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'BDS Victory': Ruhrtriennale Organisers Backtrack, Re-Invite Pro-Palestinian Young Fathers to German Festival

  • Scottish band Young Fathers after winning the 2014 Mercury Prize in London.

    Scottish band Young Fathers after winning the 2014 Mercury Prize in London. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 June 2018
Opinion

The artistic director for the Ruhrtriennale festival canceled the Young Fathers' concert after the band refused to renounce support for the BDS.

Ruhrtriennale, an annual music and arts festival in northwestern Germany, has backtracked after canceling a performance by Scottish band Young Fathers over the group's support of the Pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.

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The members of the group are active supporters of the BDS movement, which promotes the right of Palestinian refugees to return, the complete removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

In 2017, the Young Fathers refused to play in a festival after learning one of the bands had received financing from the Israeli embassy, and they have pressured other groups, including Radiohead, to adhere to the BDS campaign.   

According to the festival’s website, they had asked the band to distance themselves from the BDS movement, but they refused; as a result, organizers decided to cancel their performance.

Stefanie Carp, the festival’s artistic director, said in a press release June 13 that “the Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign.”

The band responded saying Carp’s decision was “wrong and deeply unfair decision.”

The band confirmed the cancellation in a statement and reiterated their support to the BDS campaign arguing it is a “nonviolent and non-racist” movement against Israel's “grave violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people.”

Later, they received the support of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and composer Brian Eno.

Waters expressed his support for the band via Twitter and questioned why the Ruhrtriennale  would want to distance itself from a “non-violent protest movement that seeks to promote equal human and civil rights.”

Beirut-based artists Sherif Sehnaoui, Mazen Kerbaj, Tony Elieh, and Raed Yassin of the acts Wormholes and A Trio showed their solidarity with Young Fathers by canceling their performance at the festival.

After the pressure, Carp announced on June 21 she was re-inviting the Young Fathers.

“I believe that we need to allow the different perspectives and narratives because this openness is the dramaturgic credo of our program. I, therefore, have to defend the freedom of the arts, and do not, under any circumstances, even indirectly, wish to exercise censorship,” Carp wrote.

Despite mounting support for BDS in Germany and across the world, the Israeli government and anti-BDS groups have obtained some critical victories to censor expressions of support to the BDS movement and reverse BDS victories.  

In 2017 Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich rule that BDS uses Nazi-era language, which led to a ban on the campaign. BDS supporters cannot use public spaces or locations for their activities, and any organization linked to BDS is subject to losing federal subsidies.

The group has so far refused to respond to the artistic director’s invitation back to the festival.

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