Palestinian artists withdraw from Paris cultural festival

Two Palestinian artists withdraw from French cultural festival due to Israeli participation
3 min read
West Bank
29 November, 2021
The Palestinian Campaign for Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel said the festival's programme breaches boycott standards
The Institute of the Arab world in Paris said it had not planned the festival participations in terms of nationality [Getty]

Two Palestinian artists announced their withdrawal from an Arab-culture festival organised by the Arab World Institute in Paris, after the participation of Israeli artists was confirmed.

Palestinian filmmaker and designer Suhad Khatib announced her withdrawal from the festival in a video she posted on her Facebook account.

She explained her decision was taken due to "an Israeli artist who is a settler living in Jerusalem will be participating in the festival".

Khatib pointed out that "the Arab World Institute never told me about the participation of this Israeli artist, despite my well-known political positions".

"At a time when we, Palestinians, need art the most to heal ourselves from the damage imposed upon us by Israeli injustice, the Arab World Institute brings an Israeli settler right to the same space we are invited to express ourselves in," she said in the video.

Palestinian stand-up comedian, Alaa Abu Diab, also announced on his Facebook account that he had cancelled a show at the festival, due to take place in early December.

Abu Diab said that his decision came "following the statement issued by the boycott movement".

Earlier last week, the Palestinian Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a statement where it called on participants to withdraw from the Arabofolies festival due to a "normalisation activity".

According to the campaign’s statement, the festival coincides with the BDS definition: "Activities that aim, directly or indirectly, to bring together Arabs and Israelis (who do not recognise the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people under international law, including those that claim 'political neutrality' or art for art’s sake, without condemning occupation and oppression."

The campaign, however, clarified that it "does not call for a boycott of the Arab World Institute -Paris and all its activities just because it is organising a single normalisation activity".

Mahmoud Nawajaa, the coordinator of the BDS movement in Ramallah, told The New Arab that "the Palestinian call to academically and culturally boycott Israel is still not well-enough understood by some institutions in the West, which shows the need for more pressure and advocacy by intellectuals, artists, influencers and activists around the world to get the message across".

The Arab World Institute’s spokesperson, Dorothée Engel, told The New Arab: "The Arab World Institute did not plan participations to the festival in terms of nationality." 

Engel added that the festival was conceived in the spirit of the verse of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish: "The hearts of all people are my nationality".

Engel pointed out that the Institute will produce a statement later about the developments.