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UK group sparks outrage with letter to Glastonbury Festival over Palestinian activist

The Campaign Against Antisemitism has asked Glastonbury to rescind invitations to singer Charlotte Church and Palestinian Hamze Awawde
Glastonbury is one of the world’s largest musical festivals and attracts over 200,000 people annually to Somerset, England. [Oli Scarff/ AFP]

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) has been heavily criticised online after the UK-based group called on Glastonbury Festival to "immediately uninvite" singer Charlotte Church and Palestinian peace activist Hamze Awawde from appearing as part of its 2024 lineup.

In a letter to Michael Eavis, the festival's co-founder and the owner of the farm where Glastonbury takes place, CAA's Stephen Silverman wrote that "platforming" Church and Awawde "simply tells Jews they are not welcome" at the event.

“We are concerned that Jewish festival-goers will face discrimination or even danger in an environment where both invitees have previously used inflammatory antisemitic rhetoric," Silverman wrote.

In a written statement, Awawde told Middle East Eye: “It’s clearly a racist attempt to silence a Palestinian voice, but it’s encouraging to see many within the Israeli and Jewish communities recognise how the crucial fight against antisemitism is being misused to suppress moderate Palestinian voices.”

Among those to defend Awawde and hit out at CAA's perceived attempt to shut down dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians was Maoz Inon, an Israeli peace activist whose parents were killed in the 7 October Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel.

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Dated 19 June, Silverman's letter says that the CAA was approached by a "number of concerned members of the Jewish community" regarding the invitation of Church and Awawde.

It cites Church leading a choir in a concert that ended with the chant, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", and a tweet from Awawde comparing Israel's war on Gaza to the Holocaust as examples of the “inflammatory rhetoric”.

"Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ is an example of antisemitism," Silverman continued, referencing a controversial definition of antisemism championed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Glastonbury, one of the world’s largest musical festivals, takes place next week. It includes a variety of debates and programming related to current events every year.

Organisers invited Awawde alongisde Hiba Qasas, a Palestinian with years-long experience in peace work, Maoz Inon, an Israeli peace activist who lost his parents in the Hamas-led attack in southern Israel on 7 October, and British MP of Palestinian descent Layla Moran, who will host the programme titled, "Hope is an action: Israelis and Palestinians unite".

Church is to perform as part of the festival's "Left Field" programming, which looks to "activists and artists who strive to articulate that better world through argument and song".

'Racist attempt to silence a Palestinian'

Inon, the Israeli activist whose parents were killed in the 7 October attacks, wrote a public post on behalf of himself and his brother to speak out against the CAA's letter.

“Since we lost our parents in the Hamas Oct 7th massacre, we have advocated for peace. Hamze Awawde has been a friend, a partner for peace, an ally and a shoulder to lean on in a time of heartbreak,” he said on X.

“We are absolutely appalled at this smear against @hamzeAwawde who has been a vocal peace advocate, an ally against antisemitism and indeed a voice of reason fighting for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike," he continued.

"Maoz will share a stage with Hamze at Glastonbury and will be honoured to do so." 

Other social media users responded to CAA’s statement, questioning the decision to target Awawde.

“Attacking people like @hamzeAwawde for antisemitism undermines the real fight against it,” shared one user. “I know Hamze well - he has stood up for peaceful coexistence in the most difficult of times. He deserves to be supported not denigrated.”

Other Israeli and British Jewish activists have also come out in support of Awawde, emphasising the importance of working towards peaceful resolution and dialogue, and warning against the weaponisation of antisemitism.

“I’m honoured and humbled to be sharing a stage at Glastonbury with @maozinon & @hamzeAwawde,” posted Danielle Bett, the director of communications at Yachad, a British Jewish organisation focused on empowering British Jews in supporting a political resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. 

“We’ve never needed peace activists in Israel Palestine more than we do now. Antisemitism is a real issue, not to be weaponised. Shame on those who try to silence peace activists.” 


A post shared by Yachad (@yachad_uk)

The comments come as Israel continues its devastating war on Gaza, now in its ninth month. Homes, schools and hospitals have been flattened by air strikes and scorched by tank fire, with research at the end of April finding that over 56 percent of the already impoverished Strip's buildings had been destroyed or damaged. 

Nearly the entire population of the Palestinian enclave is reported to have fled their homes, and those who remained in the north are on the verge of famine.

More than 37,000 people have been killed, the majority of whom are women and children. Thousands more are missing and presumed to be dead under the rubble.

MEE also reached out to CAA and Glastonbury for comment. 

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