The Eurovision Song Contest, the Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin, the Ruhrtriennale, and the German-Israeli film festival Seret—the BDS movement has called for a boycott of all of these events. The Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions (BDS) group aims to isolate the state of Israel politically, economically, and culturally. The transnational campaign has been repeatedly classified as antisemitic, but has also attracted a great deal of support. In May 2019 the BDS movement, its methods, and its line of argument were ruled antisemitic by a large majority of the Bundestag, although there were fierce disputes on the matter within the political parties.
It is particularly because of these high-profile calls for boycotts that the BDS movement is at the centre of debates in the arts and cultural sector, where it has a large number of prominent supporters and is increasingly setting the agenda. Reasonable criticism of this alliance is not generally expressed by those in the art and cultural scene. In the context of cultural events, a ritual reversal of the balance of power has long since established itself, in which the marginalized Israeli artists are not the victims of these boycotts, but the boycotters are instead transfigured into victims of censorship. This ploy—which is also adopted by right-wing extremists—propagates preexisting antisemitic clichés about the “all-powerful” Jews.
Too seldom problematized in and through art, antisemitism is consequently externalized. There are therefore hardly any instances of a deliberate confrontation with (one’s own) antisemitism. This stands in stark contrast to the societal relevance of antisemitism, and not only after the right-wing terrorist assassination attempt in Halle. The event Continuities of Antisemitism—Boycott against Israel explores the question of why exactly BDS receives such support from large sections of the arts and cultural sector. The guests will talk about BDS’s methods and arguments, and the extent to which these follow antisemitic continuities.