German Columnist Calls Israel Boycott by Artists for Palestine UK Anti-Semitic

Tags and graffiti on the Israel West Bank security barrier. Photo by Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Following the publication of a letter by Artists for Palestine UK, whose signatories pledge to reject professional invitations to exhibit in Israel or any funds from institutions linked to the Israeli government, the German monthly Art Magazin has published a scathing criticism of the initiative, penned by Steffen Zillig.

Zillig argues that the worldview behind the boycott is not only one-sided and simplistic, but it also perpetuates anti-Semitism by ignoring crucial historical facts, including the very role anti-Semitism plays in the Middle-East conflict. The signatories’ “oversimplified, one-sided argumentation,” he maintains, “fails to reflect the complexities of a region.”

The article criticizes the signatories of Artists for Palestine UK of “political ignorance” and accuses them of attempting to capitalize on “the current enthusiasm for activist artists.”

The opinion piece accuses the signatories of double standards. Why don’t the British artists boycott other states with “questionable human rights records such as Germany, China, the US, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Russia?” it asks. Zillig concludes, “Then perhaps you could convince us that your moralistic finger pointing at Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”

Several prominent British artists are among the signatories, including John Berger, Mona Hatoum, Bob and Roberta Smith, Phyllida Barlow, and Ed Atkins.

The latest condemnation follows other articles including JJ Charlesworth’s “The Cultural Boycott of Israel Isn’t Solidarity It’s Condescension.” APUK replied to his article here.

Challenging Double Standards, a counter-initiative signed by Diedrich Diederichsen, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Daniel Richter, Kathrin Rhomberg, and other artists, curators and cultural producers, which argues against the boycott, also criticized APUK.

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