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Egypt: artist returns Goethe Medal over Germany’s support for Israel

April 9, 2024 at 1:17 pm

Egyptian artist Mohamed Abla attends the “Night of Art” exhibit at the the Egyptian Museum in the capital Cairo on October 28, 2017 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt’s renowned visual artist Mohamed Abla has returned the Goethe Medal that he was awarded in 2022, in protest at what he described as Germany’s support for Israel in the ongoing offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza, Anadolu has reported. Abla told the agency that he has been following Germany’s position on the Gaza war and is very saddened by it.

“Berlin has been the second largest arms supplier to Israel in the Gaza war from the beginning,” he pointed out. Even the demonstrations in Germany were not enough to affect the conscience of the German government to change its position.

“I felt that Germany’s position is completely inconsistent with the principles of the medal, which stands for equality, justice and working to consolidate relations between people and promote human values. With this position, the German government is saying that ‘Palestinians as human beings do not deserve to defend themselves for freedom.’ I felt there was a contradiction here.”

That’s when he decided to return the medal. “At the very least, I wanted to warn the German government about its contradictory position. How can it talk about humanity when it gives weapons to Israel that slaughter humanity?”

The medal was handed in at the German Embassy in Cairo last week. The Foreign Ministry in Berlin has apparently contacted the artists in this regard.

According to Abla, it is necessary for artists and intellectuals to take a position that expresses their dissatisfaction and rejection of what is happening in Gaza. Israel can carry out its actions in the enclave due to a lack of a strong rejection of them, he believes.

The artist founded the Fayoum Art Centre in 2006 in Egypt’s artisan Tunis village. It houses the first museum of caricature in the Middle East.

According to the Goethe Institute, its eponymous medal is “the most important award of the Federal Republic of Germany’s foreign cultural policy.”

Abla’s statements coincide with the first hearing of the genocide case brought by Nicaragua against Germany before the International Court of Justice for “facilitating the commission of genocide” in the Gaza Strip. Nicaragua presented its 43-page lawsuit on Monday; Germany will respond to the accusations before the court today, Tuesday.

Germany is one of Israel’s staunchest allies, and has offered the occupation state unconditional political, diplomatic and military support since 7 October.

READ: 600 senior state employees demand Germany stop arming Israel