Above Photo: Sydney’s famous Opera House on New Year’s Eve. Jaimi Joy / Reuters.
Comedian Tom Ballard stated that “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.”
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.
— Tom Ballard (@TomCBallard) January 4, 2022
“I respectfully ask that Sydney Festival review its decision and return the funding in question, and I call on other artists to consider joining this boycott, too,” Ballard added.
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.
— Undead (@marcuswhale) January 2, 2022
Musician Hope D has withdrawn from @sydney_festival in solidarity. The Festival refuses to drop its unethical partnership with the apartheid Israeli regime. So much love for these artists and feeling the solidarity <3 @HopeDmusic #sydneyfestival pic.twitter.com/RCubAWjFk0
— Jennine #SaveSheikhJarrah #SaveSilwan (@jennineak) January 5, 2022
— Jennine #SaveSheikhJarrah #SaveSilwan (@jennineak) January 4, 2022
Fahad Ali, an activist and scholar, noted that the festival has lost 10 percent of its performers in order to retain the one percent of its budget from Israeli government funds.
#SydneyFestival really just lost more than 10% of their acts to hold onto less than 1% of their budget. 🤡
— Fahad Ali (@fahad_s_ali) January 5, 2022
Some of the performers who have canceled their festival gigs have managed to book independent shows apart from the festival lineup.
Super pleased to announce that queer photographic artist and costume maker Gerwyn Davies is pulling their exhibition IRIDESCENT from #SydneyFestival, but you can still see it independently! 🏳️🌈✊🏽🇵🇸
Book here: https://t.co/QgeDC4G315
— Fahad Ali (@fahad_s_ali) January 6, 2022
Activists with Do Better on Palestine have started a pledge for artists to drop their Sydney Festival gigs in support of the Palestinian call for boycott and encourage others to do so.
“Sydney Festival has left us no choice but to withdraw from the Festival and call on others to boycott,” the pledge states.
“We cannot be complicit in the oppression of Palestinians or any other people for that matter. We will not perform in or attend a Festival where the Israeli regime rainbow-colored logo is used to artwash the violence, ethnic cleansing and crimes inflicted upon the Palestinian people,” it adds.
Palestine Justice Movement Sydney held a demonstration outside the opening night’s venue.
The group said on Thursday that the festival “has been rocked by the withdrawals of 30 acts, with more to follow, as a result of the board’s ongoing complicity with Israel, which uses the arts to disguise its apartheid practices, human rights abuses and war crimes.”
MEDIA RELEASE: Palestine and human-rights protesters to demonstrate against Sydney Festival’s sponsorship by apartheid Israel at tonight’s festival opening: 5.30pm, end of Opera Quays concourse, Circular Quay. pic.twitter.com/I1OrJm2Ln0
— Palestine Justice Movement Sydney (@PalestineRising) January 5, 2022
Clip starts while Fahad is paying tribute to victorious hunger striker Hisham Abu Hawwash, making a point that the Festival underestimated the Palestinian spirit of resistance pic.twitter.com/moAzyq3T4j
— Padraic Gibson (@paddygibson) January 6, 2022
Campaigners with BDS Australia have been organizing since early December, urging the festival leaders to reject the Israeli government sponsorship of the performance.
The festival board has stated that it is “conscious of the calls for artists and audiences to boycott the Festival in relation to the Israeli Embassy’s financial support” of a dance performance, Decadance, by the Sydney Dance Company.
“We spent time with a number of groups who have concerns about this funding and welcomed the opportunity to engage with them,” the board adds.
However, it notes that “all funding agreements for the current Festival – including for Decadance – will be honored, and the performances will proceed.”
Israel’s foreign ministry has called the Batsheva Dance Company “the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture.”
The dance company has been part of the “Brand Israel” campaign to help market a liberal image of Israel.
The Sydney Festival board claims it “will review its practices in relation to funding from foreign governments or related parties.”
Rising Support For Palestine
Meanwhile, KISS’ Gene Simmons, an ardent Zionist and notorious Islamophobe, joined other high-profile entertainment industry figures who signed a counter-boycott letter claiming that “art should never become subservient to politics” and denouncing the cultural boycott campaign. The letter was authored by Creative Community for Peace, a front group for the far-right Israel lobby organization StandWithUs.
But the cultural boycott movement is growing, despite objections from the former rock star.
Human rights activists say that the rapid success of the festival boycott is due to rising support for Palestinian rights across Australia.
The growing boycott of @sydney_festival due to Israeli funding is yet another indication of the Australian public’s support for Palestinian rights, solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and rejection of complicity with Israeli apartheid. #SydneyFestival https://t.co/ArFJCGKv8p
— Palestine Australia, Aotearoa NZ and Pacific (@PalDelAusNZ) January 5, 2022
It’s really simple. Israel is a genocidal settler-state practicing apartheid. There is an amazing level of Palestinian unity behind BDS. If they target a recipient of Israeli state funding for boycott, and you cross this picket line, you are choosing the side of the oppressor
— Padraic Gibson (@paddygibson) January 4, 2022
More than 25 performers and organisations have withdrawn from the Sydney Festival over a $20,000 sponsorship deal with Australia’s Israeli embassy.
Thumbs up for Australian activists.https://t.co/z9sqLuAAEt via @@SBSNews
— adri nieuwhof (@steketeh) January 6, 2022
“I stand with Palestine always and I’m pulling out of all events associated with Sydney Festival,” wrote hip-hop artist Barkaa on her Instagram page on 22 December.
“We as a nation live in a time where we should know better, so we should do better,” she added.