Ruhrtriennale Festival against Human Rights Defenders

Dear participants of the Ruhrtriennale festival,

As members of the organization ‚Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle-East‘, which is active in Germany for the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace, justice and equality, we are writing to you concerning your participation in the festival Ruhrtriennale, set to take place in the Ruhr metropolitan region from August 9th to September 23th of this year.

Following a defaming report in a small anti-Palestinian website, the Ruhrtriennale festival openly pressured members of the band Young Fathers to repudiate their support for the BDS campaign, the international, non-violent campaign calling for the boycott of Israel until it ends its occupation and respects Palestinian human rights under international law. Young Fathers openly supported BDS in the past. Since the band refused to rescind their own principles, the festival canceled their performance, as stated in a press release by the Artistic Director, Stefanie Carp.

The decision to punish a group and exclude them from a program for nothing more than openly declaring their commitment to a human rights campaign is a worrisome attack on free speech and artistic expression. Especially in such dire times such as these, when hatred, racism and violent calls to exclude people from public discourse are on the rise almost everywhere–not least in Germany–it is even more despicable to see the organizers of the Ruhrtriennale festival repress and punish a band’s commitment to freedom, justice and equality.

This decision to exclude Young Fathers displays a striking lack of commitment to artistic expression on the part of the festival, let alone the chilling message it sends to supporters of Palestinian human rights. But this moment, instead, calls for defending the diversity of artistic expressions, for amplifying the voices of people of conscious and repressed minorities.

We thereby ask you to consider withdrawing from the Ruhrtriennale festival in solidarity with Young Fathers and in support of Palestinian human rights, unless the festival retracts the cancellation and publicly apologises. We are approaching other acts in the festival, hoping that enough artists and bands withdraw to pressure the festival to reverse their blatant, repressive measures to silence free speech.

Iris Hefets

Chairwoman, in the name of the Jewish Voice of Peace, Germany