(JTA) – An arts festival focusing on femininity and gender identity in Oslo, Norway rejected the participation of six Israeli choreographers, saying Israel uses culture to “whitewash” its treatment of the Palestinians. The six Israeli artists who applied to participate in the “Feminine Tripper” festival received copies of a letter from the organizers saying that Israel “uses culture as a form of propaganda to whitewash or justify its regime of occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.” As a result, wrote organizers Kristiane Nerdrum Bøgwald and Margrete Slettebø, “We cannot with a clear conscience invite Israeli participants when we know that artists from the occupied Palestinian territories struggle with very restricted access to travel to international art venues and that they have little opportunity to communicate their art outside of the occupied territories.” The festival opened on Saturday, March 24.
The choreographers called the rejection “reverse discrimination,” saying it holds artists accountable for the actions of their governments. “Would you reject a Saudi artist for Saudi restrictions on women’s rights? Would you reject an American artist for the American policies regarding the ‘Muslim ban’ regulations?” they wrote in a letter, obtained by Ynet. They also asked whether the ban would apply to Arab Israelis or Jewish-Israeli artists living abroad.
The organizers acknowledged receiving the Israeli reply but said that they could not address it until the festival was over because of their current heavy workload, Ynet reported.