Over 120 members of the entertainment industry, including KISS frontman Gene Simmons, signed an open letter condemning the boycott of the 2022 Sydney Festival, after pressure from the BDS movement resulted in a significant number of participants pulling out of the event due a $20,000 grant from the Israeli embassy in Australia.
The festival, which showcases local and international artists, is using the funds to put on the dance “Decadence” by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, which will take place at the Sydney Opera House as part of the 2022 Sydney Festival in January.
According to The Guardian, at least 30 participants cancelled appearances at the festival.
The festival said last week in a statement that despite the pressure by BDS groups, it will not cancel the sponsorship deal with the Israeli embassy.
“While art can reflect politics, and artists can choose to reflect their politics in their own art, art should never become subservient to politics and artists and cultural events should never be forced to be politicized,” the open letter said.
It continued: “We, the undersigned, believe the cultural boycott movement of the Sydney Festival is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.”
“While we all may have differing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the best path to peace, we all agree that a cultural boycott is not the answer,” it added.
In an interview with Australian morning show Sunrise, Simmons blasted BDS for ”punishing young, talented people who have nothing to do with politics.”
“I fully respect people who have a different point of view — but right time, right place. Don’t take it out on young people in the arts. They have nothing to do with politics,” he said on air. “Leave young talents alone. The arts should be free of political pressure.”
Other signatories to the letter included Disturbed singer David Draiman, comedian Elon Gold and actress Noa Tishby.
The Sydney Festival runs until January 30 and has over 100 events.