Dozens have signed an open letter endorsing the boycott of the 2022 Sydney Festival over a sponsorship deal with the Israeli regime, after several artists and performers did the same in protest against the “art-washing” of Israeli apartheid.
“Following the lead of Palestinian organizers, we know that we cannot allow this art-washing to work as intended. Rather than staying silent we want to say loudly: Israeli apartheid, settler-colonialism, and occupation cannot be allowed to continue,” said the open letter.
“Israel engages in daily violence, from the violence of the military courts, checkpoints, settlements, murders, land theft and daily harassment of Palestinian communities in the West Bank; to the siege on Gaza and airstrikes; to the attacks on East [al-Quds] in May 2021 and the differential treatment of Palestinians and Jews.”
Signing organizations included Loud Jew Collective, Jews Against Fascism, Hue, Jews against the Occupation Sydney, Tzedek Collective, and Independent Australian Jewish Voices.
The letter also said boycotts are a “non-violent and effective tool for exposing these kinds of injustices and helping us take a stand against it.”
“Solidarity works. Countering colonialism – wherever and whenever it occurs – works. We are dedicated to working alongside Indigenous people everywhere, to amplifying their voices and knowledge in the fight against colonialism.”
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.
Dozens of artists have withdrawn from the 2022 Sydney Festival over a $20,000 Israeli embassy sponsorship of the Sydney Dance Company production of Decadance, a work devised by Tel Aviv choreographer Ohad Naharin.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Sydney festival board member Benjamin Law announced his resignation following the festival’s refusal to terminate the Israeli embassy sponsorship.
Board member @mrbenjaminlaw now resigns from @sydney_festival— Sophie McNeill (@Sophiemcneill) January 15, 2022
Nearly 50% of artists in the festival withdrew & took a stand against the Israeli government’s crimes against humanity
Read @hrw here on Israel’s apartheid against millions of Palestinians https://t.co/H73MB2ICff https://t.co/eBXEY30RCr pic.twitter.com/tTtA9Vacd4
Law expressed regret over putting Sydney Festival artists and arts workers “in a position where you may have had to choose between your work and values, or thrust into conversations for which you may have felt unprepared.”
Context, he said, is sometimes missed in the discourse around the boycott. Referring to the Israeli regime’s 11-day war on the besieged Gaza Strip in May last year, which killed at least 260 Palestinians, he said, “This funding, the boycott and the resulting conversation around it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”