John Maus, Shopping Pull Out Of Berlin Festival Criticized By BDS

John Maus, Shopping, and several more artists have cancelled their scheduled performances at Berlin music festival Pop-Kultur due to its controversial association with the Israeli embassy in Germany. The festival is partners with the embassy, which is contributing €1,200 for the travel and accommodation of three Israeli artists on the lineup. The embassy’s logo is included on the festival’s website “as a measure of transparency.”

According to a statement from the festival’s organizers, “the Israeli embassy is one of three festival partners contributing artist and travel support. The Bureau Export is contributing €3,400 for six French artists, and the British Council is contributing £18,000 (British Pounds) … This type of collaboration is common at festivals, events, and exhibitions of all genres.”

The international Boycott, Divestment And Sanctions (BDS) movement and the Palestinian Campaign For The Academic And Cultural Boycott Of Israel (PACBI) have contacted the festival to request that the official cooperation with the Israeli embassy be discontinued and that the embassy’s logo be removed from the website. Multiple artists have also been asked to withdraw from the festival.

“Israel seeks associations with international festivals, such as Pop-Kultur Berlin, to art-wash its image abroad in the explicit attempt to distract attention from its crimes against Palestinians,” PACBI writes in a statement. “For a supposedly progressive festival to accept sponsorship from a decades-old regime of oppression and apartheid like Israel’s is unethical and hypocritical, to say the least.”

British post-punk band Shopping, British musician Richard Dawson, and British band Gwenno have all withdrawn from the festival. “As a band, Shopping are and will always be completely opposed to any form of oppression and discrimination, including homophobia, transphobia, colonialism and racism,” Shopping write in a statement. “For these reasons, and in harmony with the principles of the nonviolent, Boycott, Divestment And Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, we affirm our solidarity with the Palestinian call for BDS.”

John Maus has also withdrawn. Per a statement on the festival’s website, Maus and his band “prefer not to play within a politicised setting.” Stereogum has reached out to Maus’ representatives for further comment.

“We are not intimidated by boycotts. If there are artists who don’t want to perform at our festival because we receive travel and accommodation support from the Israeli embassy in Berlin, we very much regret that,” Pop-Kultur says in a statement. “However, the boycott, the refusal to perform, is not our decision. We are always open to engaging in constructive dialogue. We believe that discourse and dialogue are the only means through which to deal with conflicts in this world. We as cultural workers have a special responsibility for establishing networks across borders, even when we disagree.”

The festival faced a similar boycott campaign last year, which led to eight artists dropping out of the lineup. Late last year, Lorde cancelled a planned concert date in Israel amid protests.