Palestinian Artists Boycott French Festival Over Israeli Participant

Pro-Palestinian activists are lobbying the Arabofolies Festival to ban singer Neta Elkayam, who sings in Moroccan Arabic

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Neta Elkayam
Neta ElkayamCredit: Olivier Fitoussi
Sheren Falah Saab
Sheren Falah Saab

Four Palestinian artists have pulled out of events sponsored by a prominent Arab cultural institute in France over the participation of Israeli musician Neta Elkayam, whose music is inspired by her Moroccan heritage, in its upcoming music festival.

The Arabofolies Festival, organized by the Arab World Institute (Institut du monde arabe), is slated to run on December 3-12.

After learning of Elkayam’s participation, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued a public call for Arab and Palestinian artists to pull out of the institute’s events in order to pressure the organizers.

The campaign called on organizers to cancel Elkayam’s participation, and threatened that if it didn’t then Palestinian artists would boycott the festival.

Arab media outlets reported that four Palestinian artists have pulled out so far: stand-up comedian Alaa Abu Diab, and artists Suhad Khatib, Jumana Manna and Hadeel Alsafadi.

Abu Diab, the first to withdraw, announced in Arabic on his Facebook page, “To my friends in Paris, based on what was mentioned in the boycott movement’s announcement, I apologize and inform you that I will not participate in the play planned for the National Arab Institute’s festival in Paris on December 18.

Khatib explained in a video posted on Facebook that she rejects any form of normalization of relations with the Zionist establishment. “The moment I realized there is a representative from Israel, I got very angry because it goes against my personal and political values, and I informed the organizers that I was canceling my participation.”

Neta Elkayam told Haaretz: “I have been drawn to activities involving my mother tongue for as long as I can remember. The voice of my grandmothers was silenced, and they remained simple, Moroccan Jewish women speaking fluent Arabic and broken Hebrew until the end of their lives.

Their story, which is passed on in my voice, slakes the thirst of the audience from across the world, and mainly from the Arab and Muslim world. Everyone hears his or her mother in the songs. This is an audience that listens to the music on social media and gets excited, joins in and asks for more, free of countries and flags.

Artistry and music have the amazing power to transcend geopolitical borders that dictate to us uniform identities lacking complexity. While governments and organizations try to regiment knowledge and spread one narrative, I have always been interested in those left outside the history books.

Precisely in a belligerent place that brings upon us tragedy on a daily basis, this is the time to echo the voice of my grandmothers, as a reminder of other, more innocent lives. This is the way of little me to build a better world for my children and the children of this place.”

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