The Sydney Festival boycott over funding from Israel is now Australia’s largest and most successful boycott campaign since the anti-apartheid movement against South African apartheid and the Green bans of the 1970s, according to BDS Australia.
More than 40% of the Festival performances have been disrupted with some 100 artists, companies and arts workers withdrawing in solidarity with this community and artist-led initiative opposing Israeli art-washing of war crimes against the Palestinian people. BDS Australia is especially heartened by the strong solidarity and support given to this boycott by so many First Nations artists who so well understand the experience of colonisation and dispossession.
“The actions of so many artists, companies and arts workers in supporting the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions in light of Israel’s apartheid policies and ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians, clearly shows the solidarity and intersectional nature of this struggle,” says BDS Australia patron, Associate Professor Jake Lynch of Sydney University’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies.
“More than 10,000 people have signed the BDS Australia petition and written to the Sydney Festival Board. 1,000 artists and arts workers have publicly expressed their support for those who have withdrawn in protest from the Festival, and many Australian Jewish organisations and individuals have publicly stated their support for the boycott – this is a landslide of support for justice for Palestinians,” says BDS Australia convenor and Palestinian refugee, Hilmi Dabbagh.
“The tide is turning and no amount of spin from the Israel lobby and Zionist supporters in Australia can stop it. Desperate calls for anti-BDS legislation and claims of antisemitism from those organisations which support Israel’s colonialist and apartheid policies are falling on deaf ears and rightly so,” according to Dr Peter Slezak, Deputy Convenor of BDS Australia who is the son of holocaust survivors.
“The latest United Nations reports show the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is intensifying, with record numbers evicted and buildings being demolished every day in East Jerusalem, in the Naqab and elsewhere by the occupying Israeli authorities. The Israeli state is openly colluding with gangs of armed thugs from the settler movement to speed up the seizure and theft of Palestinian land”, says Hiba Farra, BDS Australia committee member and Palestinian lawyer.
BDS Australia has written to the Sydney Festival and to the Sydney Dance Company regarding their acceptance of sponsorship by the Israeli government. We are calling for this sponsorship to be rejected because of Israel’s ongoing crimes against Palestinians and its use of sponsorships like this to attempt to artwash these crimes.
TAKE ACTION AND WRITE TO THE SYDNEY FESTIVAL JOINING OUR CALL FOR THEM TO REJECT ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPONSORSHIP SEND AN EMAIL – [email protected]or sign the petition
BDSA meeting with Chair and Executive Director of Sydney Festival
Dec 18, 2021 —
As a result of BDS Australia’s recent letter and request to meet with the Sydney Festival due to their acceptance of sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy for one of the forthcoming festival performances, a BDS Australia representatives met with the Chair of the Sydney Festival, David Kirk MBE and Chris Tooher, Executive Director, Sydney Festival on Friday Dec 17th.
We presented information on the grave human rights violations and ongoing breaches of international law by Israel in relation to Palestinians and gave an overview of BDS and the PACBI (cultural and academic) guidelines.
We called on the Festival to review its sponsorship deal with Israel and to take a public and ethical stand in support of Palestinian rights.
In response, the Festival representatives explained that as a result of the concerns which had been raised with them not only from BDSA but also other Palestinian advocacy organisations and artists, they were seriously re-evaluating their processes for seeking sponsorships for festival performances . They expressed concern that this issue had caused a number of artists contracted to perform at this Festival, to threaten to withdraw from and boycott the 2022 Festival.
We asked that they use the human rights framework of the UN Global Compact when re-evaluating their processes. We also explained that BDS was not antisemitic.
They acknowledged our concerns and expressed their intention to review their approach to sponsorships which will be taken up in their next board meeting shortly
Letter from BDS Australia Dec 2, 2021
Letter to: Olivia Ansell Director Sydney Festival
cc: Lizzi Nicoll Deputy Executive Director Sydney Dance Company
We write to express our deep concern at the 2022 Festival of Sydney’s acceptance of sponsorship from the Israeli government via the Israeli Embassy, Canberra as a Star Partner and as a sponsor of the Sydney Dance Company’s festival event, Decadance.
The signatories to this letter are members of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Australia which supports the 2005 call by 170 Palestinian civil society organisations for BDS as a peaceful and non-violent means to pressure the State of Israel to end the illegal military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem from 1967; to end the crippling blockade of Gaza which has been in operation since 2006; and to allow the internationally recognized Right of Return to Palestinian refugees to the land and homes from which Israel forcibly expelled them in 1948; and to ensure equal rights for all Palestinians living in Israel according to international law and human rights conventions.
Arts, culture, and politics cannot be separated. Israel funds cultural events and ambassadors to ‘art-wash’ the human rights violations it perpetrates against the Palestinians by presenting itself as a normal ‘democracy’ and one which can be accepted internationally, despite its ongoing grave violations of human rights and international law. This is a conscious policy of the Israeli government. Nissim Ben-Shitrit, former Deputy Director General at the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry has said: “We regard culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the highest order, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture”.
Israel has progressively taken large tracts of land which are internationally recognized as Palestinian land – dispossessing successive generations from their rights and maintaining a brutal military occupation which imprisons thousands of civilians including children and condones the unlawful and frequent killing of civilians. It has maintained a blockade of Gaza which has destroyed the local economy and denied freedom of movement to millions of people. It has engaged in largescale attacks against civilians in Gaza, killing and maiming tens of thousands in the last 13 years. It practices apartheid against Palestinians in Israel and throughout the Occupied Territories and is subject to countless UN resolutions condemning these violations of international law which are documented by many international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations.
We ask that you seriously reconsider the Sydney Festival’s association with the State of Israel and stand with the Palestinian people and with international law by refusing to accept any sponsorships from or collaborations with Israel until such time as Palestine is free.
We ask that you share this letter with the Festival’s Board of Directors, and we look forward to your response.
We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and to discuss this matter further.
Yours sincerely, BDS Australia on behalf of the following member organisations:
This website is maintained by BDS Australia, which is affiliated with the coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement and by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a BNC member organisation.