American rapper Talib Kweli was disinvited from the Open Source Festival in Düsseldorf, Germany following his refusal to denounce the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. In response, over 100 artists, filmmakers, playwrights, and actors signed an open letter condemning his removal.
The Open Source Festival announced in early June that it had withdrawn the rapper’s invitation to its event after he did not deny his support for the BDS movement. The festival said in a statement that it had no other option but to revoke his invitation.
In May, the German Parliament, known as the Bundestag, designated the BDS movement as anti-Semitic. German lawmakers decided that the government would not fund any organization that questions Israel’s right to exist, calls for boycotting Israeli goods, or actively supports the BDS movement, The New York Times reported.
“By lying and saying that BDS is [an] anti-Semitic movement, the German government is engaging in fascism and doing a disservice to the German people. Palestinians are treated like second class citizens in the region, due to their darker skin and Islamophobia. White supremacy is insidious like that,” Kweli said in a statement on June 4.
The rapper noted that the BDS movement is non-violent and seeks to find peaceful solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. “I get why Germany’s government would want to be cautious about platforming hate, but to equate a peaceful push for the rights of Palestinian people to the horrors of Nazi Germany is a false and offensive equivalency.” He continued:
“If I’m not allowed in Germany because I support humanity, f— it. I won’t go. The ball is in your court. I would like to perform in Germany but I don’t need to. I’d rather be a decent human being and stand up for what’s right [than] censor myself and lie about BDS for a check.”
Since then, Kewli has cancelled his tour in Germany, The Guardian reported.
On July 2, more than a 100 artists signed an open letter published in The Guardian expressing their “shock” over the Open Source Festival’s decision. The artists said they maintain the views of 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars who wrote that the three main goals of BDS “adhere to international law.”
The letter claimed that Germany’s attempts to impose political conditions on artists supporting Palestinian rights target people of color and queer artists. Those attempts “comprise a shameful trend of censorship, anti-Palestinian repression, and attacks on freedom of conscience,” the letter said.
“We firmly oppose all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and sexism,” the artists wrote. They added that they agreed with 200 Palestinian civil society organizations that criticized the Bundestag for equating BDS with bigotry.
“Denying Palestinians the right to non-violently advocate for freedom, justice, and equality is anti-Palestinian and puts the Bundestag at odds with international law, with universal democratic principles and even with the formal position of the European Union,” those 200 Palestinian organizations wrote.
The open letter to Open Source Festival concluded: “Supporting a nonviolent struggle for freedom, justice, and equality, for Palestinians or others, should never be conflated with bigotry. It’s a right. For many, it’s also a moral duty.”
The letter was signed by human rights activist Monifa Bandele, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, actor Mark Ruffalo, and dozens more. According to Resident Advisor, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, who also signed the letter, said: “I am in total support of this opposition to the racist pressure exacted on Talib Kweli. Maybe the festival should add to its name: Open Source/Closed Mind Festival.”
It is not the first time a German festival has received backlash for dis-inviting an act over its support of BDS. In 2018, 75 artists and cultural figures wrote an open letter to German arts festival Ruhrtriennale after it disinvited the Scottish experimental hip-hop trio Young Fathers due to their public support of BDS.
The festival later reinvited the band but Young Fathers refused to participate, according to Frieze.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.