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More than 20 artists ditch Sydney Festival over Israeli funding

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protesters wave Palestinian flags during a rally against the Israeli regime in Sydney on May 15, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

More than 20 performances have so far pulled out of the 2022 Sydney Festival to protest financial contribution to one of the shows in the event by the Israeli regime’s embassy in Australia.

The boycott came after Israel was listed as a "Star Partner" of the annual festival in recognition of its $20,000 grant in support of a performance called “Decadence” based on the work by an Israeli choreographer.

The announcement about the Israeli funding had drawn strong condemnation from a number of high-profile, pro-Palestinian entertainers who were scheduled to take part in one of Australia's most anticipated cultural events.

The Palestinian Justice Movement Sydney initially drew attention to the Israeli regime’s financial involvement in December, pointing out that the funding deal was reached back in May, when Tel Aviv launched its latest military offensive against the besieged Gaza Strip. 

"Palestine advocates call on all opponents of apartheid to boycott the 2022 Sydney Festival," the movement declared in a statement. "By partnering with Israel, Sydney festival will… contribute to the normalization of an apartheid regime." 

"Israel has long used culture and the arts to cloak its atrocities against the Palestinian people," the group added in a letter -- titled Do Better On Palestine – calling on the festival to cancel its partnership with the Israeli embassy.

"The Sydney Festival Star Partnership with the Israeli Embassy” serves to “artwash” the Israeli regime’s “violent control over the lives of Palestinians and enables the apartheid regime to continue to breach the human rights of Palestinians with impunity," added the letter that was signed by high-profile artists.

At least 23 performances were confirmed to have withdrawn from the event on Thursday after the festival’s board declared that it had spoken with entertainers concerned over the Israeli sponsorship.

The sponsors of the acclaimed play, Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner, withdrew their show on Tuesday, announcing in a statement that they "stand in solidarity with the Palestinian cause."

The creative company behind the play censured the Israeli regime as "another oppressive settler-colony" and blasted the board of the Australian festival for "ignoring" the concerns of Palestinian artists.

"The festival's board ignored artists when concerns first arose, once again forcing people of color to put their voices, careers and fiscal well-being on the line.”

Another artist to withdraw, Marcus Whale, tweeted: "To clarify, yes, I am boycotting Sydney Festival 2022. The Israeli Embassy, a star sponsor of Sydfest 2022, collaborates with Western cultural institutions to paint Israel as a liberal democracy on one hand while enforcing brutal occupation and apartheid with the other. No more."

Australian comedian Tom Ballard, who also pulled out of the event, stated in a Twitter post: "I love the Festival and I love telling jokes, but standing up for human rights and standing against a system of apartheid is more important."

The rebuke against the festival is in line with the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, ensure equal rights for Palestinian citizens, and allow the return of Palestinian refugees.


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