Blog: art censorship in Israel

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

An example of an entire exhibition that was canceled at the last minute on the grounds that some of the paintings that were supposed to be displayed in it "offend the honor of certain leaders" is the exhibition The Rise and Fall of the Leader in Israeli Art by the artist Avishai Eyal, curated by Gideon Efrat. The exhibition, which was supposed to be on display at the Eretz Israel Museum in 1990, was rejected on the grounds that it included works "that hurt leaders such as Ben-Gurion (displayed next to a chimpanzee monkey), Golda Meir, whose portrait appears next to the artist's bare buttocks and other [...] paintings aimed at harming leaders. "Israelis of all streams - are not in the museum's interest." (Appendix A, pp. 33-34)

The decision to cancel the exhibition was made by MK Rehavam Zeevi, who was chairman of the museum's board. I consider it appropriate to link the decision of the chairman, to the fact that he is also one of the leaders of Israel and that in my opinion the cultural institutions cannot criticize the leadership of the State of Israel when the governing bodies are MKs and public representatives.

In the same year, an exhibition by the artist Arnon Ben-David was presented at the Shlosh Gallery in Tel Aviv under the name Penny for Income Tax. The exhibition caused a stir because it included political slogans such as "Enough of the occupation", "Freedom for political prisoners", "Damn the country" and more. In some of the photos displayed in the exhibition, the then Minister of Defense, Yitzhak Rabin, was called "Rabin a murderer." Avner Ehrlich, the owner of the basement where the gallery is located, saw the works and demanded that the gallery's owner, Nira Yitzhaki, remove the works. Yitzhaki refused to download the works and Ehrlich in response asked for a restraining order. The parties reached a compromise agreement in which it was decided to remove the photos in which Rabin was called a murderer. Subsequent abusive graffiti such as "Keep Murderers," "Traitors," "Wizard Embassy" and "Terror in the Name of Art" were spray-painted on the gallery's entrance walls. (Appendix A, p. 62)

An example of how the censor of the art world has changed can be seen two months after Rabin's assassination, when the peace painting of the artist Nir Hod, depicting a boy wearing a kippah with a hanging rope around his neck, suddenly began to stir up a storm among visitors to the Haifa Museum. Moshe Stettman, who was then deputy mayor of Haifa, turned to the mayor, Amram Mitzna, and demanded that he remove the picture, arguing that "the museum should not be a stage for such things. It is enough for one person to understand that people with a dome should be harmed. [...] So "They say there is freedom of art. Let's see how many people have been harmed in the name of this freedom of art." (Appendix A, p. 23)

At first, the Haifa Museum refused to remove the painting, claiming that it considered the painting a legitimate expression. In response to the hearing, Hood said: "I have nothing against the religious. This is a picture that was painted long before Rabin's assassination. Things may have taken on some new meaning after the assassination, and I can understand those who resent it, but there is no political declaration here. "Suicide and not about someone being hanged, it's art ... and painting should be judged by artistic tools."

In an interview with Yael Dan on the program 'Yoman Tarbut', Dan asked why certain posters of Yitzhak Rabin were dressed in SS uniforms. ace. Considered incitement and peace painting can not be called incitement? Hood claimed that he thinks "Rabin represents a certain symbol, even a specific figure. This thing [the painting], I did not draw a specific figure and I said, here it should be hung." Later in the interview, Hood argued that artists should be judged on other tools. It is interesting to note that at the end of the interview, Dan addressed the question of censorship to the viewing public on the show via telemser and that the results of the survey were that only 243 people were in favor of showing the painting compared to 761 people who were against showing the painting in the museum.

The other work I will discuss in this chapter is a homework paper submitted by a first-year art student at Bezalel in 2016. The student presented a kind of installation, posters showing a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of a hanging rope that is a reference to Barack Obama's 2008 US presidential posters. But with the change of the word "HOPE" to the word "ROPE".

The work was not censored, but an environment of media bustle and discourse on incitement was created in the corridors of Bezalel. Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum condemned the piece, and the student was questioned by police on suspicion of incitement, although the case was eventually closed on innocence. In protest of the investigation, additional posters were hung at Bezalel, including a painting of Netanyahu naked and wearing a crown, with a hanging rope wrapped around his penis next to the caption: "Is this how good it is, the spokesman?" (Levy, 2017).

The main point addressed by the Art Kindergartens is that the Academy of Art Studies should be a protected study space that allows for "free, critical and creative discourse on a variety of topics that concern [the students]". Bezalel's official response also stated that "this is an internal expression within the framework of the academy [...]. The exercise, more or less successful, is part of a professional messiah, hanging on an internal wall on the steps of the academy, Politically. "

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