Young Fathers and Annie Goh are among those who cancelled after an Israeli government logo appeared on the festival website.
The Berlin festival accepted €500 in funding from the Israeli embassy in Germany for this year's edition. The embassy's placement on the festival's list of sponsors attracted the attention of Syrian artist Mohammad Abu Hajar, a member of rap group Mazzaj, who announced they would not perform at the festival.
Arab artists Emel Mathlouthi, Islam Chipsy & EEK and Hello Psychaleppo have since followed suit in cancelling their performances at the festival, along with Scottish group Young Fathers, London's Law Holt, Berlin experimental artist Annie Goh and Finnish avant-garde metal band Oranssi Pazuzu. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) movement—which seeks to boycott Israel economically and culturally in the wake of its ongoing presence in Palestinian territories—has also called for a boycott of Pop-Kultur.
In a statement on its website, Pop-Kultur downplayed the involvement of the Israeli government. "The BDS Movement claims that Pop-Kultur has been 'co-organised' or 'co-financed' by the Israeli state, which is not true," the festival says. "We believe that the only way to deal with conflict in this world is through critical discourse and dialogue. As artists and cultural workers, we in particular have the responsibility for building relationships and networks across borders, even if we disagree on certain points." When contacted by Resident Advisor, the festival said it had nothing further to add beyond its published statement.
In a response, Abu Hajar, who has since faced accusations of anti-semitism, criticized the festival's statement. He called Pop-Kultur's stance on the issue "patronising tokenism" and added that the boycott is meant to "actively expose and resist oppression and discrimination."
Read some artist statements in full.