Newsletter Februar 2024

Dear Fusionists,

This newsletter covers only one topic: the war in Gaza and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Public opinion in the political and cultural scene as well as in friendship groups is divided over the situation in Gaza and we can't avoid publishing our stance on it while outlining our core principles in the development of a communal festival.

Almost four months have passed since our newsletter at the beginning of November. Four months in which the fears and concerns we expressed for the people of Gaza and the West Bank have turned into bewilderment, anger, and sadness in the face of the immeasurable suffering that the Palestinians have had to and continue to endure.

The Hamas massacre on 7 October saw over 1,100 fatalities and more than 230 people abducted. The brutal war against Hamas that followed has now cost the lives of 30,000 people, at least half of them children and young people. This is what this horror has cost so far.

The "war against Hamas" has since become a war against the Palestinian people. Hundreds of thousands of people are starving, diseases are spreading and, according to the UN, mass deaths are imminent. More than 70% of the houses in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged and the education and healthcare systems have been almost completely destroyed.

The Israeli army is now planning a ground offensive in Rafah, where 1.3 million displaced people have fled in recent weeks. In this so-called "security zone", the refugees are now being bombed and driven out again so that Rafah, the last city in Gaza not yet completely destroyed, can also be razed to the ground. For the people trapped in the Gaza Strip, there is no hope and no escape from this humanitarian catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the fate of most of the hostages abducted by Hamas remains uncertain. Their military liberation and war for “total victory" propagated by Netanyahu is increasingly turning out to be an illusion, as is the idea that Hamas can be crushed militarily.

All over the world, people are taking to the streets against the war in Gaza, and large parts of the international community, particularly in the Global South, are increasingly calling for its end, or at least for an immediate ceasefire. They are warning Israel against further escalation and aggravation of the situation in violation of international law. The Israeli government is completely unmoved by this, and the majority of Israel’s still traumatised society is behind the war and in an unprecedented nationalist frenzy, which is being massively pushed by the government and the media.

In Germany, on the other hand, the debate about this war and solidarity with Israel vs. solidarity with Palestine has been escalating in the cultural scene for months.

We are following these debates very closely and, as charged as the topic is, and as hard as it is to find group consensus, we wanted to position ourselves.

Writing this newsletter together was more difficult than ever before. In the end, a compromise emerged in which no one was left completely "happy". Not everyone would have written everything as it is written here, but with all the respect we have for the different opinions in our group, we agree that it is now important to take a stand as KulturKosmos and to speak up.

We know that we will always have a different perspective and emotional state to people from the Arab world and to people whose friends, families, and loved ones are now starving, suffering, or injured or have been killed.

Nevertheless, we try to demonstrate empathy to all those affected and to the victims on both sides of this conflict.

What shocks us time and time again, however, is the double standards and the complete indifference with which many people look away and remain silent in the face of such indescribable suffering of the Palestinian people. Many also measure the worth of people in racist terms according to their origin or religion.

Universal human rights are indivisible and should apply to all people - with Palestinians as no exception. At the moment, though, we are a long way from this state of affairs.

We are writing this text because we empathise and cannot and do not want to look away when we hear news from Israel and Palestine. We are also doing it now to try and respond to the questions we are being asked by artists and guests, and because we want to prevent any kind of disagreements from escalating at Fusion.

Fusion is a left-wing alternative festival that is supported, among others, by various political groups. We realise that both this war and Israel/Palestine are extremely controversial topics, which lead to heated discussions with our crews and among our visitors.

In the past, we have often given the topic of the Middle East conflict / Palestine a lot of space at Fusion and have not shied away from keeping the discourse open, even for positions that we ourselves did not share, or for which we were attacked by others. Currently, however, the fronts are more irreconcilable than ever and as there is no end to the war in sight, we assume that it will become a heated issue at the upcoming Fusion.

We have been working for many years with Palestinians, Jews, Arab, and Israeli artists. The sensitivities of these debates are shaped by different backgrounds and life experiences, with most actors from countries of the Global South criticising Israel's policies from multiple perspectives.

In Germany, on the other hand, since 7 October, the "traffic light" coalition parties and the CDU have been going overboard in their pledges of solidarity with Israel. Public criticism of Israel's policies and the war against the Palestinians has been held back for far too long by means of omnipresent accusations of anti-Semitism, and the necessary consequences are still not being taken. Germany’s raison d'état applies above all else.

In light of the Shoah, Germany bears a collective responsibility that we believe continues to exist. The fight against anti-Semitism is a never-ending task and constantly demands critical reflection, as is currently the case. However, unconditional solidarity with Israel's policies does not help the Israelis; it helps their corrupt and openly right-wing extremist government. Ultimately, German policy serves Netanyahu, who is continuing this war in the hope of securing his political survival and is unscrupulously walking over dead bodies while doing so.

In The Hague, the International Court of Justice is examining whether Israel is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip at the request of South Africa. In the meantime in Germany even the public expression of criticism of Israel's policies or signing up to the "wrong" organisation can lead to the loss of a job in cultural, educational or research institutions. It can lead to the withdrawal of public funding from any publicly funded institution.

In Berlin, the cultural scene is fighting back loudly and successfully, forcing the Senator for Culture to withdraw his anti-discrimination clause, or more precisely his anti-Semitism clause, which was to become a prerequisite for all cultural professionals wishing to apply for funding. The clause was criticised for being legally untenable in its current form and could also have been used as an instrument of censorship for criticism of Israel's policies.

As Kulturkosmos, we are fortunate to be privileged in various respects when it comes to independence. For one thing, apart from state support during Corona, we have always been completely financially independent and have neither applied for nor received state funding. We don't have to fear any financial restrictions for anything we say, write, do or don't do. We also don't fear calls for a boycott from artists or visitors. If you don't want to perform, it’s a shame but it’s your choice. If you don't want to come, you can go to another festival. We fully respect the decision not to perform at, or not to buy a ticket for Fusion.

What has always bothered us about calls for a boycott is that a boycott, like economic sanctions, is often not much more than a propagandistic tool that usually has little or no effect. We understand that many international creative artists feel the need to defend themselves against political censorship in Germany. We appreciate this struggle and the defence of freedom of art and opinion.

Nevertheless, when it comes to calls for a boycott in a cultural context, the question arises as to what is gained if art and culture - which have countless opportunities to make social and political grievances and controversies visible, audible and tangible - simply refuse to do so. Artists and cultural practitioners are invaluable actors who build bridges to connect people and cultures.

If instead of cultural rebellion there is silence, if there is separation instead of interaction, if there is national simplicity instead of cultural diversity, what is gained there and by whom?

The decision as an artist not to work or perform in Qatar, Russia, Israel, Germany or anywhere else can only be an absolutely personal one. We should respect any decision not to perform in a country for personal, moral, or political reasons.

However, to demand this collectively and to empower it through moral pressure is, in our view, an encroachment. In view of the often-precarious living conditions, it is also counterproductive for all those artists who are dependent on every fee in order to survive as artists.

As we assume that many people will come despite criticism and contradictions and that most of the people we invite also want to participate, we have to clarify in advance what our position is and what spirit we want for the upcoming Fusion.

We expect all Fusionists, artists, and crews to respect the basic principles of Fusion Festival!

Fusion means that a wide variety of people with different opinions come together and are welcome.

Even with controversial topics, it is important to either temporarily overcome differences in mutual respect or to simply let other people's opinions stand and endure.

There will be more people with starkly different positions at this Fusion than ever before. Accepting this is the prerequisite for being able to celebrate and dance alongside and with each other.

We want Fusion to be a safe space for Jews and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis alike, where there is no place for anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism.

We know that the majority of the international artists who will play at the upcoming Fusion, just like us, have a clear solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for their freedom and are clearly against Israel's war in Gaza.

However, for all our solidarity with the Palestinian cause, we expect Israel's right to exist to be indisputable. For us, this is not a German peculiarity in view of our history, but a universal and non-negotiable position. Anyone who denies Israel's right to exist has no place at the Fusion and should not come at all.

It is hard to define clearly when and through what Israel’s right to exist could be denied. The definition of such existence is currently the subject of much debate.The slogan "From the river to the sea..." is extremely contentious for many of us.

For some people, it is an anti-Semitic phrase.
At the same time, for others the slogan does not explicity fall into the category of anti-Semitism. To clarify different positions, we refer here to two texts by Israeli and international academics:

From the River to the Sea gives a lot of room for interpretation. (only in German)
The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism

Due to the potential for conflict that the slogan entails in view of its ambivalent possible uses, we hope that it will not be advocated in a bold manner at Fusion 2024.

We harshly criticise Israel's policy and clearly demand the same from its German allies and the international community.

Settler colonialism, apartheid, and genocide are accusations levelled at Israel that are becoming ever louder internationally and which Israeli society will have to face up to.

The variety of opinions at Fusion will be broad and polyphonic, and just as we do not make our own position the measure of what may be said at Fusion, we would like all Fusionists to do the same. The following applies to everyone: freedom of art and freedom of opinion are crucial. We have listed our few red lines in this newsletter.

Glorification of Hamas = No Go

As far possible, we will check what the artists we want to invite communicate publicly on this topic in advance of booking.

We will not engage in censorship, but there is also an intolerable limit for us, which is reached when Hamas is celebrated as a liberation organisation, when its massacres and atrocities are justified or denied or even when open calls are made to support Hamas.

In this regard, we must be clear that Hamas, with its clerical-fascist political agenda, is an avowed enemy of the free, diverse and open society we fight for and celebrate. They are an enemy of almost all the values that Fusion stands for. They are a corrupt radical Islamist regime that murders in the name of religion, has violently ruled and exploited the Palestinians in Gaza for 16 years and burns them to death without any scruples. It has declared its intention to destroy Israel. It deliberately attacked the Supernova Festival, brutally murdering more than 260 people and cruelly abducting many. Anyone who celebrates Hamas despite this knowledge is not celebrating with us!

Anyone who sees Fusion as a political combat zone and wants to use it for destructive, political actionism, disregarding our few no-goes, is not welcome! We refuse to allow the Fusion Festival to become a place where dogmatic positions are fought out in a confrontational manner.
Instead, we would like to see solidarity and togetherness for the upcoming festival!

We would like to reiterate our wish for a constructive, respectful and objective discussion of this newsletter. We at Kuko can and will only participate in subsequent discussions to a limited extent, as we have to concentrate fully on the preparations for the upcoming festival in the coming weeks.

Finally, we would like to reiterate our demands, but also present one of the rare rays of hope these days:

An Israeli/Palestinian movement which, despite the dystopian situation, is looking for solutions beyond violence and war and may be the beacons of hope for the future: 

We demand an immediate ceasefire from all parties involved.

We call on all states to stop the supply of weapons that can be used to commit violations of international humanitarian law and against human rights.

We especially call for a stop to the supply of German weapons and ammunition to Israel.

We demand the release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

We demand an immediate huge increase in humanitarian aid and an end to Israeli obstruction of aid deliveries.

Kulturkosmos, 29 February 2024

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