Blog: art censorship in Israel

The truth will set you free, but first - it will piss you off

In this chapter I will examine a number of Israeli works of art that deal with the Jewish Holocaust and have provoked opposition and demand from the Israeli government, a cultural institution or the Israeli public for some kind of censorship of work because they dealt with the Holocaust in a way that is perceived as controversial.

A study of this chapter raises the claim that the subject of the Holocaust is perceived by many in Israel as describing the national myth of trauma that justifies the existence of the state and emphasizes that Israeli art fuses a long Jewish memory with a short Israeli memory. The Holocaust is undoubtedly an example of genocide that has reached an unparalleled industrialization. It can therefore be said that the memory of the Holocaust drowns out the feeling of the Jewish people as a persecuted people. As can be understood from reading other chapters in the work, this is a large and essential issue that is deeply rooted in the State of Israel, a state whose establishment was directly related to the Holocaust and whose many early inhabitants were those who survived the Holocaust. Since this chapter deals with memory, the cases described are arranged in a chronological way, through which the changes in the Israeli public's perception of Holocaust memory can be understood.

The book Sabra - Portrait deals with the 'Sabra generation', natives of the country who were born in the late World War I and in the 1920s and 1930s and were educated in the social frameworks that were affiliated with the labor movement in Israel as well as immigrant boys who came to Israel in their youth. The definition of the sabra generation in the book is a cultural definition related to the imprinting of the cultural imprint it has absorbed in the youth settings.

The second chapter of the book states that "the anti-exile conception was so ingrained that it led to a certain numbness of emotion (at least until the mid-1950s) in relation to the Holocaust." The book describes how the Zionist movement began to deny the image of the exiled Jew . According to the book, the demonization of the exile lifestyle was often done in an antisemitic manner. The chapter goes on to say that "the terrible tragedy that befell the Jews of Europe sharpened for the old settlement in Israel the differences in personality and character between the exiled Jew who was allegedly led 'like a sheep to the slaughter'" and that the Sabra generation assumed that " At least 'die with dignity' ". (Almog, 1997, pp. 128, 138-139)

In 1977, Yoram Kupermintz painted a painting that resembled a swastika in the cafeteria of the Bezalel Academy. He was charged with vandalizing real estate and spent 48 hours in the detention center in the Russian compound. Kupermintz was later tried and given three months probation, and even began to investigate whether he had any connection to the "Bader Meinhof" organization. In 1982, about five years later, a work was displayed at the Haifa Museum that included the image of the swastika. The work was created by the artist Harold Robin and is called a tribute to Rabbi Kahana. The work depicts a man with a Star of David on his body whose shapes break and become a swastika. Robin claimed to have created the work in response to remarks made by MK Meir Kahana. Following a complaint filed by Kahana with the police, the police chose to hold the picture for a year and return it to the artist only after it was decided not to file a lawsuit against him. (Appendix A, p. 119)

The next two exhibitions I will present describe cases of censorship attempts at exhibitions at the Israel Museum. Although the exhibitions were not censored, pressure was exerted to cancel the exhibitions. I see fit to point out that during a conversation I had with one of the guides at the Israel Museum about the museum's budget I was told that a relatively small percentage of the Israel Museum's budget is from the state budgets, and that this may be why the censorship attempts failed.

The first exhibition is an exhibition called Life and Death as Eva Brown by the artist Roi Rosen, second generation, from 1995. The exhibition included text and illustrations that offered the viewer to walk in space as if he himself were Eva Brown, Adolf Hitler's lover. In response to the exhibition, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Shmuel Shakedi, ordered the suspension of the Israel Museum's allowances as long as the exhibition is on display. Shakedi, who held the municipality's treasury, threatened to stop subsidizing free admission tickets distributed to children visiting the museum and claimed the exhibition was "sickening, insane and hurting the feelings of every Jew and sane person." Following the remarks, Oded Feldman, director of the city's culture department, claimed that the municipality would not interfere in the establishment decision it is budgeting for. According to the office of the spokesman for the Ministry of Education, the Minister of Education and Culture, Zevulun Hamer, asked the museum's management to consider continuing the exhibition due to inquiries he received from the families of Holocaust survivors. A spokeswoman for the museum claimed that the letter received from the minister's office was different and only included a request to check whether there were elements in the exhibition that could harm the visiting public. In response to the minister's response, Rosen said that "because of the sensitivity of the issues under consideration, I worked on preparing the project for nearly three years. I know there may be harm, and rage seems legitimate to me, but I am appalled by the political cynicism exploited by Mr. Shakedi." . (Appendix A, pp. 116-117)

Another reference to the exhibition can be found in the article The Return of the Repressed, where the author of the article, Ariela Azoulay, writes that "Once a year - on Holocaust Day, Hitler's portrait flashes ceremoniously from the television screen. This portrait is so familiar and recognizable that it is almost unnecessary to linger." Azoulay adds that "Hitler's absence from the visual space in Israel - especially museum spaces - cannot be defined as accidental or as a symptom but as a symptom of a state of repression, delicate, lawfully repressed," and that "there is something threatening about the return of (Hitler) repressed to the exhibition space ". In the article, Azoulay argues that "the exhibition does not glorify his character but condemns it. The exhibition is constructed as an open text whose elements are in constant change depending on the viewer and his point of view [...] The exhibition takes a direct residence to the viewer, making him active in creating the object of viewing. Responsibility for the figure of Hitler [...] who until Rosen's exhibition remains outside the exhibition space. " (Azoulay, 2001)

The second exhibition is an exhibition named within the line of the artist Ram Katzir in 1996. The exhibition featured coloring books based on 31 photographs of Nazi leaders. On the day the exhibition was scheduled to open, MK Anat Maor of the Meretz party asked Education Minister Zevulun Hamer to cancel it.

The exhibition. Maor did not agree to come to the museum to see the exhibition even when she heard that Katzir was a member of a family of Holocaust survivors, claiming that "racism and fascism cannot be hosted in our home, in the name of freedom of thought and expression. We demand not to forget the Holocaust. . Maor later claimed that the lobby for the child she heads is going to demonstrate in front of the museum during the opening in case Hamar does not cancel the exhibition. (Appendix A, pp. 54-55)

In an interview with the entire city newspaper, Holocaust survivor Professor Haim Dasberg claimed that the Israel Museum invites us to "have fun with a picture of children being taken to an extermination train or decorating Hitler's boot." Dasberg goes on to say that "once again I am being made a victim, and this time a victim of a prank, that I do not understand the twisted head that conceived it." Although the exhibition was not censored and the Israel Museum responded that it did not intend to agree and cancel the exhibition, it was a case in which efforts were made to disqualify an entire exhibition. (There)

In July 2017, a student named Rotem Beads presented at the undergraduate alumni exhibition at the Art College. Prior to the opening of the exhibition, an article was published on the Ynet website in which Bids' work was presented as a collection of "stolen" objects from the Auschwitz - Birkenau camp area. (Shochat, 2017)

In a conversation I had with Beads, she tells how in response to the article, the president of Beit Berl College, Professor Tamar Ariav, informed the press that the work would not be displayed in the alumni exhibition. At the same time, a response was received from the camp museum in Auschwitz, intending to file a complaint against the student. Later this week, Rotem was called to a disciplinary conference attended by the college's director general, Nir HaCohen, student dean Dr. Yaakov Tepler, and lecturers from the college (head of the art program, head of education and student dean of the faculty). At the conference, Beads explained the moves she made and that the items were not stolen from the museum but were taken from the camp grounds. At the conference, it was determined that Bids would write a text explaining the work at the entrance to the exhibition and send a letter to the museum in which she would explain that she had not stolen from the museum grounds as written in the article. The museum has not responded to Beads' letter and has not yet filed a complaint.

In 2015, almost forty years after the two cases in which works containing swastika shapes were censored, a work of art was displayed at the Tel Aviv Museum that included the image of the swastika. The work of artist Uri Katzenstein included a built-in chair that produces the shape of a swastika. The work provoked opposition from critics at the exhibition, who turned to Minister of Culture Miri Regev. Following the visitors' inquiries, the director general of the Ministry of Culture, Yossi Sharabi, contacted the director and chief curator of the museum, Susan Landau, demanding an explanation of the work or the removal of the work. Landau directed Sharabi to continue talking to the artist. After a telephone conversation between Regev and Katzenstein, during which the artist explained the motives for the work, the minister changed her mind and only asked Yosef for an explanation next to the chair. (Stern, 2015)

To summarize the chapter I will add that in a reality where every year there are fewer and fewer survivors, it can be assumed that the commandment ‘remember and do not forget’ takes on a new meaning. In the book The Code of Israeliness, the sociologist Gad Yair describes Israel as a post-traumatic society imbued with existential anxiety, and shows that the post-trauma has evolved into a worldview that shapes the foundations of society. , And if in a way that raises the question of how to properly remember. The Israeli Jew who lives today, who did not experience the Holocaust firsthand but was educated to 'remember and not to forget', is faced with the question of what is the right way to remember. (Gad, 2011)

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