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Palestinian artists boycott French festival over Israeli participation

Rachel Gandon, Suhad Al Khatib and Chadi Zeneddine attend the NHK Awards at the Sundance House during the 2008 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2008 in Park City, Utah [Clayton Chase/WireImage]
Rachel Gandon, Suhad Al Khatib and Chadi Zeneddine attend the NHK Awards at the Sundance House during the 2008 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2008 in Park City, Utah [Clayton Chase/WireImage]

Four Palestinian artists have withdrawn from an arts festival in France due to the participation of an Israeli musician, Neta Elkayam. The festival has been organised by the Arab World Institute.

Palestinian filmmaker and designer Suhad Khatib announced her withdrawal from the Arabofolies Festival scheduled to take place from 3 to 12 December. Khatib made the announcement in a video on Facebook. She explained that her decision was taken because an Israeli artist who is a settler living in Jerusalem will be participating in the festival.

"The Arab World Institute never told me about the participation of this Israeli artist, despite my well-known political positions," noted Khatib. "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 in which we are invited to express ourselves."

Palestinian stand-up comedian Alaa Abu Diab also used Facebook to announce that his decision to cancel his show at the festival followed a statement issued by the boycott movement. The Palestinian Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel issued a statement last week calling on participants to cancel the Arabofolies Festival due to "normalisation activity".

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They are joined by artists Jumana Manna and Hadeel Alsafadi in their boycott.

According to the campaign, the festival fulfils the terms of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) definition regarding such events: "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."

Elkayam, whose music is inspired by her Moroccan heritage, told Haaretz, "I have been drawn to activities involving my mother tongue for as long as I can remember. The voice of my grandmothers was silenced, and they remained simple, Moroccan Jewish women speaking fluent Arabic and broken Hebrew until the end of their lives."

The spokesperson for the Arab World Institute, Dorothée Engel, told the New Arab, "The Arab World Institute did not plan participation in the festival in terms of nationality." She added that the Institute will issue a statement later about the developments.

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