Barclays bank pulls out of UK music festivals after boycotts over Israel ties

Spokesman says finance titan remains committed to defense sector, as bands accuse it of ‘bankrolling a genocide’ in Gaza; group leading backlash hails ‘historic victory’ for BDS

File - The Barclays Bank logo is seen on a sign outside a branch of the bank in Bracknell town center on January 10, 2024. (Adrian Dennis/AFP)
File - The Barclays Bank logo is seen on a sign outside a branch of the bank in Bracknell town center on January 10, 2024. (Adrian Dennis/AFP)

Barclays said Friday it has suspended its sponsorship of several leading UK music festivals, after an artist-led backlash over the bank’s provision of financial services to defense companies supplying Israel.

The British bank revealed it had been asked by United States entertainment giant Live Nation to “suspend participation” in its remaining 2024 festivals, which include this weekend’s Download event in central England.

Other high-profile festivals impacted include the Isle of Wight Festival later this month — set to be headlined by Green Day, The Pet Shop Boys and The Prodigy — and July’s Latitude Festival.

Barclaycard’s branding had apparently disappeared Friday from the events’ websites.

The development came after protests and boycott threats from some bands and fans over Barclay’s links to defense firms that supply Israel, leading to accusations the bank was “bankrolling a genocide.”

Several bands, including crossover thrash metal outfit Pest Control, had announced they were pulling out of Download and staging a benefit concert for Palestinians instead.

File: A participant is carried by people as they dance during the Download hard rock music festival in Paris, France, June 12, 2016. (Bertrand Guay / AFP)

Live Nation said only: “Following discussion with artists, we have agreed with Barclays that they will step back from sponsorship of our festivals.”

A Barclays spokesperson confirmed the move, saying the bank “was asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024.”

“The protestors’ agenda is to have Barclays debank defense companies which is a sector we remain committed to as an essential part of keeping this country and our allies safe,” its statement added.

It noted that Barclays bank branches have been repeatedly vandalized and staff intimidated, in incidents for which pro-Palestinian activists have claimed responsibility.

“The only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions,” the Barclays spokesperson added.

“It is time that leaders across politics, business, academia and the arts stand united against this.”

Bands Boycott Barclays, a collective of musicians and industry professionals that spearheaded the backlash, hailed the suspension.

It called the move “a historic victory for the Palestinian-led global BDS movement,” referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions strategy favored by some activists.

Illustrative: Protesters hold a banner reading ‘BDS’ (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) during an anti-Israel rally in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Madrid, Spain, March 1, 2024. (Thomas Coex / AFP)

Launched by Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005, BDS advocates political and economic action against Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. The movement is regularly accused of antisemitism by Israel and its key backer the United States.

The Gaza war was started by Hamas on October 7, when the terror group led a thousands-strong onslaught on southern Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages, mostly civilians.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,000 people in Gaza, according to the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry. The figure, which cannot be independently verified, includes some 15,000 gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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