MinterEllison pulls support for Adelaide Festival
National law firm MinterEllison is cutting ties with the Adelaide Festival following controversy over two of the program’s scheduled speakers.
Editor’s note: This story contains commentary that some readers may find offensive.
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MinterEllison has pulled its support for the Writers’ Week section of the Adelaide Festival, set to take place from 3 to 19 March, in the wake of festival organisers declining to remove from its program Palestinian poet Mohammed El-Kurd, whose social media posts have been labelled anti-Semitic by the Anti-Defamation League, and Palestinian-American writer Susan Abulhawa, who has vocally supported the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Minters will also be reviewing its ongoing partnership with the annual event in light of the controversy.
Various inflammatory, offensive statements made by the two speakers have been detailed by various media outlets, including Mr El-Kurd’s description on Twitter of Zionists having an “unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood & land”, and Ms Abulhawa’s calling of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “depraved Zionist with a house on stolen Palestinian land”, as well as being a “clown [that is] is trying to ignite World War III”.
Speaking last week, South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said: “I completely abhor the comments that have been made … they don’t accord with SA’s value system.”
“I’ve got to be frank, I’m surprised they are being facilitated at Adelaide Writers’ Week. I won’t be going along to hear them speak.”
“Writers Week is a good event that does a lot for the state and provokes thought. But there is a distinction between provoking thought and facilitating the spreading of a message that simply does not accord with basic human values. That is worthy of contemplation for Writers’ Week,” the Premier continued.
Last Thursday (16 February), Writers’ Week director Louise Adler said, as reported by Adelaide-based outlet The Advertiser: “We cannot accede to the idea that we should disinvite people or cancel writers because someone or some group might object to their views.”
“I don’t want us to be party to cancel culture.”
In a statement issued on Tuesday (21 February) morning, MinterEllison said that it is a “strong supporter” of the arts community and has been a sponsor of the Adelaide Festival for five years.
“We have recently been made aware of the participation by Ms Abulhawa and Mr El-Kurd in the Adelaide Writers’ Festival and, in particular, of certain public statements made by Ms Abulhawa and Mr El-Kurd. We do not agree with those views. We have strongly expressed our reservations to the festival,” the firm outlined.
“We sought the festival’s assurances that no racist or antisemitic commentary should be tolerated as part of Mr El-Kurd’s or Ms Abulhawa’s or any other festival session. Notwithstanding, we have made the decision (well in advance of the festival and the Writers’ Festival being staged) to remove our presence and involvement with this year’s Writers’ Festival program.”
In addition, Minters went on, “as these speakers are associated with the festival, we will be removing our support from the broader festival program (where feasible). We are in the process of reviewing the future partnership.”
As of the time of filing this story, the firm was still listed on the festival’s website as a major partner, alongside the University of Adelaide and The Advertiser. Other festival sponsors include 9 News, The Australian, Capgemini, and PwC.
Mr El-Kurd is slated to appear in two sessions, called Authors Take Sides and The Poetry of Dispossession, while Ms Abulhawa is scheduled to speak in three sessions, titled Literary Worlds, Politics in Fiction and Sovereignty and Solidarity.