Longtime Jewish leader Abraham Foxman sharply rebuked the Guggenheim Museum on Friday for publishing an article on its website accusing Israel of a litany of serious crimes.
Foxman — who was tapped to head a new center on the study of antisemitism at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage following his retirement as national director of the Anti-Defamation League — was commenting on an article by Israeli artist and curator Chen Tamir, titled “Censorship in Israel,” which accuses “racist and lopsided” Israel of failing to uphold freedom of speech, oppressing Palestinians and acting as an occupying power.
“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 wrote.
Foxman told The Algemeiner he was “surprised” that the Guggenheim “would permit itself to be used for such blatant anti-Israel propaganda. This article goes beyond the discussion of art, its political. It’s inappropriate and ill-advised. If the Guggenheim wants to make their website a place to discuss censorship, I can give them a list of 25 countries they should start with and not Israel.”
According to Tamir, Israeli officials and private citizens have “taken matters into their own hands and established paramilitary organizations to spy on human rights activists and organizations.” One of these “paramilitary organizations,” she says, is Im Tirtzu, an Israeli Zionist youth group that she claims works covertly and overtly to censor Israeli culture.
In yet another example of “censorship,” Tamir points to an exhibition at the Museum of Petach Tikva:
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).
Foxman said that if the Guggenheim “wants to become a platform to discuss art and censorship, this is legitimate. However, to the best of my knowledge, Tamir’s article seems to be the only one about Israel, which is a blatant distortion on what is happening in Israel.”
According to pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon, since 2006 the Guggenheim has been attempting to build a museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE, which “routinely engages in real censorship of art. Not the false ‘withholding funds’ definition that idiot artists like Chen Tamir whine about where a government doesn’t want to support someone publicly defecating on their flag, but honest-to Allah censorship of art.”
“When an artist or a museum sees an opportunity for self advancement, suddenly censorship is not so big a deal,” he wrote. “The Guggenheim, by publishing an article about the horrors of nonexistent Israeli censorship, has no problem with partnering with a country where art censorship is normal and explicit. The double standards to which Israel is subject by these supposed defenders of art and freedom of expression is stunning, and their hypocrisy is blatant.”
In response to The Algemeiner’s request for clarification as to why the Guggenheim would promote on its website an article demonizing Israel, a spokesman for the museum said, “As an arts institution, the Guggenheim welcomes a multitude of voices and perspectives on topics of interest to the wider artistic and cultural community. The views expressed are those of the writer, a curator who lives and works in Israel, not necessarily those of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.”