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Over 8,000 artists and curators petition for Israel's exclusion from Venice Biennale

February 27, 2024 at 3:09 pm

Several flags of Israel flying outside the historic Old City of Jerusalem in Israel [Getty]

The Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA), a recently formed activist group, has launched a petition urging the exclusion of Israel from participating in the 60th Venice Biennale.

The online open letter, titled “No Genocide Pavilion at the Venice Biennale”, has garnered over 8,000 signatures, including those who have participated in past Biennales or are due to participate in the current one.

Highlighting the Biennale’s alleged silence on Israel’s actions against Palestinians, the letter criticises the Biennale and the curator of the 59th edition, Cecilia Alemani, for its double standards after expressing support for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

“The Biennale has been silent about Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians. We are appalled by this double standard,” the petition states.

The letter highlights the significant loss of life in Gaza, noting that recent estimates indicate up to 250 Palestinian deaths per day. Moreover, it points out that apartheid South Africa faced a ban from participating in the Biennale from 1968 until 1993, coinciding with the abolition of apartheid rule.

Meanwhile, Israel has a dedicated pavilion in the Giardini, the park where the biennial art festival takes place.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” the petition states. “The Biennale is platforming a genocidal apartheid state.”

According to The Times, Palestinians have no dedicated national pavilion; however, their representation in this year’s Biennale’s official collateral events comes through a project by a collective co-founded by Palestinian activist, Issa Amro, from Hebron and South African photographer, Adam Broomberg, who is also a signatory of the petition.

“Art does not happen in a vacuum and cannot transcend reality,” the letter reads. “While Israel’s curatorial team plans their so-called ‘Fertility Pavilion’ reflecting on contemporary motherhood, Israel has murdered more than 12,000 children and destroyed access to reproductive care and medical facilities. As a result, Palestinian women have C-sections without anaesthetic and give birth in the street.”

“Any work that officially represents the State of Israel is an endorsement of its genocidal policies,” the letter concludes.

Nearly 29,900 Palestinians have been killed and over 70,000 others injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza since 7 October amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Israeli war has pushed 85 per cent of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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