Artists withdraw from German cultural event after Palestinian journalist disinvited

Goethe-Institut drastically scales down its ‘Beyond The Lone Offender’ event after several participants withdraw over decision to disinvite Mohammed El-Kurd

Germany’s Goethe-Institut has drastically scaled down its ‘Beyond The Lone Offender’ conference after several artists withdrew over the organisers’ decision to disinvite Palestinian journalist Mohammed El-Kurd.

The Goethe-Institut announced on Wednesday that its conference in Hamburg would take place with a ‘reduced programme’ following mass cancellations over their decision.

Event organisers had originally invited El-Kurd to speak on a panel to discuss strategies used by different states to deflect from human rights abuses. However, the 24-year-old Palestinian was later deemed ‘not an appropriate speaker’ and had his invitation rescinded. 

The Kampnagel Theatre, Germany’s biggest independent production venue for the performing arts, said on its website on Thursday that the conference, which runs from 23-26 June, would ‘not take place as planned’.

According to Kampnagel’s list of events, only five are scheduled to take place over the four-day event.

Earlier this week, British-Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif pulled out of the event after Moshtari Hilal and Sinthujan Varatharajah, the curators of the panel El-Kurd was originally set to speak on, announced their withdrawal.

‘Our cancellation is in response to Goethe-Institut’s attempts to intervene in our curatorial decisions and by way of it, enforce a climate of anti-Palestinian censorship,’ Hilal and Varatharajah said in a statement.

El-Kurd, who is currently the Palestine correspondent for The Nation, became the face of a global campaign last year to halt Israeli efforts to forcibly displace Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers.

On Thursday, The Freedom Theatre & Palestinian Performing Arts Network, a community theatre based in the Jenin refugee camp, slammed the Goethe Institut’s decision and said it was ‘systemic behaviour which aims to silence the voice of Palestinians in all cultural, artistic, and media fields in international forums and symposiums’.