Yoni Bashan, The Australian, 27 February.
PwC Australia is the latest supporting partner to distance itself from the Adelaide Festival over its platforming of two journalists known for publishing anti-Semitic slurs and hate speech to their online audiences.
The accounting firm’s logo seemingly vanished from the festival’s website over the weekend following a litany of complaints received over the proposed line up of the speakers.
“A wide range of feedback,” is what one official euphemistically called it.
The writers in question, Mohammed El-Kurd and Susan Abulhawa, are each scheduled to appear at a number of events once the programming begins this weekend.
El-Kurd’s remarks have included praise for terrorist attacks being carried out on Israeli civilians, while Abulhawa has described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “depraved Zionist” who is “more dangerous than (Russian President Vladimir) Putin”.
Margin Call has learned that PwC will issue an all-staff memo on Tuesday stating that it has formally dissociated from the festival in response to the speakers and their past remarks. The firm didn’t have a direct role in funding the festival but it does provide pro-bono auditing services.
“A number of you have seen recent media surrounding Adelaide Writers’ Week and the inclusion of two speakers who have previously made hateful and anti-Semitic comments,” the note will say.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any anti-Semitic comments and any suggestion of support for Russia‘s war against Ukraine. We stand with the Jewish and Ukrainian communities who have been understandably hurt by this issue.
“In this respect we have asked the chair of the Adelaide Foundation that any association of PwC with this aspect of the festival be removed.“
The company’s decision follows similar action taken by law firm MinterEllison, a major sponsor, whose management requested last week that its branding be removed from the festival website and in-person events. French multinational Capgemini followed soon after by revoking its funding arrangement, while three Ukrainian writers due to participate in the festival have since withdrawn from their speaking engagements.
Jeremy Leibler, a partner at Arnold Bloch Leiber and president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told Margin Call he believed additional sponsors should take note of PwC’s decision. “I welcome PwC’s principled decision to stand with the Jewish community in the fight against antisemitism. Hate speech and the incitement to violence should have no place at a writers’ festival or anywhere else in Australia in 2023,” he said.
Prominent businesswoman Jillian Segal, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, similarly backed PWC’s response. “The removal of PwC’s logo from the Festival website sends a strong clear message that the high value which Australians’ rightly place on free speech does not extend to racism and hate propaganda,” she said.