International art magazine Apollo devotes its December double-page Forum discussion to the question, “Are artists justified in boycotting Israel?”
Earlier this month, a piece by artist and critic, Steffen Zillig appeared in the German Magazine, art – Das Kunstmagazine (‘The Art magazine’), where he is also editor. Zillig attacks the artists who in February signed a Pledge for Palestine. His piece contains no new charges worth refuting; however, the familiar antisemitism smear – delivered in a particularly aggressive tone – was given two further platforms, and unwarranted credibility, in the UK arts press: in Artlyst and Artnet, both of which failed to offer any analysis or counter-argument. That has been left to us. There is an English translation of the German article below our response to Zillig.
Zillig attributes various qualities to the signatories:
– They are not serious political activists: signing the Pledge is just the latest, clueless form of a fashion for art-activism. The signatories are assuming a role in a drama of their own making: David against Goliath, the dissident artist against the Leviathan state.
– They are ignorant of history, and simplify and moralise conflicts that are in reality complex and many-sided.
– They lack empathy for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by states which have spurned every opportunity for peace.
– Unless and until all oppressive states are boycotted, a boycott of Israel is a signifier of antisemitism. (Deplorably, Zillig does not hesitate to impute antisemitic motives to individual artists.)
Zillig has constructed his polemic without, it seems, taking the trouble to read the ways in which the artists who have signed the pledge explain why they have done so. Continue reading