Thursday, May 26, 2016

  • Thursday, May 26, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon


The famous Guggenheim Museum in New York has a blog that says it "tells the Guggenheim’s evolving story, and offers insights on visual culture, urbanism, and the global art world, along with regular discoveries from the archives."

It recently posted this outrageous piece by Chen Tamir, called "Censorship in Israel:"

Over the past two years, the arts in Israel have been increasingly threatened by censorship and draconian government funding proposals. Some see this as the beginning of a culture war not unlike the one endured by the United States during the 1990s, when politicians used arts funding reform as a political tool to curry favor with conservative constituents. Freedom of speech is not treated with the same reverence in Israel as it is in the States; the country was not founded on a constitution that privileges such liberty. (Indeed, there is no Israeli constitution, a fact that some would consider a root cause of its racist and lopsided legal system and civic infrastructure.) The state of stagnation and worsening division in Israel/Palestine further entrenches the occupation, allowing more settlements to be built and inflicting further oppression on Palestinians. The metanarrative in Israel is one of continuous existential fear and victimization, which leads to the increased justification of insularity and nationalism, and the silencing of opposition.

Tamir includes many half-truths and absurd exaggerations as well as a complete disregard for the definition of "censorship."
The calls for and instances of censorship over the past two years have been both top-down (from government officials) and grassroots (by private citizens calling for the removal of artworks). Some individuals have taken matters into their own hands and established paramilitary organizations that spy on human rights activists and organizations, most notably the extra-political group Im Tirtzu, which recently published a blacklist of “moles”—cultural producers of all stripes who support leftist organizations that they perceive as anti-Zionist.
Im Tirtzu is paramilitary?

And why is art that defames a nation free speech, but compiling a list of people behind that art is "censorship?"

Here's another example of "censorship":

Artist-choreographer Arkadi Zaides was criticized for a video and dance work incorporating footage from B’Tselem’s Camera Project (through which cameras are given to Palestinians to document conflicts with the army and neighboring settlers). The Museum of Petach Tikva, which presented the work, was asked by the municipality to close the exhibition early following pressure from a “concerned citizen,” while the Ministry of Culture withdrew its funding from the show (although the exhibition remained open until its scheduled end date a few days after this incident).

So, not a single person was deprived of seeing the show. How is that censorship?

Further examples include the redirection of arts funding to things like the Zionist Art Prize, and right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acting as temporary Minister of Education, vetoing the 2015 candidate for the Ministry’s annual literature prize.

That is not censorship either.

Minister of Education Naftali Bennett and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev have been responsible for a string of incidents of or attempts at censorship, ranging from the banning of books and plays to a withdrawal of state funding from Jaffa’s Elmina Theater unless its director, Norman Issa, reversed his refusal to perform in a settlement in the West Bank. Regev, who previously served as the chief censor of the Israeli army, recently treated the director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Suzanne Landau (herself recently accused of self-censorship) to a surprise Friday-night phone call to ask about a work of art in a recent exhibition by Uri Katzenstein.

The only thing in this list that is actual censorship is the supposed "banning of books and plays." Curiously, Tamir doesn't mention their names, but almost certainly he is referring to the Education Ministry taking an anti-Israel novel off of its reading list as "banning," which it isn't. Almost certainly there has been no banning of any play as well.

It takes a while before we find out how Tamir defines "censorship":  the refusal of a nation to fund art that directly attacks it.

Herein lies the crux of contemporary censorship: funding. As in the American Culture Wars, public funding is being manipulated to become a mechanism of censorship.
That is not censorship by any definition. Making it somewhat more difficult for an artist to make a living from public money is not censorship. I can make art if I want, but if the Guggenheim decides not to make an exhibition of my artwork and the government doesn't fund me I am not being "censored." If publishers aren't interested in my poetry and the BBC refuses to air my play and MTV doesn't want to air my music videos, I am not being "censored."

The entire article is a string of lies that simply misuses the meaning of the word "censorship" to falsely paint Israel as a racist society.

The Guggenheim Museum should remove this article. Not because I support censorship - I emphatically do not - but because I do not believe that the museum should publish lies, fabrications and slander. Tamir has the full right to post her lies on her own website and the Guggenheim has the full right to reject publishing a litany of her lies and half-truths.

If supporters of the Guggenheim decide to withhold their funding to show their displeasure for the museum becoming a mouthpiece for anti-Israel propaganda, that isn't censorship either.

(h/t Lauri)



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