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Rockers Of Montreal boycott Israel music festival, denounce 'apartheid'

Several politically active musicians have called off shows in Israel over the past years. [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 September, 2018

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The indie rock band follows the pop singer Lana Del Rey in leaving the three-day Meteor festival, which opens on Thursday in northern Israel.

Rockers Of Montreal have become the latest musicians to boycott a festival in Israel, accusing the country of "apartheid" and urging more activism.

The indie rock band - which, despite its name, is from Athens, Georgia and not Quebec - follows the pop singer Lana Del Rey in leaving the three-day Meteor festival, which opens on Thursday in northern Israel.

The move comes amid a campaign by the BDS movement - Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - that calls on musicians to shun Israel as a way to press the government to change its treatment of the Palestinians.

Read also: Explainer: Life in Gaza under Israel's blockade

While artists who have heeded the boycott calls have generally released vague, diplomatic statements, Of Montreal - known for its boisterous, synthesizer-driven psychedelic rock - took aim squarely at Israeli policy, while stressing it was not condemning the people of Israel as a whole.

"After exhausting all of the different possible ways of justifying playing an Israeli party festival, while the political and military leaders of the country continue their murderous and brutal policies against the Palestinian people, we came to the realization that there is no actual appropriate move other than to cancel the show," Of Montreal wrote on its Facebook page late Tuesday.

"Now is not the time for escapism and celebrations. Now is the time for activism and protests against Israeli apartheid, Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the human rights atrocities being carried out everyday in Gaza by Israeli forces," it said.

Israeli forces have killed more than 171 Palestinians in Gaza since the Great Return March border protests began on 30 March, while more than 17,500 have been injured. 

The territory has been under a crushing decade-long blockade by Israel, preventing the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza.

The blockade has had a dire impact on Gaza's economy. Unemployment in the besieged territory stands at 45 percent, one of the highest rates in the world.

Gazans have access to around four hours of electricity a day due to fuel shortages, while more than 90 percent of Gaza's water is unsafe to drink.

Organizers of the Meteor festival have criticized the BDS movement, saying it has "insanely politicized" an event that had no government funding and only had music as its cause.

Prominent musicians who remain on the festival lineup include the US rappers A$AP Ferg and Pusha T and the California fusionist producers Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus.

Israel sees the BDS movement as a strategic threat and says it is anti-Semitic, a claim activists firmly deny.

Several politically active musicians have called off shows in Israel over the past years, including Lauryn Hill and Elvis Costello.

In December, New Zealand singer Lorde also cancelled a show following BDS pressure.

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