After the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller told the press that he never intended to sign an open letter in support of the cultural boycott of Israel, stating that he thought long and hard about it and then declined – following its publication 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 Magazine has published a scathing condemnation of the political action against Israel, written by Steffen Zillig.
The petition was launched February 13, and bears the signatures of nearly 1,000 British artists and prominent art world figures – this includes Ed Atkins, Phyllida Barlow, John Berger, Mona Hatoum, and Bob and Roberta Smith. The petition is in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The signatories agree to decline professional invitations to Israel or funds from institutions linked to the Israeli government.
The writer argues that the viewpoint behind the artists political action is not only one-sided and simplistic, but the artist’s worldview also perpetuates anti-Semitism by ignoring crucial historical facts, which actually includes the very role anti-Semitism plays in the Middle-East conflict. He goes on to state that the signatories’ “oversimplified, one-sided argumentation,” Zillig states, “[and] fails to reflect the complexities of a region.”
The article accuses the signatories of “political ignorance” and states that they are attempting to capitalise on “the current enthusiasm for activist artists.”
Zillig goes on to accuse the signatories of bias and double-standards, asking why the British artists didn’t boycott other states with “questionable human rights records such as Germany, China, the US, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Russia?” the writer asks; and concludes, “Then perhaps you could convince us that your moralistic finger pointing at Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”
Challenging what it perceives to be the aforementioned double- standard, in response to the the letter’s publication and subsequent boycott of Israel by prominent UK artists, a counter-initiative has been signed by Diedrich Diederichsen, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Daniel Richter, Kathrin Rhomberg, and other artists, curators and cultural producers, which argues against the boycott, and also criticised the actions of Artists for Palestine UK.