May 21, 2018

Pro-Palestinian Artwork at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Censured by Israeli Minister

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Artwork made by students at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design protesting the May 14 killing of more than sixty Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip has drawn censure from Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister for science, technology, and space. Akunis, a member of right-wing Likud Party led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has barred Bezalel Academy students from participating in an international science conference to be held in Jerusalem later this month, Maya Asheri reports for Haaretz.

Two poster projects, one listing the names in Arabic of the slain demonstrators and another overlaying a map of the Gaza Strip with the words “Not Your Toy”—a reference to Israel’s recent winning Eurovision Song Contest entry—have also drawn criticism from fellow students, conservative members of Knesset, and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who called the works a “cynical use” of the freedom of expression. To protest the pro-Palestinian projects, some Bezalel Academy students staged a presentation of posters listing the names of Israeli citizens killed by Hamas.

The Jerusalem-based art school issued a statement affirming the institution’s status as “a protected space for freedom of expression in Israel that permits students free, critical, and creative discourse on the range of subjects occupying them.”

In December 2016, Bezalel Academy faced the possibility of closurefollowing censure from the Likud Party after a student at the school produced posters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emblazoned with a noose. The student responsible for the posters was questioned by police for inciting violence but was not arrested.

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