Belgian Performers Cancel Participation in Israel Festival Due to Political Pressure

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Scene from 'Mystery Magnet.'Credit: Screenshot

Belgian artist Miet Warlop and the CAMPO Arts Center have canceled their participation in next month's Israel Festival under pressure from the newly formed Belgian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Warlop and Campo are the first artists to cancel their participation in the festival, though several made it clear early on that they would not be available.

The group was scheduled to perform "Mystery Magnet," a blend of animated sculptures and performance, on June 17 and 18 on an extended stage at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem.

The festival management announced in the wake of the cancellation that ticket holders will be able to swap their tickets for another show and receive a refund.

"It was not self-evident to respond to an invitation of the Israel Festival to perform 'Mystery Magnet,' a piece by Miet Warlop & Campo, knowing that the current political situation in Israel is one of war," the group said in a statement.

"We tried to balance the interests of our artists with our social commitments. We wanted to use our presence at the festival to make a statement, in which we would convey our solidarity and support for artists that, due to conditions of war, cannot express themselves freely.

"The recently created BACBI (Belgian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) and their open letter changed the context completely. When we saw their request ... we immediately stated that we were open for a dialogue. Currently, strengthening this platform is the most logical choice. A united cultural sector is more important than a potential single action.

"That is why the CAMPO leaders and Miet Warlop have decided not to take part in the Israel Festival. We hope to make an equally powerful, if not more powerful statement than was originally intended."

Festival artistic director Itzik Giuli told Haaretz that most of the pressure on CAMPO had come from a new organization of Flemish artists that had pressured other theaters in Belgium as well.

"The cancellation is very difficult for me because it's a really good show that added a lot of interest to the festival," Giuli said.

"I understand that it was a collective decision and not that of Warlop herself."

Festival Director Eyal Sher protested the cancellation in a message to Warlop and CAMPO. "Raising obstacles between people rather than enabling and promoting meetings harms our mutual goal – the creation of a better future for all," Sher wrote.

"I invite you to participate, rather than to withdraw, to express rather than to suppress and to share rather than to exclude. Above all, I invite you to stand firm against intolerance and radicalism. After all, what are the objectives of art if not to promote communication, understanding and reconciliation; to inspire and give hope."

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