Reaction has decried in large part from Berlin implementing a new funding clause that would not allow those critical of Israel to receive financial support from the city.
In recent weeks, figures from the arts and entertainment industry have voiced their support for the Strike Germany movement in response to the government’s “use of McCarthyist policies that suppress freedom of expression” related to showing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
Several artists like Jyoty and Manuka Honey have withdrawn from Berlin’s upcoming CTM Festival, which is due to run from 26 January through 4 February at various venues across the city, in solidarity with the Strike Germany movement.
A post by Ravers for Palestine on Instagram earlier this month confirmed that both Jyoty and Manuka Honey wouldn’t be performing at CTM at the legendary Berghain club on Friday 26 January.
CTM responded with a statement, saying it “respects the artists’ decisions” and remains “steadfast in our support of artistic freedom and dialogue.”
According to the initiative’s website, Strike Germany is “a call to refuse German cultural institutions’ use of McCarthyist policies that suppress freedom of expression, specifically expressions of solidarity with Palestine.”
Jyoty and Manuka Honey join hundreds of artists who have signed a document being circulated by the new initiative that encourages the refusal to mount exhibitions and stage events at institutions that “police the politics of their artists,” in particular those who have made pro-Palestine statements.
The open letter from the movement claims that Palestine solidarity protests have been “mislabeled as anti-Semitic and banned” while activist spaces are “raided by police, and violent arrests are frequent”.
Among those who signed the Strike Germany call were several Turner Prize winners, including Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Charlotte Prodger, as well as Nobel Prize–winning writer Annie Ernaux.
They denounce a tense atmosphere in Germany, where events, museum shows, and other opportunities have been taken away from figures who have voiced their support for Palestine.
This month, Berlin implemented a new funding clause that would not allow those critical of Israel to receive financial support from the city. Berlin city council said recipients of government arts funding would have to renounce “any form of anti-Semitism”.
It would bring the city’s definition of anti-Semitism in line with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which includes “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”.
Now, Mercury Prize-nominated singer-songwriter Ghostpoet – real name Obaro Ejimiwe – has expressed scepticism over the strike’s “wave of blanket cancellations”.
The British artist has described the new German culture strike as “misdirected”, while also declaring his support for Gaza.
In an Instagram post, Ghostpoet wrote that while he shares the anger over “Germany’s unforgivable support of Israel’s genocidal campaign against Palestinians”, it will not “achieve the desired results”.
He added that the strike is “misdirected”, because many of the affected institutions are “spaces for dissent against these genocidal policies” but are the ones “paying the price for the government’s position”.
The artist concluded that he “cannot in good conscience keep supporting the strike”, adding: “I welcome exchange and conversation with those who have chosen to join, and hope we can develop more effective strategies. I continue to support the Palestinian struggle, as I always have. Palestine will be free!”
Elsewhere, at a recent protest, Jesse Darling, the Berlin-based artist who won the Turner Prize in 2023, gave a speech in which he said that “while Israel bombs the children of Gaza, they still sing the old lieder about beautiful blue-eyed children in the increasingly multiracial kitas of Berlin, while passing legislation that naturalises racial profiling and begins the exclusion of a racial other from the realm of the polis, the realm of culture and speech.”
Darling added: “The one thing we know is that ‘it must never happen again’ but if you ask exactly what must never happen again, the perpetrator’s trauma kicks in and one is met with a shamed and shaming mechanism of control and silencing.”