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Artists pull out of Pop-Kultur over Israeli Embassy partnership

Richard Dawson and UK group Shopping withdraw from Berlin festival supported by Botschaft des Staates Israel

Artists have withdrawn from the line-up of Berlin festival Pop-Kultur amid controversy at the Israeli Embassy in the city contributing to travel and accommodation costs associated with the event. Newcastle singer-songwriter Richard Dawson has followed UK band Shopping in issuing a statement announcing they are now boycotting the event.

“In response to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel's call for artists to boycott the upcoming Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin… I regret to inform we've decided to cancel our performance,” ran Dawson’s statement on 17 May. “The killings on Monday of protesters in Gaza by Israeli government forces is the latest in a long string of atrocities acted upon the Palestinian people. Even if performing at Pop-Kultur meant I was endorsing such a government in only the very slightest of ways, I cannot in good conscience lend my music or my name to this.”

The festival meanwhile has issued a statement to clarify the involvement of the Israeli Embassy (Botschaft des Staates Israel) in Pop-Kultur. “Our 2018 lineup includes three Israeli artists. We will receive a total travel and accommodation contribution of €1,200 from the embassy,” the statement reads. “Currently the Israeli embassy is one of three festival partners contributing artist and travel support,” it continues, detailing other contributions from the British Council and the French Bureau Export.

The festival was also affected by artist boycotts in 2017, when Islam Chipsy & EEK were one of eight groups to pull out of the event. In recent years the festival has been criticised by figures including Thurston Moore and, this month, Brian Eno for its partnerships with the Israeli embassy.

“If there are artists who don’t want to perform at our festival because we receive travel and accommodation support from the Israeli embassy in Berlin, we very much regret that,” states the festival. “However, the boycott, the refusal to perform, is not our decision. We are always open to engaging in constructive dialogue.” The Boycott Pop-Kultur Festival organisation that has been agitating against artists performing at the event is part of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, which aims to put political pressure on Israel to change its policies over the Palestinian occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.