Sydney Festival Issues Statement Following Boycott Over Israeli Funding

Sydney Festival has issued a statement responding to the ongoing boycott by artists of the event, in which it refused to back down but made a small concession.

About 30 artists and organisations have withdrawn from the show over the past few weeks after it became apparent the Israeli Embassy was providing $20,000 to put on a performance by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

Boycotting artists and critics of the festival say the funding contributes to a whitewashing of the Israeli government’s “apartheid” laws and oppression of Palestinians, who lived in the country before Israel was established in the 20th century.

The situation mirrors what happened at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, which came under fire for showing a state-funded Israeli film late last year.

Chair of the festival’s board David Kirk said the festival would not return the money or stop the performance, but would consider not allowing similar donations 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.

Boycott leader and Palestinian activist Jennine Khalik slammed the statement.

“The absolute audacity of the Sydney Festival from a statement it released today,” she said.

“This is not about some dance, we couldn’t care less, it’s about the money. Get the money elsewhere.

“Don’t accept Israeli apartheid regime money. Don’t make apartheid your ‘star’.”

Since the statement was released, two more artists have withdrawn from the festival.

It will take place from January 6 to 30.