A Palestinian band which had their invitation to WOMADelaide rescinded say they find the reasoning behind it “deeply problematic” and “disheartening”.

Last November, 47Soul was invited to perform at the WOMADelaide after they previously played at the festival in 2016 and in 2018.

WOMADelaide director Ian Scobie confirmed the change to ABC Radio Adelaide, saying they tried to find an Israeli artist in November too but eventually made the same decision to not invite one.

“We just felt that adding the band to the line-up in this environment, in the same way that adding an Israeli band to the line-up, it was not the time to do it in 2024,” Mr Scobie said.

47Soul, an electronic dance group formed in Jordan in 2013, issued a statement on their social media accounts on Thursday, saying the festival organiser’s decision has hit them hard.

“Having initially accepted the invitation, we were later informed that WOMADelaide took the decision to rescind 47SOUL’s invite, citing doubts at being unable to present a ‘suitably safe environment’ for the artists and audiences at the festival due to community protests taking place in Australia,” it said.

“We find this line of reasoning deeply problematic and disheartening as it feeds into the narrative of Palestinians being an inherent source of danger to others.

“At this critical time, the message of multiculturalism that WOMAD seeks to espouse, and its specific relevance to the events we are witnessing, could not be of greater importance.”

Mr Scobie told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Jo Laverty “the degree of protest” and community division in Australia last November made them consider the plan to postpone 47Soul’s performance to 2025.

“We really form the view that in the situation, having them perform would really not add to an environment at the festival that we felt confident could see them be presented safely and to be part of the festival that at that time be a cohesive part of the discussion rather than the way the debate seem to be going regarding the unfolding situation in the Middle East,” Mr Scobie said.

“Overall, we just felt given our duty of care for all of the festival attendees and the artists that it would be better to have them at the festival with some further distance from the current conflict and unrest.”

Mr Scobie said the talks never entered the contractual stage but he hoped to extend an invitation to the 2025 event.

He said he understood and shared the group’s “frustration and disappointment”.

“I have to say I have never in all of my years in programming international work seen this level of discord within our own community,” Mr Scobie said.

“I’ve never had to take a decision like this, it wasn’t taken lightly and it certainly is something that we would prefer not to have had to contemplate doing.”

Ian Scobie said the decision to withdraw the invite to 47Soul was not taken lightly.(ABC News: Shari Hams)

Mr Scobie said reggae musician Ziggy Marley would perform on the weekend after the Australian Friends of Palestine Association called for his removal from the line-up earlier this week with concerns about a fundraising dinner Marley attended in 2018.

“Ziggy Marley’s never performed at any fundraiser for the Israeli defence force, as is claimed by the spurious campaign that’s been mounted,” Mr Scobie said.

“He’s campaigned for years for peace and is absolutely carrying that message and that’s why he’s being presented at the festival.”

Marley was invited to perform at WOMADelaide in 2020 but that event was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.

Posted , updated