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Why Free Palestine Protestors Demonstrated During Ziggy Marley's WOMAD Set

Ziggy Marley's headline set at WOMAD music festival was disrupted by pro-Palestine protestors waiving flags and anti-Zionist banners.
Pro-Palestine protestors at WOMADelaide. Photo: @fighttogetherforjustice on Instagram.

The Australian leg of international music festival WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) in Adelaide was shrouded in controversy this year after a Palestinian band was cut from the program and free-Palestine activists joined the crowd to protest Ziggy Marley’s headline booking.


Protestors waving Palestinian flags and boycott Israel signs, booing and chanting, flocked the centre of the crowd during the Jamaican musician’s set on Sunday after months of calls for WOMAD to uninvite the 55-year-old over his perceived pro-Israel stance.

Marley is one of many Hollywood celebrities who has attended the Israel Defence Forces’ annual fundraiser gala dinner in New York. In 2018, Marley, along with Pharrell Williams, Ashton Kutcher, Gerard Butler, Andy Garcia, Fran Drescher and others, attended and raised $60 million for the IDF. Marley and Williams also performed at the event.

Calls to boycott the four-day festival then surged in the week ahead of the event after Palestinian band 47SOUL revealed on Instagram they were uninvited from performing.


The band was originally booked to perform in November but their invitation was rescinded a week later because organisers said they couldn’t guarantee “a suitably safe environment” for the artists and audience “due to community protests” happening across the country.

“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,” the band wrote in a statement on Instagram.

47SOUL, which plays electronic and traditional Arabic music, had previously played at the festival twice, in 2016 and 2018.

“Given our longstanding relationship with WOMAD and having performed at numerous events globally, including WOMADelaide, this decision has hit us hard,” the band’s statement said.

“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.

“Sadly, it seems that this message presently stops short of including Palestinians at a time when amplifying Palestinian voices could not be more critical, both for the survival of Palestinian life and culture.”

The post circulated widely on social media and prompted calls to boycott the festival.


WOMAD responded on Sunday, the third day of the festival and apologised for the decision.

“We hear you, we’re sorry – we don’t always get it right,” the statement began.

“WOMAD was created to present the world to the world and as idealists we continue to believe that artists have a right to be heard. Unfortunately, sometimes political situations and associated conflicts mean that idealism may be compromised, not least for the sake of public and artist safety.

“When we had to make this decision in November – before the final program was confirmed or announced – we felt like this was the right thing to do.”

The statement said the festival extended the invitation for 47SOUL to perform to 2025 instead and that WOMAD had “a proud history of supporting Palestinian voices and presenting Palestinian artists”.

Festival director Ian Scobie told the Sydney Morning Herald 47SOUL had contacted WOMAD a few weeks later asking them to reconsider rescinding the invitation but were told their inclusion would be logistically impossible.

“WOMADelaide formed the view that the situation unfolding in the Middle East and the associated climate of community protests, division, and uncertainty surrounding the conflict at that time presented a real concern for the safety of all artists and audiences,” Scobie said.


Activists involved with the Whistleblowers, Activists & Communities Alliance and Fight Together For Justice called out WOMAD on social media “for platforming unforgivable violence” and shared videos of activists demonstrating at the stage during Marley’s performance.

“We condemn your decision to headline Ziggy Marley, given his support for Israel and Zionism, including fundraising for the IDF,” the groups posted.

“Your decision to disinvite Palestinian/Jordanian music group 47SOUL makes it clear that you side with the occupiers in this genocide and we hold you to account.”

They called on people to “continue to disrupt the Zionist machine and to shut it down for Palestine, everywhere”.

There is currently a petition calling for Marley to be removed from the WOMAD New Zealand lineup.

Aleksandra Bliszczyk is the Deputy Editor of VICE Australia. Follow her on Instagram.

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