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Campaign for the Boycott of Supporters of "Israel" in Lebanon: Normalization Festival Begins Thursday in Berlin

On Thursday, 29 September, a cultural festival will begin in Berlin under the sponsorship of the German Foreign Minister, with the title: "Vision 2020. Cultural Policy Beyond Borders. An Arab-European Approach." The event has been promoted particularly among the Arab community amid  the presence of tens of thousands of refugees in Berlin, and to people of "all nationalities" in the fields of culture and art, as an excellent opportunity for "dialogue between cultures." But a brief look at the opening ceremony shows us that this event features, first and foremost, a collection of Syrian and Israeli artists and intellectuals, with some other Arab and European participants as a sideline.

The opening event will take place at the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, with a performance by four musicians, Israelis and Syrians: Guy Braunstein, Ohad Ben-Ari, Rawan al-Kurdi and Athil Hamadan.

Guy Braunstein was born in Tel Aviv in occupied Palestine and completed a period of military service before traveling to the United States and later settling in Berlin. Ohad Ben-Ari studied at Tel Aviv University and also traveled to the United States and then Berlin, where he met Braunstein and worked together. The Syrian musician Athil Hamadan is well-known both in Syria and internationally and previously served as Dean of the Higher Institute of Music in Syria. Rawan al-Kurdi is a Syrian musician, teacher and violinist.

After the completion of the performance, there  will be a "discussion" involving producers, filmmakers, journalists and activists, including Syrians Orwa Nyrabia (film producer, director and resident representative in Berlin), Roshak Ahmad (director), Yara Bader (administrator in "Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression," headed by Mazen Darwish), Talal Derki (documentarian) and Ammar Albeik (artist.) In addition to these Syrian participants, Ghassan Salameh, President of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and former Lebanese Culture Minister, will participate along with museum and academic participants. There is a notable participation of the Barenboim Said Academy, named in part for a famous Israeli musician with a nostalgic attachment to a “pure” and “original” Israel.

The Campaign to Boycott Supporters of "Israel" in Lebanon considers the participation of Arabs and Israelis in a joint festival to be a form of normalization with the enemy and its criminal policies of occupation and racism. Art, as understood by thousands of artists, musicians, performers, intellectuals and other global cultural workers, is not for the blurring of differences and "crossing borders" between the killer and the victim, but rather for the highlighting of injustice and oppression. Therefore, they support calls for the boycott of Israel on artistic, cultural and academic levels until it withdraws from occupied Arab lands (including the occupied Syrian Golan) and complies with UN Security Council resolution 194, to fulfill the right of return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes from which they were expelled in 1948. The participation of a former Lebanese minister and Syrian artists in the opening session of the festival alongside Israeli artists is not a "European/Arab approach" for a "cultural policy beyond borders" as is claimed in the title of the festival, but instead a breach of the growing global boycott of the Israeli occupation state and part of polishing its bloody image and dressing it in the robes of fine music.

The Boycott Campaign demands, in particular, that Dr. Ghassan Salameh and all Syrian artists withdraw from the festival and especially withdraw from its opening.  In solidarity with the Palestinian boycott call released in the summer of 2004, in line with the prolonged struggle of the Palestinian and Lebanese people in confrontation of Israeli barbarism, consistent with the struggle of the Syrian Arab people in the Golan against the Israeli occupier, and with respect to art and culture that refuses to serve as a glossy wrapper to hide the ugly reality and crime of occupation, Dr. Ghassan Salameh and all the Syrian artists need to withdraw their support and participation.

Beirut, 27 September 2016.


Since the publication of our statement in Arabic in Al-Akhbar newspaper, Minister Ghassan Salameh & Musicians Athil Hamdan & Rawan AlKurdi announced their withdrawal from participating in the Conference.
The Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon has renewed its call on the other Syrian participants to withdraw immediately (Yara Bader, Orwa Nyrabia, Ammar Albeik, Talal Derki & Roshak Ahmad).

The conference has been canceled. 


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