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Australia artists boycott Sydney Festival over Israel funding

The Israeli embassy in Australia gave $20,000 to the Sydney Festival organisers to allow Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin to perform

January 4, 2022 at 2:08 pm

Almost 30 Australian artists and organisations are boycotting the 2022 Sydney Festival due to the Israeli Embassy providing $20,000 to put on a performance by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

Melbourne funk/soul band Karate Boogaloo are the latest act to withdraw from the event as part of an ongoing cultural boycott.

In a statement shared yesterday on Instagram, the band wrote: “Boycotts and divestments have a strong track record of holding governments and corporations accountable for their actions.”

“Karate Boogaloo is standing in solidarity with Palestinian people, and boycotting the Sydney Festival as a result of it accepting money from the human rights abusing regime that is the Israeli Government.”

In addition, Blake Prize-winner Khaled Sabsabi, musician Malyangapa and Barkaa, Bindi Bosses, the Arab Theatre Studio and the Bankstown poetry slam and comedian Nazeem Hussain have withdrawn from this year’s festival which is due to be held from 6-30 January.

Last week, the Palestinian Justice Movement Sydney said in a statement that the deal was signed in May – the same month that Israel launched the 11-day offensive on Gaza, killing 256 Palestinians.

“The Israeli government uses culture to hide its apartheid practices and present itself as a free, fair and enlightened democracy. By partnering with Israel, Sydney Festival will be complicit in Israel’s strategy to art-wash its crimes, and contribute to the normalisation of an apartheid state”, the advocacy group said in a statement.

However, in response, Chair of the festival’s board David Kirk said the money would not be returned nor the performance stopped, however, similar donations may not be accepted in future.

“All funding agreements for the current Festival – including for Decadance [the Israeli-sponsored performance] will be honoured, and the performances will proceed. At the same time, the Board has also determined it will review its practices in relation to funding from foreign governments or related parties,” the statement read.

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