa municipality, using economic and legalistic means, evicting families, demolishing homes, and neglecting and defunding whole neighbourhoods, in a process of gentrification that favours Jewish-Israelis over Palestinians.

We, as artists, can’t sit silent as our Palestinian counterparts suffer silencing, dehumanisation and violence, and we ask you to join us in speaking out. Palestinian artists have asked you to cancel your concert, and we strengthen their call.


Meira Asher, sound and radio artist, educator

Ohal Grietzer, composer, mixed-media performer

Avi Hershkovitz, filmmaker

Jonathan Ofir, conductor

David Oppenheim, artist, musician 

Timna Perets, filmmaker

Danielle Ravitzki, artist 

Ben Ronen, visual artist

Itamar Shapira, musician

Yonatan Shapira, musician

Professor Eyal Sivan, filmmaker, Amsterdam University of the Arts (AhK)

Hamutal Song, author, artist, journalist

Karen Zack, photographer 

Artswatch Palestine: April – August 2019

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

Our findings suggest that sniper bullets manufactured by Sierra were used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against civilian protesters in Gaza in 2018″
Forensic Architecture, May 2019.
photo: Natchez Shooters Supplies

Art and Power

The submission of the research group Forensic Architecture to the 2019 Biennial at the Whitney Museum in New York included an extensive investigation into the use of tear gas and bullets manufactured by companies led by Warren Kanders, a Whitney vice chair.

The companies’ products had been used against migrants at the US-Mexico border wall and in other states including Bahrain, Turkey and Kuwait.

Subsequently, Forensic Architecture discovered new evidence that directly linked the weapons manufacturer to Israel’s violence on the Gaza ‘border’.  The evidence, reported HyperAllergic on 20th July, took the form of an ‘unexploded open-tip bullet in the sand surrounding the Al-Bureji protest camp near the border’The bullet was intact and matched the analysis that Forensic Architecture had conducted on ammunition manufactured by one of Kanders’ companies, Sierra Bullets.

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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.

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Israeli artists: Boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival

We are proud to publish the following open letter from Israeli artists in support of the Palestinian call to boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival.

[Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen]

‘As Israeli artists, musicians, and filmmakers, we support the Palestinian call to boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival 2019, given its complicity with Israel’s racist regime. 

So long as Pop Kultur continues to have the Israeli embassy as a partner, all appearances at the festival will be exploited by the Israeli government as part of its efforts to whitewash its occupation and rebrand itself through culture.

We recognise that there is an urgent moral need to end the Israeli government’s decades-long oppression of millions of Palestinians, and that boycotts rooted in international law and universal principles of human rights are a legitimate, nonviolent, time-honoured tactic. 

We are dismayed that the festival director last year wrongly condemned BDS as “antisemitic” in defending their partnership with the Israeli embassy. Even Avi Primor, himself a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, agrees that “the leitmotiv of the BDS movement is justice for the Palestinians”.  Continue reading

Boots Riley, Naomi Klein among 100+ figures demanding free speech on BDS movement for Palestinian rights

Over one hundred high-profile artists and public figures are expressing dismay at political repression against  the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, slamming “attempts in Germany to impose political conditions” on artists such as Talib Kweli (pictured).  In an open letter published in the Guardian (and copied below), a broad range of artists from all fields and genres signed but also figures  from the field of human rights including: Index on Censorship, Patrisse Cullors co-founder of Black Lives Matter, human rights lawyer and former judge Sir Stephen Sedley, and philosopher Judith Butler.

“We are shocked that Open Source Festival, Düsseldorf has disinvited black American rapper Talib Kweli, leading to the cancellation of his Germany tour, after he refused to denounce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Attempts in Germany to impose political conditions on artists who support Palestinian rights, particularly targeting black, POC and queer artists, comprise a shameful trend of censorship, anti-Palestinian repression, and attacks on freedom of conscience.

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‘UK government must end isolation of artists from Gaza’: hundreds of academics and artists speak out

The letter  below criticises the UK government’s shameful ‘hostile environment’ policy, as it impacts  on artists, and in particular artists from Gaza. Israel’s policies have brought Gaza to the brink of economic, social and ecological collapse. To refuse visas to individuals who use all their efforts to be productive and creative in the face of dire circumstances, largely brought about by Israeli policy, makes the UK an accomplice in a strategy of collective punishment.
*UK-based academics and artists can sign the letter here.*

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Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Pratibha Parmar, Ken Loach and others say UK cinemas should boycott Israeli film festival Seret

In our letter published in the Guardian yesterday and copied below, 20 British filmmakers and writers including Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Ken Loach and Prahitbha Parmar criticise the hosting of an Israeli government sponsored film festival in the UK. 

The letter cites the findings of the recent UN report on Israel’s violence against Palestinians in Gaza.  It compares celebrity and business protests against Brunei over its new anti-LGBT law, with those against Israel over its violence against the Palestinians.

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Artswatch Palestine: December – March 2019

*Photo: The play ‘Palestine: Year Zero’ cancelled a few days before premiere.

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

A word in the mayor’s ear 

Last year, the ‘Cultural Loyalty’ Bill, which would have withdrawn funding from cultural productions deemed to be anti-Israel, failed to win the approval of the Knesset.

The Bill may have died, but its principles live on. 

Ha’aretz (9thDecember 2018) reports that Avigdor Yitzakhi, head of Israel’s state-run lottery, has successfully pressured the mayor of Kabul, a Palestinian-majority town in the north of Israel, to cancel a play whose plot involves the demolition of Palestinian homes.  Performances of ‘Palestine: Year Zero’ were cancelled a few days before its first performance.

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Brian Eno: Israel must not be allowed to use Eurovision as a propaganda tool

Brian Eno’s op-ed is published in today’s Guardian, and copied below.

“Those of us who make art and culture for a living thrive on free and open communication. So what should we do when we see culture becoming part of a political agenda? “Music unites,” says UK Eurovision entrant Michael Rice. What happens when a powerful state uses art as propaganda, to distract from its immoral and illegal behaviour? Everybody involved in the Eurovision song contest this year should understand that this is what is happening.

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Artswatch Palestine: September- November 2018

  • Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa (pictured) was on her way to Palestine Literature Festival when she was denied entry to her homeland,  held in a prison cell, then flown back to the United States.

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

Dareen Tatour

Dareen Tatour, Palestinian poet and citizen of Israel, was released from prison on September 20th. She had spent almost three years in jail or under house arrest. Her ‘crime’ was to post one of her poems on Facebook –  ‘Resist my people, resist them’.  In July this year, she was finally sentenced, on grounds of incitement to violence and support for terror organisations.   (Indictments for online incitement have tripled in Israel since 2014.)

In August, Tatour entered the special wing of Damoun Prison. She was classified as a ‘security’ prisoner and denied access to her phone and the internet. Her father was at first denied permission to visit her. He and Dareen’s mother were finally allowed to see her on 5 September, after Tatour had spent almost a month in prison. She was released with a suspended sentence hanging over her, to guard against further ‘incitement’.

The Loyalty in Culture Bill

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Judy Joo: Please stand with Palestinians

* In Gaza 97% of water is currently contaminated by sewage and/or salt due to the ongoing blockade of 1.7 million Palestinians living there (Oxfam)

Judy Joo is a chef, writer and restaurateur. We love the creativity of her work at London’s  Jinjuu — but we hate apartheid, so we’re hoping Joo will turn down the Israeli government-sponsored ‘Tel Aviv Round Tables’ food festival.  More than 70 chefs and food writers in the US are choosing to speak out against Israel’s violation of Palestinian land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Please join them Judy Joo!

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DJs, producers, electronic musicians join boycott of Israel en masse

Today a stream of DJs, producers, record labels, electronic musicians are speaking up for Palestine and endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel. Using the hashtag #DJsForPalestine, these artists and cultural producers say they are supporting the Palestinian call for boycott as a peaceful protest against the occupation, “for as long as the Israeli government continues its brutal and sustained oppression of the Palestinian people”.

This collective action follows the pattern of a similar wave of bands, including  Portishead and Wolf Alice, who came out in protest using the hashtag #ArtistsForPalestine, shortly after Israel’s massacre of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza this May.

Caribou, the Discwoman collective, Laurel Halo, The Black Madonna, Ben UFO, Tessela, Truants, Ciel, DEADBOY, FourTet, Room4Resistance and many, many more joined together for this action.   Some artists added personal messages, for example Ben Thomson / UFO explained:

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Artists call for boycott of Israel-hosted Eurovision 2019 – UK signatories

Artists, musicians and writers from 18 different  countries have published an open letter in the Guardian which condemns the purported hosting of Eurovision 2019 in Israel, saying that the contest should be moved to a non-divisive location, and – citing the recent killing of large numbers of Palestinian civilians – to a country with a better human rights record.
  • Personal statements by international artists can be found here.
  • In addition to the selection of international names in the Guardian, see the full list of British signatories attached to the letter here:

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Artswatch Palestine: June-August 2018

Gaza – the war against culture

On Thursday, 9th August, at around 17.45, Israeli drones began firing missiles at the Sa’ed al-Mishal Cultural Centre on Aydiyia Street in al-Rimal neighbourhood, west of Gaza City.  The 5-story building which housed the centre was completely destroyed.

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Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Viggo Mortensen among 70+ artists demanding free speech on Palestine

Artists for Palestine UK is publishing (below) a longer version of the open letter published in tomorrow’s print edition of the Guardian, with the full list of signatories.

The statement responds to news that the award-winning band Young Fathers were invited, disinvited and re-invited to the Ruhrtriennale arts festival in Germany, following demands that they renounce their support for the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestinian rights. The band refused, and re-affirmed their support for human rights principles. Now, 79 artists, writers and producers from all fields of the arts in the UK, the US, Germany and beyond, plus public figures including Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis, speak out about what they say is an “alarming form of censorship, “blacklisting” and repression”.

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Young Fathers affirm support for Palestinian rights despite cancellation by German arts festival

Ruhrtriennale arts festival in Germany have asked Mercury Prize-winning Young Fathers to declare themselves non-supporters of the Palestinian-led BDS movement for human rights, as a condition of appearing at the festival later this summer. In a statement on June 12, the festival announced the cancellation of the UK group’s concert, saying:

Regrettably, the Young Fathers have not distanced themselves from BDS. (…) The Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign. We have therefore decided to cancel the concert.

Today, Young Fathers have asked Artists for Palestine UK to publish the following statement :

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