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.

We hold diverse views on BDS, but we concur with 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars who recently wrote, “the three main goals of BDS – ending the occupation, full equality to the Arab citizens of Israel and the right of return of Palestinian refugees – adhere to international law”.

Dr. Sara Roy of Harvard University, a leading Middle East scholar, recently addressed members of the German parliament: “I lost a large extended family to fascism and racism. By endorsing the motion that alleges that BDS is anti-Semitic—regardless of one’s position on BDS—you are criminalizing the right to free speech and dissent and those who choose to exercise it, which is exactly how fascism takes root. You also trivialize and dishonor the real meaning of anti-Semitism.”

We firmly oppose all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-blackness, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and sexism. We also agree with the 200 Palestinian civil society organisations who responded to the Bundestag’s declaration that equated BDS with bigotry: “Denying Palestinians the right to non-violently advocate for freedom, justice and equality is anti-Palestinian and puts the Bundestag at odds with international law, with universal democratic principles and even with the formal position of the European Union”.

Supporting a nonviolent struggle for freedom, justice and equality, for Palestinians or others, should never be conflated with bigotry. It’s a right. For many, it’s also a moral duty.”


Khalid Abdalla, actor, filmmaker

Tunde Adebimpe, musician

Aviad Albert, musician, linguist

Tariq Ali, writer

Nir Alon, visual artist

Monifa Bandele, human rights activist

David Banner, musician, producer, actor, activist

Daphna Baram, comedian, director Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK


The Black Madonna, DJ, producer 

Nicholas Blincoe, writer

Judith Butler, philosopher

David Calder, actor

Iggor Cavalera, musician

Julie Christie, actor

Caryl Churchill, playwright

Ciel, DJ, producer 

Scott Cohen, music industry executive 

Ben Cook, director, LUX Artists’ Moving Image

Molly Crabapple, artist, writer

Patrisse Cullors, artist, co-founder Black Lives Matter

Liam Cunningham, actor

Selma Dabbagh, writer

Dror Dayan, filmmaker

Laurence Dreyfus, director, Phantasm Viol Consort

Michael Eric Dyson, author, minister, professor

Theo Ellis, musician

Eve Ensler, playwright, activist

Brian Eno, composer, producer

Jodie Evans, film producer

Gareth Evans, curator, producer

Anat Even, filmmaker

Chiara Figone, Archive Books/Kabinet/Journal

Saeed Taji Farouky, filmmaker

Peter Gabriel, musician, founder, Womad festival

Tom Gilroy, actor, director

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship

Ariel Gold, human rights activist

Ohal Grietzer, composer

LisaGay Hamilton, actor

Marc Lamont Hill, author, activist

HowNosm, street artists

Chace Infinite, artist, entrepreneur

Oli Isaacs, artist manager

Aki Kaurismäki, film director, screenwriter

Brigid Keenan, writer

Reem Kelani, singer, musicologist

Robin Kelly, historian, academic

A.L. Kennedy, writer

Peter Kennard, artist

Steve Kettley, musician, composer

Naomi Klein, writer

Paul Laverty, screenwriter

Mason Leaver-Yap, associate curator, KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Mike Leigh, writer, director

Laima Leyton, musician

Ken Loach, director

Liz Lochhead, poet, playwright

Sabrina Mahfouz, writer

Jens Maier-Rothe, curator, film producer

Miriam Margolyes, actor

Kika Markham, actor, writer

Yann Martel, writer 

Francesca Martinez, comedian

Ahmed Masoud, writer, director

Pauline Melville, writer

Avi Mograbi, filmmaker

Jessica Care Moore, poet, author, publisher

Thurston Moore, musician

Tom Morello, musician

Ali Shaheed Muhammad, rapper, producer, DJ

Laura Mulvey, filmmaker, writer

Joff Oddie, musician

Jonathan Ofir, conductor

Mutulu “M-1” Olugbala, musician, activist

David Oppenheim, artist, musician

Maxine Peake, actor

Cat Phillipps, artist

Danielle Alma Ravitzki, musician, visual artist

Boots Riley, director, musician, activist 

Ben Ronen, visual artist

Rrose, musician

Mark Ruffalo, actor

Gavin Rayna Russom, composer

Michal Sapir, writer, musician

Sate, artist 

James Schamus, screenwriter, producer, director

Stephen Sedley, human rights lawyer

Itamar Shapira, musician

Shain Shapiro, music industry executive

Eyal Sivan, filmmaker

Gillian Slovo, writer

Christopher Somes-Charlton, artist manager

Ahdaf Soueif, writer

Lia Tarachansky, journalist, filmmaker

Eyal Vexler, cultural producer, curator

Violet, electronic musician

Roger Waters, musician

Jonathan Watkins, director, Ikon Gallery 

Eyal Weizman, director, Forensic Architecture 

Penny Woolcock, screenwriter, filmmaker

Robert Wyatt, musician

Young Fathers, band

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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Award-winning Young Fathers become 8th act to cancel Pop-Kultur

Young Fathers, the Mercury Award-winning group from Edinburgh, have announced their withdrawal from Berlin Pop-Kultur to protest the festival’s acceptance of sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy in Germany.

The band are the third group of UK artists, and the eighth in total, to withdraw from Pop-Kultur in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation and in exile.

Artists for Palestine UK warmly thanks all fellow artists who act in support of the Palestinians’ urgent need for rights and freedom – despite considerable misinformation put out by the festival organisers and in German media coverage.

Young Fathers, who performed in M.I.A.’s Meltdown Festival at the London Southbank in June 2017, said in their statement:

“Young Fathers have a long history of opposing any form of hatred including racism and anti-semitism and we support the principle of a peaceful solution that allows Palestinians the right to return to a safe homeland and that allows Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths (and none) to live together in peace. This is a very tiny act on our behalf in the grand scale of things but one we still believe is worth it.”

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Don’t play Berlin Pop-Kultur under Israeli Embassy sponsorship!


‘Art goes beyond a single act on a stage; it’s against all that is regressive and discriminatory in this world’
Mohammad Abu Hajar, Syrian rapper

Dear colleagues:

When you signed up to play Berlin Pop-Kultur, you possibly didn’t know that the Israeli Embassy in Germany was a sponsor.   Maybe you also don’t know that Palestinian civil society, living under Israeli military occupation or in exile, is appealing to artists not to take part in events sponsored by the state of Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinians’ long struggle for rights and freedom.

But now that you do know, will you follow the example of the musicians who have withdrawn from Pop-Kultur in the past few days?

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