Israel-Hamas war, it's a clash even in the art community

Clash in the art community against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war. A few days ago, some 2,000 artists, including well-known names, signed an appeal for a cease-fire, but without condemning the Hamas massacres. This omission infuriated Israeli artists.

On the war between Israel and Hamas , there is also a clash in the artistic community. It all stems from the open letter that some 2,000 artists, writers and actors circulated online last week calling on world leaders to take action for a ceasefire in Gaza. Signatories include Nan Goldin, Peter Doig, Brian Eno, Cecilia Vicuña, Tania Bruguera, Kara Walker and many others. “The art community,” the document reads, “is heterogeneous and crosses borders, nationalities, faith and belief systems. We as artists, writers, curators, filmmakers, publishers and workers who produce work, collaborate and communicate, create the core around which institutions and organizations revolve, must be assured that these are not just safe spaces but human ones. We support the liberation of Palestine and demand an end to the killing and physical harm against all civilians, an immediate ceasefire, the passage of humanitarian aid to Gaza and an end to the complicity of our governing bodies to gross human rights violations and war crimes. We demand that the institutional silence on the ongoing humanitarian crisis that 2.3 million Palestinians are facing in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip be broken immediately.”

The shelling of Gaza and the killing and displacement of its residents, the letter continues, “have been condemned by Amnesty International, the United Nations, the World Health Organization and Action Aid. These, along with other global bodies, have indicated that the collective punishment of Gaza’s civilians, including the killing of aid workers, journalists and doctors, as well as the destruction of all vital infrastructure and livelihood resources, the cutting off of water, food, electricity and medicine constitute a war crime.”

The letter of the 2,000 has aroused strong outrage in the Israeli art community due to the fact that the missive does not contain even half a line of condemnation against Hamas and makes no reference to the massacre of Israeli civilians that sparked the war: last Oct. 7, dozens of Hamas terrorists raided Israeli territory on the border with the Gaza Strip indulging in indiscriminate killings that resulted in at least 1.400 casualties among Israelis, according to police sources quoted by the Times of Israel newspaper (specifically, 1,033 civilians, 299 soldiers and 58 police officers were killed, plus there were more than 3,400 wounded and about 200 civilians and soldiers kidnapped and still held hostage in the Gaza Strip).

Israel’s artists therefore sent a rebuttal to Erev Rat magazine to express their disappointment at the “shameless lack of any mention of the brutal massacre perpetrated by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7.” The letter, “signed by many people with whom we share many common ideals and struggles,” the Israeli artists write, adds “pain, trauma and despair” precisely because of the lack of any recognition or condemnation of Hamas’ acts. "The massacre of hundreds of people at a rave, the rapes, the mutilation of bodies, the torture of children, the annihilation of entire families, the killing of health care workers cannot be described in any other way than as a crime against humanity."

“Most shocking,” the Israeli artists continue, “is the total absence of any mention of the more than 200 people abducted, most of them civilians, including infants, children, the elderly and the sick,” they read. “Those who signed the letter call for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds. But, in the letter, the hostages are not part of the humanity they are appealing for. By omission, they are legitimizing the abduction of civilians. Yes, we accept and support appeals for an end to violence, we support the liberation of Palestinians and an end to the occupation (as we have done for years), and a stop to the killing of civilians in Gaza and everywhere.” However, the Israeli artists continue, “by ignoring the rights of all those who live in Israel, it is as if those who signed the letter are dehumanizing all those who live in Israel, the 9 million people who have the right to exist.”

In conclusion, the Israeli artists argue that issuing “a general statement” condemning violence without further specification “undermines the moral position taken by the signatories of the letter.” Finally, the Israeli artists’ call is forunity among communities affected by the conflict, with “no contradiction between firm opposition to the Israeli occupation and crimes in Gaza, and unequivocal condemnation of brutal acts of violence against innocent civilians in Israel.”

Pictured: the remains of the police station in Sderot (southern Israel) after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Photo: Yoav Keren

Israel-Hamas war, it's a clash even in the art community
Israel-Hamas war, it's a clash even in the art community

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