More ‘Anti-Semitism’ from Banksy at the World Trade Fair
More ‘Anti-Semitism’ from Banksy at the World Trade Fair
References to Historic Palestine ‘resemble Nazi propaganda’
A post from Banksy’s Instagram account November 7, 2018.
It seems that Banksy, the famous street artist has got up
the nose of one of Israel’s tax-exiled billionaires, one of 18 oligarchs, Batia
Ofer and her husband Idan Ofer. Batty has taken offence at an artistic representation of the Apartheid Wall at the World Trade
She doesn’t like Banksy’s representation of
the Wall. She has no problems with the
wall itself, but its representation is, well, anti-Semitic. She is at pains to
stress that she is ‘totally for
a two-state solution and fight for justice on both sides’. Presumably
she means both sides of the wall! However Banksy had, according to Batty gone ‘a step too far’.
separation barrier’ created by British street artist Banksy stands on
display at the Palestine tourist stand at the World Trade Fair at the
Excel center in London, November 5, 2018.REUTERS/Simon Dawson
also outraged at the criticism of Israel’s military rule. According to Batty’s ‘logic’
criticising the Israeli military means criticising all Israelis because ‘military service in Israel is mandatory! So
your poster is denouncing all Israelis!’
you criticise the Israeli military you are also being anti-Semitic! Batty writes that ‘Your posters resemble Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and spread
antisemitism’. I have to confess I don’t recall Nazi pictures of Jewish children
swinging from watchtowers in a wall.
However‘anti-Semitism’ seems to
be a term that is capable of infinite expansion. If Stephen Hawking was still
around he would probably declare that anti-Semitism was the missing dimension
in time and space! The key to the
produced a limited edition poster showing Palestinian children at a funfair
swinging from a watchtower in the wall.
Batty has labelled each child with a series of ethnic designations
(Muslim Christian, Israeli, Druze etc.) which is a good reflection of the
colonial mentality – always break down those whose land you are occupying into
their racial/religious categories. Batty
even does a bit of pink washing with an LGBT label!
replaces Banksy’s satirical comment that the Israeli army loved Historic Palestine
so much they never left with ‘Historic Israel – All are welcome to the only
democracy in the Middle East’. But of
course this is not quite true. There are
millions of Palestinian refugees who are certainly not welcome and if they
should try to enter, as the inhabitants of Gaza have discovered, they will be shot
down by Israeli snipers, who are only doing their national service for the Middle
East’s only democracy.
Batia Ofer, as being ‘known for her
left-leaning views on Israeli-Palestinian issues.’ Clearly the term ‘left-wing’
in Israel has an entirely different meaning from the rest of the world.
Israeli billionaire Batia Ofer, known for her
left-leaning views, slammed the British artist’s poster as ‘disgraceful’ after
it earned Banksy praise from the Palestinian tourism minister
The ‘replica separation barrier’ created by British
street artist Banksy stands on display at the Palestine tourist stand at the
World Trade Fair at the Excel center in London, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Simon
LONDON – The underground artist Banksy set out this week to
promote Palestine, producing a provocative poster that earned him high praise
from the Palestinian tourism minister and infuriated others, sparking a social
media spat with a top Israeli art collector in London who said the project was anti-Semitic.
Batia Ofer, wife of London-based Israeli
billionaire Idan Ofer, is known for her left-leaning views on
Israeli-Palestinian issues. The Ofers also own an important postwar and
contemporary art collection. However, Banksy’s latest salvo was, she says, was
a step too far.
“We are very pro-peace. But having said that – I
will stand up for our right to exist when people try to incite against us,” Batia Ofer told Haaretz in an email exchange.
The saga began last Friday, when Banksy – who most
recently shocked the art world by having one of his prints shredded just after
it had been sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s – announced on his Instagram
account that he would be displaying a replica of the West Bank separation
barrier at the World Travel Market London international trade show. This is the
largest trade show in the world, with some 50,000 travel agents in attendance,
conducting $4.2 billion in business deals.
post from Banksy’s Instagram account November 7, 2018. Instagram
“Opening my first ever stall at a trade fair
next week. I’ve painted a replica separation barrier to promote the Walled
Off Hotel. … We’ll be at the Palestine stand giving away free
Banksy wrote, attaching a picture of the work to be displayed: Two
gray concrete slabs – mimicking the 700-kilometer (435-mile) wall that
separates Israel and the West Bank – and featuring two angels representing
Israel and Palestine attempting to pry the wall apart.
This is not the first time Banksy has showed
support for the Palestinian cause, or the first time he has helped Palestine
with its tourism efforts. His nine-room Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, which
boasts of offering “the worst view of any
hotel in the world,” has attracted over 50,000 tourists since it opened
Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah, who has
credited Banksy for driving younger people to visit the West Bank, praised the
artist’s help at the trade show this week for promoting “Palestine and [focusing] on the occupation,
but at the same time … talking about the beauty of Palestine.”
The delighted World Travel Market, meanwhile, took
to social media to crow about the artist’s attention.
The Palestine stand, one of the smallest at the
trade show, seemed to be the place-to-be when the event opened last Tuesday,
with hundreds of travel agents and other travel professionals lining up to get
a glimpse of the anonymous artist’s latest work.
Ofer said she is all for tourism to the West Bank
and supports some Palestinian causes – including a yearly fellowship she and
her husband set up for two Palestinian students (along with two Israeli ones)
to attend the Harvard Kennedy School.
What bothered her, she said, was a limited edition
poster by the artist, which the Palestinian team handed out at their booth. The
poster, which Banksy also promoted on his Instagram account, shows children
using a watchtower as a fairground ride. The slogan underneath reads: “Visit historic Palestine, the Israeli army
liked it so much they never left!”
criticize Israel for the current situation – and I’m totally for a two-state
solution and fight for justice on both sides,” said Ofer, addressing Banksy
on both the artist’s and her own Instagram page. “BUT insinuating we don’t have a right to exist … is disgraceful. In
addition – military service in Israel is mandatory! So your poster is
denouncing all Israelis! Your posters resemble Nazi propaganda in the 1930s
and spread antisemitism @banksy #antisemitism”
Ofer attached an image making the social media
rounds to her post: A version of the Banksy poster, replacing the word
“Palestine” with “Israel,” and replacing Banksy’s slogan with the tagline “All are welcome to the only democracy in the
Middle East.” The children spinning around the watchtower are tagged, in
Ofer’s post, with names: “Christian,”
“Palestinian,” “Druze,” “Muslim,” and – one holding a rainbow flag – “LGBTQ.”
There’s nothing like a picture to convey with graphic,
instinctive intensity a political message. Images also can link historical events or eras
or political causes in ways that reams of words may fail to do. Two sets of images have moved me in different
ways over the past few weeks. The first
and most recent is a new Banksy poster designed to promote his Walled-Off Hotel
which abuts the Separation Wall in Bethlehem. The British artist very cleverly took
advantage of one of the world’s largest travel exhibitions to promote both
the cause of Palestine and his hotel project, which is designed to parody the
Occupation and the oppression enshrined in it.
Today, Haaretz published a
puerile report on the Banksy art work, which it lamely called “a stunt.” That makes it appear that the reporter
actually has some artistic chops to be able to tell the difference between a
piece of art and a stunt. Much of the
world finds Banksy’s art quite significant and it commands huge figures when it
comes up for sale. I suppose one reporter’s stunt is another person’s serious
The pro-Israel hook for the reporter was an attack against the artist by
the wife of billionaire Israeli oligarch, Idan Ofer. The couple have their primary residence in
England in order to avoid the Israeli tax regime. They are included among the 18 Israeli
oligarchal families which own 60% of the corporate capital in Israel. They earned their fortune in Israel but refuse
to pay their fair share, leaving the average Israeli who can’t afford to live
such an extravagant lifestyle abroad, to foot their share of the tax bill.
The Haaretz “journalist” also repeated not once, but twice that Ofer was “known for her left-wing views.” When
you hear an Israeli who you know is not left-wing boast about themselves being
left-wing or some other Israeli figure being left-wing, you know he or she is
revealing far more about their own views than those they’re describing. The first thing to consider about this odd
claim is: how can an Israeli billionaire oligarch be “left-wing?’ If the Ofers are indeed left-wing then either
they’re deluded or the Israeli left exists in some alternate universe in which
what’s left has lost all meaning.
Indeed, how does Ofer defend her claim that she is left-wing? She writes:
…I’m totally for a two state solution and fight for justice on both
Oh and let’s not forget that she’s a champion of Palestinian rights because
she funds a scholarship for four graduate students (two Israeli Jewish and two
Palestinian) to attend the Kennedy School of Government. My, that’s mighty white of her. That’s the extent of her leftism. She’s for
two-state and “justice.” In the context
of dominance by the extreme right of Israeli national politics I suppose
someone who in any other country would be a milquetoast liberal at best, can
claim to be a flaming radical.
But her subsequent claims about the nature of Banksy’s posture are ludicrous:
…Insinuating we don’t have a right to exist (which is exactly what your
poster does using the term “historic Palestine”) suggesting Israel has no right
to ANY land is disgraceful. In addition- military service in Israel is
mandatory! So your poster is denouncing all Israelis! Your posters resemble
Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and spread antisemitism
Though Ofer owns a substantial modern art collection, she apparently
hasn’t grasped the artistic tradition of graphic art in the service of
political satire. The poster doesn’t
resemble Nazi propaganda in the least. Nor were Nazi graphic images especially
known for use of irony or satire, as Banksy’s are.
As for her claim about Israeli military
service, it’s a complete non-sequitur. Banksy refers to Israel’s military Occupation
of Palestine, while Ofer claims that he’s referring to all of Israel as being
occupied Palestinian land.
You can see the crudely reworked image which Ofer appears to have hired
a pro-Israel artist to create. It offers an entirely fictional image of Israel
in which the many minorities in Israeli society exist in the midst of a gay
carnival atmosphere. Druze, Muslim, “Israeli,” Christian, Palestinian, and LGBT
all live together in bliss. All one need
do is ask representatives of any of these groups whether they feel as welcome
and respected as this image makes them out to be. How Ofer would know that these groups live in
such bliss given that she’s fled Israel for tax purposes is another good
question. Her poster adds the tagline, “Israel: the only democracy in the Middle East.” One only hopes that her financial and artistic
acumen are better than her political sloganeering.
Last week, in the run-up to the midterm elections, the U.S. Border
Patrol organized a preparedness drill for the Central American refugee caravan
winding its way slowly through Mexico to the U.S. border. As soon as people discovered the event was
scheduled for Election Day and likely to intimidate Hispanic voters from going
to the polls, it was quickly cancelled. But not before a photographer captured this
image of Border Patrol mounted-horsemen presumably planning to herd the
refugees like cattle back away from our sacred border. Not to mention our very own president who
intimated that any rock-throwing by such deplorables would be “a firearm.” In
Trumpese, that amounts to a shoot to kill order from the commander in chief.
This image reminded me of similar ones I’ve seen of mounted Israeli
Border Police charging into crowds of protesting Palestinians. The massive bulk of these ominously-hooded
horses as they face down the puny human protesters is genuinely frightening. Just as Israeli Border Police exploit the
power of horses to maintain Occupation and subjugate Palestinians, so Trump’s
militarized border presence is meant not only to teach a lesson to foreigners
seeking safe haven on our shores; it’s meant to rub salt in the wounds of those
Americans who continue to believe this country is meant to offer comfort to the
poor, starving and oppressed from around the world; just as we’ve done since
the first Dutch and English settlers, many of them fleeing religious tyranny,
set down roots on these shores.