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Peaceful protest outside Opera House; entertainment figures oppose boycott

TJI Pick
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Opera House protest 3

Published: 7 January 2022

Last updated: 4 March 2024

About 80 protesters gathered ahead of the opening night of Decadance; Kiss guitarist Gene Simmons, film producer Emile Sherman call boycott 'an affront to Palestinians and Israelis'

AS THE NUMBER of festival shows affected by the boycott grew to 29, the letter from US-based entertainment industry organisation Creative Community for Peace has also drawn support from The Adventures of Priscilla director Stephan Elliott, American singer-songwriter Diane Warren and former Paramount Pictures head Sherry Lansing.

The letter says the boycott “turns the festival from an opportunity for unity into a weapon of division” and that “art should never become subservient to politics”.

About 80 protesters gathered outside the Sydney Opera House ahead of the first performance of Decadance on Thursday night.

Nick Riemer, from the Palestine Justice Movement, told them he was overwhelmed by the support for the boycott.

Stephen and Debbie Scholem, who were attending the dance performance, held signs in opposition to the boycott.

“I wouldn’t call it a protest,” she said. “We feel that festival boycotts are useless, and only create friction.

“They have no purpose because arts is not a political stage. To boycott something like the Sydney Festival is pointless and we feel strongly enough to stand as say ‘say no to festival boycotts’. ”

Boycott co-organiser Fahad Ali said 22 shows had either withdrawn from the event or been cancelled, with another seven disrupted as individuals joined the boycott.

FULL STORY Gene Simmons, Emile Sherman among big names opposing Sydney Festival boycott (SMH)

Performers have been boycotting this month's Sydney Festival. Here's why (SBS)
More than 25 performers and organisations have withdrawn from the Sydney Festival over a $20,000 sponsorship deal with Australia's Israeli embassy

The Board is also conscious of the calls for artists and audiences to boycott the Festival in relation to the Israeli Embassy’s financial support of a performance by the Sydney Dance Company of a work, Decadance, by world renowned Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

The Sydney Festival Board wishes collectively to affirm its respect for the right of all groups to protest and raise concerns. We spent time with a number of groups who have concerns about this funding and welcomed the opportunity to engage with them. 

All funding agreements for the current Festival – including for Decadance - will be honoured, and the performances will proceed. At the same time, the Board has also determined it will review its practices in relation to funding from foreign governments or related parties.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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