Young Fathers dropped from German festival line-up for supporting Israel boycott

Ruhrtriennale Festival say they asked the Edinburgh trio to "distance" themselves from the BDS movement

Young Fathers have been dropped from the line-up of a German festival because of their support of the cultural boycott on Israel.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement aims to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” and make Israel comply with international law. 

In a statement on Ruhrtriennale’s website, festival organisers confirmed the band’s performance had been cancelled because the band had not “distanced” themselves from the BDS campaign as requested. Artistic Director Stefanie Carp wrote: “We explicitly do not conclude from this that the band is anti-Semitic and, in this context, I consider it important to emphasise that criticism of the policy of the current Israeli government is not per se equivalent to anti-Semitism.”

She continued to say that Ruhrtriennale Festival “wishes to have absolutely no connection” with the BDS movement, and organisers “regret” that Young Fathers will no longer be a part of the event. “[They] would have set an important tone in the programme,” she said.

In a statement to Artists For Palestine UK, Young Fathers said they thought it was “wrong and deeply unfair” for the festival to ask them to distance themselves from their “human rights principles in order for the appearance to go ahead.”

“Anyone who knows the band and our history will know we oppose all forms of hatred and racial discrimination,” they said. “Always have. And we, like BDS, ‘do not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, or homophobia.’

“We support one of the only peaceful protests a person can take, in the hope to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that allows Palestinian refugees the right to return to a safe homeland, and that allows Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths (and none) to live together in peace.”

Thurston Moore, who also supports the BDS movement, shared his reaction to the band’s removal from the line-up on his Facebook page. “BDS is a boycott informed by peaceful resistance,” he wrote. “When an artist announces he/she is performing in Israel because he/she “loves Israel and the Israeli people” it is an implication that those who’ve made the decision to not work in Israel as being in opposition of the citizenry as a whole.”

He added: “BDS is working towards peace, hope and resolve. If anything, it is the most pro-Israel concern on the world stage. Join hands. Get with it.”

Brian Eno also responded, saying: “To criticise the Israeli government after the recent killings of unarmed Palestinian protestors is not anti-Semitism. It is pro-civilisation – speaking out in favour of civilised behaviour and against state brutality. It is standing up and saying: ‘The rule of law applies everywhere.'”

Last month, Wolf Alice, Shame, Circa Waves and more were among hundreds of artists calling for a boycott of Israel, in unity against their continued and violent clashes with Palestinian protestors. Each shared the same message, which read: “As long as the Israeli government commits war crimes against the Palestinian people, we support their call for a boycott of Israel as a means of peaceful protest against the brutal occupation.”