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Balkan Trafik ends partnership with apartheid Israel

The festival’s decision is a significant BDS victory in Belgium

For the past twenty years, the Balkan Trafik festival, whose 2023 edition will take place from 27 to 30 April in the Belgian cities of Brussels and Namur, has been committed to the promotion of Balkan cultures, flavours, rhythms and sounds. The program includes intercultural encounters, varied artistic performances and the deconstruction of bias, all under the banner of sustainability.

This year, this attractive program was at risk to be compromised by the presence of a guest that was completely unaligned with the values promoted by the festival: the Israeli apartheid and colonial regime. Indeed, the logo of the Israeli embassy was listed among the sponsors of the event.

The sponsorship of cultural events is an integral part of Israel's policy of whitewashing its criminal policy of systemic oppression of the Palestinian people. It must therefore be denounced by anyone who believes that human rights do not stop where culture and entertainment begin.

In view of the emotion aroused by this partnership and after exchanges, among others, with the Belgo-Palestinian Association (ABP), the festival finally decided to give it up. This is a significant victory for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes an end to international complicity with Israel to pressure it to respect international law and end violations of Palestinian rights. As a reminder, the cultural boycott does not target individuals.

"The budget of a festival like ours is not easy to balance, especially in recent years. Any help is welcome and it happens that an embassy takes care of 3 or 4 flight tickets, which was the case via the travel assistance offered by the Israeli embassy. At first we didn't realize the impact this would provoke," festival director’s Nicolas Wieërs told ABP. "We have since had the opportunity to discuss with representatives of civil society, especially in the light of the recent Amnesty International report and have become aware of the problems posed by associating the logo of an Israeli institution with our event, especially in the current context of rising tensions in Israel and Palestine. Balkan Trafik aims to promote interculturality and we do not want to hurt anyone's feelings. The embassy's logo has therefore been removed from the promotional material and its subsidies have been sent back.”

The festival has also announced its willingness to organise a debate with us on the sidelines of Balkan Trafik on the place of artists in the context of oppression, which will be an opportunity to revisit the guidelines of the BDS movement on the cultural boycott.

The Belgian-Palestinian Association congratulates the organisers of Balkan Trafik for this strong choice in favour of human rights, justice and international solidarity.

We will support the festival in the face of the attacks that this courageous decision will undoubtedly bring from the Israeli government's supporters, notably on social networks, and encourage supporters of the Palestinian cause to do the same.


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