A German Festival Removes a Rap Group for Refusing to Tone Down Their Anti-Israeli Politics

Young Fathers, a Scottish experimental rap group, were slated to perform a concert at the annual German music and arts festival Ruhrtriennale.  The invitation has been revoked due to the group’s support the BDS movement.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.  It’s a movement that views Israel as a ruthless occupation that exploits Palestinians.  BDS protests the treatment Palestinian people residing in Israel and more specifically, the actions Israel’s military forces.

Of course, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been going on for decades.  But the problem has intensified in the last few years, an escalation that has prompted a number artists and entertainers to get involved.  In some cases, that means canceling Israeli dates — or, heatedly defending a decision to play in the country.

We’re guessing the Young Fathers won’t be putting Israel on the itinerary anytime soon.  BDS has been actively opposing Israeli military forces, blaming the group for the forcible removal Palestine people from their homes, a refusal to allow Palestinians to relocate or leave, and administrative detention without charge or trial.  They’ve also accused Israeli soldiers beating Palestinians while in prison.

Outside BDS, a massive amount anger has been directed at the Israeli Defense Forces, with Israel returning fire.  Unfortunately, a great number protesters have been injured and or killed in the conflicts, including children.  Just last week, another child victim, 14-year-old Haitham Mohammad Khalil al-Jama, was shot in killed near the Gaza Strip perimeter fence as he was protesting.

BDS and others argue that the Israeli Defense Forces’ use live ammunition is overkill, but the military group has defended their actions on social media.  They say that their actions are a justified response to protesters’ alleged use pipe bombs, burning tires, grenades, rocks and burning kites with explosives.

Sadly, it seems like things will get far worse before they get even marginally better, and many parties are worried about the loss life that will occur.  At present, the death toll keeps climbing, with senseless violence only escalating.

The BDS believes that Israel is violating international law and the human rights Palestine.  In turn, the members Young Fathers have been very vocal about their support BDS.  That caused them to be removed from the Ruhrtriennale festival.

Young Fathers were asked to distance themselves from BDS, and upon their refusal, were promptly removed from the concert.

Stefanie Carp, Artistic Director Ruhrtirennale issued a statement explaining their actions.  She explains that Ruhrtirennale does not believe BDS or Young Fathers to be anti-Semitic in their protest and or criticism Israel and their government.  However, she goes on to state that despite this, Ruhrtirennale distances itself entirely from the BDS movement and do not want to be anywhere near it in any way, shape or form.

“Regrettably, the Young Fathers have not distanced themselves from BDS. We explicitly do not conclude from this that the band is anti-Semitic, and, in this context, I consider it important to emphasize that criticism the policy the current Israeli government is not per se equivalent to anti-Semitism. However, the Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign. We have therefore decided to cancel the concert. We regret this immensely, because the Young Fathers would have set an important tone in the program the Ruhrtriennale.”

Many have been outraged by Ruhrtirennale’s decision, calling it an injustice to demand a group sheathe their political and social beliefs if they want to perform at the festival.

Ruhrtirennale’s actions are even more perplexing given their admission that they do not find BDS to be anti-Semitic in their cause, leading many to wonder why they are so adamantly against it.

In response to their removal, Young Fathers released a statement to Artists for Palestine UK, expressing their disappointment in the festival’s actions, calling it unfair and unjust to be asked to distance themselves from their human principles in order to perform.

“Anyone who knows the band and our history will know we oppose all forms hatred and racial discrimination. Always have. And we, like BDS, ‘do not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, or homophobia.’

“We support one the only peaceful protests a person can take, in the hope to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that allows Palestinian refugees the right to return to a safe homeland, and that allows Israelis and Palestinians all faiths (and none) to live together in peace.”

The entire imbroglio has quickly elevated the Young Fathers’ prile, while complicating life for Ruhrtirennale.  But the festival itself is likely playing it extremely safe given the political mood in Germany: after an anti-Semitic lyric shut down the entire ECHO Awards, it’s easy to imagine Young Fathers creating serious ripples for the German festival as well.