Organizers of a major music and arts festival in Berlin continued to defy anti-Israel activists protesting its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy in Germany as the three-day event opened on Wednesday.
In a statement, the organizers of the Pop-Kultur Festival affirmed that that they would not be “intimidated” by boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists who object to the embassy’s presence among its dozens of corporate, government and private foundation sponsors.
“This type of cooperation is common practice at festivals, exhibitions and events of all genres in international cultural exchange,” the festival said.
It stressed the “festival’s role in overcoming boundaries and creating room for dialogue.”
A showcase for cutting-edge musical groups, DJ’s and visual artists, performers at this year’s festival include rapper Ms. Banks, punk-era legend Vivien Goldman and singers Ava Bonam and Neneh Cherry. But in July, six artists announced that they were withdrawing from the festival after the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) — a group formed in 2004 to oppose “Israel’s colonial oppression of the Palestinian people…based on Zionist ideology” — protested the involvement of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin.
PACBI mobilized its supporters after learning that the embassy had awarded three Israeli artists $1,370 to cover their travel and accommodation costs for the festival. “One has to scroll down the website of Berlin’s Pop-Kultur festival to see the ‘offending’ item, the emblem of the Israeli Embassy — one of six state sponsors of the three-day event,” German broadcaster DW noted ironically on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Germany’s newly-appointed federal commissioner to combat antisemitism, Felix Klein, denounced the BDS campaign against Israel as “antisemitic” in an interview earlier this week.
“The BDS movement is antisemitic in its actions and goals,” Klein told the Jüdische Allgemeine weekly. “The activists are trying to isolate Israel and to defame it as an alleged apartheid state.”
He continued: “BDS also takes Israeli citizens hostage and blames them for the actions of the Israeli government. I condemn all this in the strictest terms.”
During the interview, Klein specified that there was “one aspect” of the BDS campaign “that really annoys me.”
“BDS rejects dialogue with opponents and marks them out,” he explained. “Yet in a democracy it is essential to compete for the best argument in a two-way conversation. If the BDS movement really wanted to stand up for the legitimate concerns of the Palestinians, as it always claims, it would not act in the way that it does.”