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John Maus withdraws from "politicised" Berlin festival amid Israeli links


John Maus is the fourth artist to withdraw from Pop-Kultur Berlin, a music festival partnered with the Israeli embassy in Germany. A statement published on the festival’s website states that John Maus and his band “prefer not to play within a politicised setting”.

Last month, three UK artists — Gwenno, Richard Dawson and Shopping — withdrew from the festival, citing its partnership with the Israeli embassy. Gwenno wrote: “I cannot argue with the clear facts that the Israeli government and army are killing innocent Palestinians, violating their human rights and that this desperate situation must change”.

Richard Dawson said in a statement: “The killings on Monday [14th May] of protesters in Gaza by Israeli government forces is the latest in a long string of atrocities acted upon the Palestinian people. Even if performing at Pop Kultur meant I was endorsing such a government in only the very slightest of ways, I cannot in good conscience lend my music or my name to this.”

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement had called on artists to boycott the festival, with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) saying: “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, a founding member of the BDS National Committee, continued: “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.”

Shopping were the first artists to withdraw, saying in a statement published by Artists for Palestine UK: “As a band, Shopping are and will always be completely opposed to any form of oppression and discrimination, including homophobia, transphobia, colonialism and racism.”

They continued: “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.”

Brian Eno has described the festival’s partnership with the Israeli embassy in Germany as “a whitewash” in a video interview. Last year, eight artists including Mercury Award winners Young Fathers withdrew from the festival over its partnership with the Israeli embassy.

The BDS movement was founded in 2005 and has three aims: the end to Israel’s military occupation, equality for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and the right to return for Palestinian refugees.