Category Archives: Arts

Subscribe to Jewish Peace News. Defense of German Critic, Halper in Australia, Seven Jewish Children–A Play for Gaza

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Jewish Peace Activists Defend German Critic of Israel

More than 370 Jewish peace activists from around the world signed a statement defending German politician Hermann Dierkes against charges of anti-Semitism.

Dierkes, a left-wing politician with a distinguished record of fighting for social justice, called for a boycott of Israeli goods as a means of putting pressure on the Israeli government to end its oppression of Palestinians. For this he has been subjected to vicious denunciations for anti-Semitism.

Jeff Halper: An unhelpful discourse on Israel / Middle East News Service

JPN picked this up from Antony Lowenstein. It is Jeff Halper’s unpublished op-ed on getting censored during a trip to Australia. As JPN’s Racheli Gai writes:

“The following article was written by Israeli/American peace activist Jeff Halper for the Australian Jewish News. The paper refused to run the piece, despite spending weeks attacking Halper and his supporters in its pages.
The type of dynamics Halper describes in the essay, where organized Australian Jewry comes to the “rescue” of an idealized Israel – an “Israel” which has nothing to do with Israel as a real country, doesn’t seem unique to Australia. It’s certainly the case in the US, and I suspect in other countries as well, that the Jewish diaspora latches on to an imaginary Israel for its own needs, even while Israel puts Jewish diaspora to its own
unholy uses.”

Seven Jewish Children–A Play for Gaza

As JPN’s Rebecca Vilkomerson wrote, “Caryl Churchill, a renowned British playwright and feminist, wrote a short play called: Seven Jewish Children–A Play for Gaza. It premiered in London in February and in New York on March 16th, in an event marking the anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death. It was produced at the New York Theatre Workshop, which was the center of a controversy three years ago when it backed off from its decision to produce the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie.”

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Follow up on “surreal” events at Chicago’s Spertus Museum

More on the story about the Spertus Museum:

Last week, the Chicago Reader spoke with Rhoda Rosen, the smart and courageous director of Spertus, Chicago’s Jewish museum. The Imaginary Coordinates exhibit on maps of the Holy Land (held as part of the city’s Festival of Maps), which Rosen worked on for 3 years, recruiting both Israeli and Palestinian artists, “was suddenly and mysteriously shut down” a week after opening. The public reason for the closure was too much sun light shining on the displays. This excuse was, pardon the pun, transparent. Chicago Reader’s Deanna Issacs remarks that the museum was housed in a spectacular state of the art showpiece building completed 6 months before, making the excuse unlikely.

For the next few days the museum’s Web site carried a notice that Imaginary Coordinates had been closed due to “unanticipated maintenance.” Reached by phone early in the week, Rosen blamed “building issues” but declined to elaborate. A call to Krueck + Sexton was referred to architect Tom Jacobs, who hadn’t heard anything about it. Subsequent calls to Rosen were returned by the museum’s outside public relations rep. No further information was available.

Meanwhile, word on the street was that the exhibit had proved too controversial for some key members of the Spertus audience. The Jewish United Fund, a major Spertus supporter, had taken a look and promptly canceled a May 13 fund-raising dinner booked for the tenth floor boardroom. Michael Kotzen, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, says he moved the event after hearing from “a number of people who thought the exhibit wasn’t appropriate” in “content and point of view.”

Then came word that the show would reopen “tweaked,” as Rosen put it, and with a new protocol: visitors would be admitted only on guided tours, to be conducted hourly. On May 15, she led the first tour herself, providing background on everything from Heinrich Bünting’s 16th-century German map, The Whole World in a Clover Leaf (with Jerusalem as its nexus), to Barbed Hula, a two-minute video of Israeli artist Sigalit Landau on a Tel Aviv beach, twirling a hoop of barbed wire around her naked torso. Other pieces include Ahmad Ibrahim’s Memory Map of Jimzu, showing every house destroyed in his Palestinian village in 1948, and artifacts like a menorah with shell cartridges for candleholders.

Other changes were made as well:

Rosen, who worked on the exhibit for three years, notes no art was removed from the show during the closure, although wall cards were revised and objects were rearranged. A case containing a paligirl T-shirt and black shorts with palestine emblazoned across the butt (sold by Detroit-based HZwear) was moved from its original spot on the path between the elevator and the boardroom. Rosen no doubt had some difficult days during the hiatus, but insists she’s not defensive about the result: “The board, staff, and myself stand behind the integrity of this exhibit,” she says, adding that the guided tours will provide “context” and encourage discussion.

It sets a terrible precedent to require tour guides for an art exhibit, to revise explanatory cards on the wall, and to even move items, but it’s important to see the forest for the trees. It’s likely that Rosen and staff did everything they could to protect the show. She and Spertus deserve support and kudos for standing behind the exhibit, which by all accounts is thought-provoking, beautiful and terrible, and highly relevant to political discussions today.

Funders used to supporting independent and critical thinking on everything BUT Israel-Palestine politics will have to get used to this new landscape. Besides, exhibits like these, are indeed, “good for the Jews.” Thank Spertus and Rosen for standing behind the show.

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Palestinian Dance Troupe Cancelled in Connecticut

Most of the time, we all realize that art and politics are inseparable. But on contentious issues, which obviously includes the Israel-Palestine conflict, somehow art is expected to be sanitized.

One has to ask how, exactly, Palestinians are supposed to express themselves and yet keep the occupation out of it. No one who had been to a Palestinian town, much less a refugee camp, would believe such a thing was possible, regardless of their views of the larger political questions. The occupation permeates every aspect of Palestinian life.

Yet this is, apparently, what is expected of the Al-Ghad Folklore Dancing Troupe of Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem. The troupe’s performance at a high school in Old Saybrook, Connecticut was cancelled this week after an angry grandparent complained about an earlier appearance. Apparently one of the group’s dances included a depiction of the ill treatment Palestinians receive from Israeli soldiers.

This is the experience of Palestinians, and asking them to exclude it from their art is no different from asking African-Americans to exclude their experiences with racism or women their experiences with sexism. This is the substance of Palestinian lives under occupation. Its appearance in an artistic forum is not a political statement, it is a statement of the facts of their lives. Continue reading

“Zionist 5″ censored by high-end San Francisco art gallery

Oy Bay reports about a group of artists that calls itself the Zionist 5.

Himmelberger Gallery, a well-known art gallery located in San Franciscos tony Union Square, has decided to cancel plans to publish an art catalogue of one of its represented artists, noted author Alan Kaufman, who is under contract to the gallery. The decision is due to use of the word Zionism in the catalogues title Visionary Expressionism: A Zionist Art. Kaufman said in response:

For myself, I want to say that to see oneself and ones colleagues censored for expression of a Zionist perspective is one of the most shocking experiences Ive ever had as an artist, or writer. But what made it especially hard was to see my fellow writers, David Twersky, David Rosenberg, Etgar Keret, Polly Zavadivker, also censored. It was then that I understood that this was not merely censorship of me: this was censorship of an entire community, of my people, the Jewish People; of my colleagues, my fellow writers and artists. This drove home to me like nothing else that I must never accept such censorship from anyone, under any circumstances. I must stand up proudly as a Zionist and express myself freely, without shame or reservation.

The gallery objects to the expressly Zionist focus of several essay contributions to the catalogue by well-known authors and journalists, including David Twersky, contributing editor of the New York Sun and senior adviser, International Affairs for American Jewish Congress; noted scholar David Rosenberg, author (with Harold Bloom) of The Book of J and most recently of Abraham: The First Historical Biography; Etgar Keret, widely acknowledged as Israels most popular young writer, and whose books include The Nimrod Flip-Out and The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be G-d ; and Polly Zavadivker, a young scholar completing graduate studies in Hebrew and Judaics at New York University and currently working as a grants officer at the Jewish Federation in Oakland, California. Kaufman, whose critically acclaimed books include the memoir Jew Boy and the novel Matches has an essay and an interview, conducted by Zavadivker, in the catalogue.

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Rachel Corrie play cancelled in Florida

This appears to be classic: A respected theater announces they will produce the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, based on the writings of the young Seattle woman who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to protect the home of a Palestinian pharmacist and his family. A short time later, after protests by a small minority (it’s not clear by whom), the play is cancelled. (The Rachel’s Words initiative offers more complete information about Rachel and the play).
The Miami Herald reported yesterday:

But Mosaic’s board of directors agreed to drop the play after phone calls, e-mails and comments on a special Rachel Corrie blog — which has now been removed from the company’s website — made it clear that an impassioned, vocal minority strongly objected to the play…
Artistic director Richard Jay Simon, who declined a request for comment, wrote in a release Monday announcing the cancellation, “Exploring critical issues to inspire healthy dialogue is and always will continue to be our mission at Mosaic Theatre. I believe strongly in the piece and, while I respect the board’s decision, I am obviously disappointed.”

A more telling sentence in the release notes that “numerous conflicts have arisen, and the associated risks appear too great for our community and our angel sponsor, American Heritage School.”

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