Blog: art censorship in Israel

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

In this part of the chapter I will examine cases in which the image of the Star of David, a symbol belonging to Judaism and the State of Israel, is used, which also appears on the state flag. The examples that I will detail in this part of the chapter are not necessarily called 'works of art', but I saw fit to refer to the uses of the state emblem, since this is a visual image whose harm is perceived by many as harm to the state. This sub-chapter appears in the chapter on art that deals with censorship, since the cases I will review have provoked a debate among the public regarding freedom of expression.

No one seems to understand the power of the flag in Israeli society more than the Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, who during a political panel held in Beit Berl in 2012 stood on the auditorium stage and waved the flag while clarifying her party's values. Regev also used the flag at the opening of a discussion at the finance conference when she presented a cartoon depicting a mask figure representing cultural institutions as she tried to withdraw funds with the state flag burning behind her hand. Regev claimed during the hearing that "next year it will hurt the cultural institutions in Tel Aviv - and in a big way" and clarified that it will set a clear boundary for those who criticize the state. (Tversky, 2017)

Natalie Cohen Waxberg is an artist best known for her videos, all of which can be found on her YouTube channel. In August 2014, Wexberg released the video Poop instead of Blood, in which she is photographed alongside Jasmine Wagner defecating on about 40 different flags, including the flag of the State of Israel. The video caused a stir in the Wexberg network. She was arrested and detained overnight at the Abu Kabir detention facility, computers and tablets in her possession were confiscated and she was banned from surfing the Internet for a month. (Fulber, 2016)

The last work I will present for the use of the Star of David emblem, with which I will sign the chapter, is a Jewish lesson by the artist Erez Israeli. The work is a video work in which an Israeli sews a yellow Star of David patch on the skin of his chest with the caption 'Jude', like the patch that Jews were forced to sew on their clothes. Understanding the work I see that in the way he sews the patch he also sews his Jewish roots and identity to his body and shows the bleeding and painful connection between his national past and his current identity. An Israeli actually touches on the question of how the collective memory of the Holocaust, a national trauma, can meet with a personal injury to it. The work also touches on the taboo and presents a violent act that may be difficult to watch, and I feel that this is how an Israeli ties the Star of David as a patchwork and oppressive symbol to its various uses in modern-day Israel. (Yehuda Eiger, 2010)

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