Boycott the apartheid Israel Music Showcase Festival

The event is proud of its collaboration with Israel’s apartheid regime

Palestinians call on all international music industry professionals to boycott the Israel Music Showcase Festival. The event is an explicit attempt by Israel’s apartheid regime to whitewash its colonial oppression against Palestinians and should be avoided by all progressives.

The festival’s main sponsor is the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is directly involved in war crimes. In May 2021 alone, Israeli occupation forces killed at least 240 Palestinians, including 66 children, in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the majority are refugees from previous rounds of Israeli violence and ethnic cleansing. This brutal massacre led more than 1500 musicians, among other artists, to endorse our peaceful calls for boycotting Israel’s complicit cultural sector.

The  ministry also openly confesses to artwashing Israel's crimes. A former deputy director general, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, admitted: “We are seeing culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture”. Another ministry official stated: “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits. This way, you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war”.

Other key festival partners include the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sports, which has long pushed to make all cultural funding conditional on ‘loyalty’ to the Israeli regime’s particular brand of far-right Zionism. It too regards culture as crucial in whitewashing Israel’s apartheid regime, and has threatened to freeze funds for arts organisations criticising Israeli policies. Another partner is the Jerusalem municipality, complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Palestinians from the occupied city, which Israel calls “Judaization”. The main venue, Yellow Submarine, is sponsored by the Jerusalem Foundation, which has partnered with the fanatic and illegal settler group Elad to appropriate or erase Palestinian cultural heritage in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, the so-called ‘City of David’.

The Israel Music Showcase Festival is proud of its collaboration with Israel’s apartheid regime. Unlike a similar event, Tune In Tel Aviv, it does not even pretend to be ‘independent’. Tune In Tel Aviv’s founding organisation Oleh! Records also promoted Israeli artists to international music professionals, starting in 2006. It later became Israel’s official Music Export Office and launched its annual music showcase event, deceiving participants about its motivations throughout. It is now largely defunct, leaving the field clear for the apartheid Israel Music Showcase Festival.

Joining the growing international consensus that Israel is an apartheid regime and should not be subject to business-as-usual, Amnesty International has called on international enterprises “to ensure that your own activities in Israel and the OPT are not contributing to or benefiting from the system of apartheid” and “cease relevant activities if it cannot be prevented”. Israel’s leading human rights organisation, too, has designated Israel as an apartheid state. We doubt that most participants in the apartheid Israel Music Showcase Festival would have attended an event in South Africa sponsored by the apartheid regime there. Apartheid Israel should be no exception. If you cannot contribute to our peaceful struggle for freedom, justice and equality, at least do no harm.


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