Ruhrtriennale festival wrong to expel Young Fathers over support for Palestinian rights

Massive Attack, Patti Smith, Danny Glover and Viggo Mortensen among signatories to letter in defence of BDS movement

We are disturbed by attempts in Germany to impose political conditions on artists supporting Palestinian human rights. We are glad that the international outcry has convinced the Ruhrtriennale arts festival to reverse its repressive decision to cancel a performance by the Young Fathers, after they refused to distance themselves from the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Ruhrtriennale’s earlier decision was a particularly alarming form of censorship, “blacklisting” and repression.

We welcome the stance of another German festival, Morgenland, in resisting a similar attempt to suppress free speech.

We stand firmly against all forms of racism and identity-based discrimination, including anti-blackness, sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and homophobia. Conflating nonviolent measures to end Israel’s illegal occupation and human rights violations with anti-Jewish racism is false and dangerous. It denies Palestinians their right to peaceful protest and undermines the struggle against antisemitism.

While we may hold diverse views on BDS, we are united in considering it a lawful exercise of freedom of expression. Boycotts that are anchored in universal human rights and aimed at achieving justice for marginalised and oppressed communities are a legitimate nonviolent tactic. They have been used worldwide, including against apartheid in South Africa and the Jim Crow segregation laws in the US.

This is the view of the EU, hundreds of US rabbis, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and hundreds of European NGOs.

Mai Abu ElDahab Director, Mophradat
Tunde Adebimpe Musician
Antonia Alampi Artistic co-director, Savvy Contemporary
Nir Alon Artist
Julia Aranda Artist
Mohammed Bakri Actor
Saleh Bakri Actor
Jeff Barrett Founder, Heavenly Recordings
Yves Berger Artist
Judith Butler Philosopher
David Calder Actor
Noam Chomsky Linguist, philosopher
Julie Christie Actor
Caryl Churchill Playwright
Jarvis Cocker Musician
Molly Crabapple Artist, writer
Liam Cunningham Actor
Angela Davis Political activist, academic
Lawrence Dreyfus Director, Phantasm viol consort
Tania El Khoury Artist
Brian Eno Composer, producer
Reem Fadda Curator
David Farr Writer, director
Chiara Figone Archive Books/Kabinett/Journal
Marina Fokidis Curator, writer
Rebecca Foon Musician
Peter Gabriel Musician, founder, Womad festival
Dani Gal Artist
Danny Glover Actor
Carl Gosling Heavenly Recordings
Ian Ilavsky Co-founder, Constellation Records
Iman Issa Artist
Ghada Karmi Writer, academic
Aki Kaurismaki Film director
AL Kennedy Writer
Naomi Klein Writer
Judith Knight Co-director, Artsadmin
Hari Kunzru Writer
Paul Laverty Screenwriter
Mike Leigh Writer, director
Mason Leaver-Yap Associate curator, KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Ken Loach Film director
Jens Maier-Rothe Curator
Jumana Manna Artist
Miriam Margolyes Actor
Yann Martel Author
Massive Attack Band
Thurston Moore Musician
David Morrissey Actor
Nicholas Mirzoeff Cultural theorist
Danny Mitchell Heavenly Recordings
Leil Zahra Mortada Film-maker
Viggo Mortensen Actor, writer, artist
Karma Nabulsi Professor of politics
Mira Nair Film director
Bonaventure Ndikung Founder, Savvy Contemporary
Paul Northup Director, Greenbelt Festival
Rebecca O’Brien Film producer
Ilan Pappe Historian
Jocelyn Pook Composer
Cat Power Musician
Jeremie Pujau Artist
Fanny-Michaela Reisin President, International League for Human Rights
Michael Rosen Children’s poet, broadcaster
Eran Schaerf Artist
James Schamus Screenwriter, producer, director
Eyal Sivan Documentary film-maker
Harry Leslie Smith Writer
John Smith Artist, film-maker
Patti Smith Musician
Jesse Smith Musician, activist
Desmond Tutu Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa
Alice Walker Writer
Roger Waters Musician
Eyal Weizman Architect
Vivienne Westwood Designer
Don Wilkie Co-founder, Constellation Records
Tim Wilson Founder, Vault festival
Tim Wise Writer