Israeli artist warned in Germany not to support BDS

A German venue is warning an Israeli-German artist that her upcoming concert in Munich will be canceled if she expresses support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for….

A German venue is warning an Israeli-German artist that her upcoming concert in Munich will be canceled if she expresses support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

The Gasteig cultural center sent a letter to Nirit Sommerfeld, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, demanding she not make anti-Semitic remarks or endorsements of BDS – conflating the two – during the 5 October concert.

“Should we find out that the content mentioned above is mentioned during the event, we would have to cancel the event,” the letter states.

The Klezmer musician responded by assuring the cultural center she has never discussed BDS on stage but is nevertheless appalled by their conflation of anti-Semitism with support for Palestinian rights.

“For years I have been using artistic means to promote justice in Israel and human rights for Palestinians. Is that enough to be suspected of anti-Semitism?” she states.

“May I remind you that I am a Jewish woman born in Israel, a daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a granddaughter of a grandfather murdered by anti-Semites in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp?”

Sommerfeld frequently tweets in support of Palestinian rights and has urged artists to respect the cultural boycott of Israel.

The BDS movement explicitly opposes all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

McCarthyite atmosphere

The Gasteig cultural center’s letter comes in the context of the Munich municipality’s 2017 decision to bar BDS supporters from using public venues.

Sommerfeld highlights in her response that she was one of 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars to sign a letter rejecting the recent resolution by Germany’s lower house of parliament equating BDS with anti-Semitism.

Although the Bundestag resolution is nonbinding, it fuels a McCarthyite anti-Palestinian atmosphere fostered by Germany’s media and elites.

Following the resolution, numerous cultural figures have been harassed or had their appearances at German events canceled over their support for Palestinian rights.

Last month, the northwestern German city of Dortmund rescinded an award from novelist Kamila Shamsie because of her support for BDS.

The jury of the Nelly Sachs Prize announced its decision after bloggers from the anti-Palestinian Ruhrbarone website accused her of anti-Semitism and charged the jury with promoting “the destruction of Israel.”

Shamsie responded by reaffirming her support for BDS.

“It is a matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modeled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust.”

Sommerfeld was among dozens of artists, writers and musicians who spoke out in solidarity with Shamsie.

Rescinding award

Similarly, the western German city of Aachen rescinded an award from Lebanese-American artist Walid Raad on Monday over his support for BDS.

Aachen’s mayor Marcel Philipp previously stated that Raad was “a supporter of the BDS movement and has been involved in various measures for the cultural boycott of Israel.”

Philipp called it an “anti-Semitic” movement.

But the museum that administers the Aachen Art Prize announced that it will grant Raad the $10,000 award after all.

The Ludwig Forum for International Art said it secured the funds independently from the city.

The museum reportedly disagreed with the city’s decision and found no evidence of anti-Semitism by Raad.

The extent of Raad’s public endorsement of BDS seems to be signing a 2014 open letter asking artists to withdraw from an exhibit at an Israeli university, according to the publication ARTnews.

Phillip said that Raad was “evasive” when asked about BDS and “could not distance himself” from the movement.