Talib Kweli disinvited from German festival over support for Palestinian rights, BDS

Credit: Dorothy Hong

Credit: Dorothy Hong

Prominent hip hop artist Talib Kweli was recently disinvited from a German music festival over his refusal to denounce the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Festival organizers disinvited Kweli, who is U.S. based, after he refused to respond to their request that he make a statement about his position on BDS. The festival’s demand was prompted by a non-binding resolution passed by the German parliament last month defining the BDS movement as antisemitic and calling for the denial of public funding and forums for projects that support BDS or “question Israel’s right to exist.”

“This is exactly the type of censorship that U.S. officials are trying to achieve with anti-boycott laws and attempts to redefine antisemitism to encompass any criticism of Israel,” said Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi. “We are seeing the same tactics being used internationally to try to undermine the Palestinian rights movement, and undermining everyone’s right to free expression.”

In the United States, Israel advocates have targeted performances by Roger Waters and Lorde because of their public support for BDS, citing municipal and state anti-boycott measures. These censorship efforts were unsuccessful because of strong free speech protections that prohibit government interference in expression on matters of public concern.

Over 27 U.S. states have passed measures punishing the boycott movement for Palestinian rights. Three federal courts have so far found these laws unconstitutional, with decisions now being reviewed by appellate courts.

In both Europe and the United States, there is a vast effort to redefine antisemitism to include criticism of Israel. French President Emmanuel Macron declared that anti-Zionism is antisemitism in February. Measures adopting such a definition were recently signed into law in Florida, in South Carolina last year, and are being considered at the congressional level.

Palestine Legal tracks legislative measures attacking Palestine advocacy through our Right to Boycott site, and recently released a backgrounder on the efforts to redefine criticism of Israel as antisemitism.

Germany’s anti-BDS measure faces criticism from Human Rights Watch and opposition both from Palestinian civil society and from Jewish and Israeli academics and intellectuals.

Kweli is the latest Black figure to face backlash over support for the human rights of Palestinians. Prominent Black activists including Angela Davis and Marc Lamont Hill have come under attack for insisting that Palestinian rights be included in conversations about broader social justice issues.

Kweli resisted this censorship, stating on Twitter: “The German government is demanding that artists who perform at Open Source Festival, a publicly funded event, denounce BDS as anti-Semitic. BDS is not anti-Semitic. This is fascism. I will not be censored.”