German fans chant ‘free Palestine’ to band waving Palestinian flag at music festival

Member of Spanish ska-punk band Ska-P unfurled a Palestinian flag and wore masking tape over his mouth to symbolize censorship after the Munich public prosecutor banned the song “Intifada.”

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

Hundreds of German music fans chanted “Free Palestine” as Spanish ska-punk band Ska-P performed at a festival in Munich on Saturday, as a member of the group waved a huge Palestinian flag on stage.

The Madrid-based group had faced opposition to its performance at the Tollwood Festival in the German city over their song “Intifada,” which critics have panned as antisemitic.

The Munich public prosecutor’s office allowed the performance to go ahead, but reportedly banned Ska-P from playing “Intifada” during their set. As a protest, Ska-P vocalist Roberto Gañán Ojea led the crowd in a loud chant of “Free Palestine” while one of his bandmates unfurled a Palestinian flag, wearing a piece of masking tape over his mouth intended to symbolize censorship.

A spokesperson for the festival told German media outlets that the public prosecutor’s officer had issued instructions that “Intifada” not be played, but this was not confirmed independently. The same representative confirmed that a senior police officer had met with the band prior to their concert in order to “sensitize” them to the objections to the song.

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Last week, a coalition of Jewish, Roma and left-wing groups called for the cancelation of the band’s Munich concert, pointing to both the lyrics of “Intifada” and the appearance of a band member on stage dressed as a gypsy holding a crystal ball, invoking a stereotype that offended Roma rights advocates.

The lyrics of “Intifada” include the lines: “Six million Jews who were exterminated in the most horrific way/An imperialist genocide by fascist armies, we must learn from history/The victims have become executioners, everything has gone wrong.”

The coalition’s statement in favor of a ban argued that the song turned the “Jewish victims of the Shoah into perpetrators” and consequently “held [them] responsible for the ‘colonization’ of Palestine.”

In a statement released via their Instagram account ahead of their concert, Ska-P expressed incredulity at the accusation of antisemitism, insisting that the band are “anti-Zionists” and that the two should not be conflated.

Volker Beck — president of the German-Israeli Friendship Society — had earlier accused the group of “hate speech,” specifically citing the line in “Intifada” about the Jewish victims of the Holocaust turning into “executioners.”

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“Incitement to hatred is not freedom of art. Something like that shouldn’t have a stage in Munich,” Beck said.

The arts and music scenes in Germany have been plagued by accusations of antisemitism over the last year. Among the prominent cases was the 2022 Documenta festival of contemporary art, which featured a number of exhibits with crudely antisemitic tropes, and the recent concert tour by former Pink Floyd vocalist Roger Waters, a prominent supporter of the campaign to boycott Israel who has frequently been accused of stoking antisemitism.