Tuesday, 13 November 2018

More 'Anti-Semitism' from Banksy at the World Trade Fair

Satirical References to Historic Palestine 'resemble Nazi propaganda'


A post from Banksy's Instagram account November 7, 2018. 
It seems that Banksy, the famous street artist has got up the nose of one of Israel’s tax-exiled billionaires, one of 18 oligarchs, Batia Ofer and her husband Idan Ofer. Batty has taken offence at an artistic representation of the Apartheid Wall at the World Trade Fair.
She doesn’t like Banksy’s representation of the Wall.  She has no problems with the wall itself, but its representation is, well, anti-Semitic. She is at pains to stress that she is ‘totally for a two-state solution and fight for justice on both sides’. Presumably she means both sides of the wall! However Banksy had, according to Batty gone ‘a step too far’.


REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Batty is also outraged at the criticism of Israel’s military rule. According to Batty’s ‘logic’ criticising the Israeli military means criticising all Israelis because ‘military service in Israel is mandatory! So your poster is denouncing all Israelis!’
Therefore if you criticise the Israeli military you are also being anti-Semitic!  Batty writes that ‘Your posters resemble Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and spread antisemitism’. I have to confess I don’t recall Nazi pictures of Jewish children swinging from watchtowers in a wall.  However ‘anti-Semitism’ seems to be a term that is capable of infinite expansion. If Stephen Hawking was still around he would probably declare that anti-Semitism was the missing dimension in time and space!  The key to the universe.
Banksy has produced a limited edition poster showing Palestinian children at a funfair swinging from a watchtower in the wall.  Batty has labelled each child with a series of ethnic designations (Muslim Christian, Israeli, Druze etc.) which is a good reflection of the colonial mentality – always break down those whose land you are occupying into their racial/religious categories.  Batty even does a bit of pink washing with an LGBT label!
Batty replaces Banksy’s satirical comment that the Israeli army loved Historic Palestine so much they never left with ‘Historic Israel – All are welcome to the only democracy in the Middle East’.  But of course this is not quite true.  There are millions of Palestinian refugees who are certainly not welcome and if they should try to enter, as the inhabitants of Gaza have discovered, they will be shot down by Israeli snipers, who are only doing their national service for the Middle East’s only democracy.
Ha’aretz describes Batia Ofer, as being ‘known for her left-leaning views on Israeli-Palestinian issues.’ Clearly the term ‘left-wing’ in Israel has an entirely different meaning from the rest of the world.
Tony Greenstein
Israeli billionaire Batia Ofer, known for her left-leaning views, slammed the British artist's poster as 'disgraceful' after it earned Banksy praise from the Palestinian tourism minister
Nov 11, 2018 12:16 AM

The 'replica separation barrier' created by British street artist Banksy stands on display at the Palestine tourist stand at the World Trade Fair at the Excel center in London, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
LONDON – The underground artist Banksy set out this week to promote Palestine, producing a provocative poster that earned him high praise from the Palestinian tourism minister and infuriated others, sparking a social media spat with a top Israeli art collector in London who said the project was anti-Semitic.
Batia Ofer, wife of London-based Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, is known for her left-leaning views on Israeli-Palestinian issues. The Ofers also own an important postwar and contemporary art collection. However, Banksy's latest salvo was, she says, was a step too far.
“We are very pro-peace. But having said that – I will stand up for our right to exist when people try to incite against us,” Batia Ofer told Haaretz in an email exchange.
The saga began last Friday, when Banksy – who most recently shocked the art world by having one of his prints shredded just after it had been sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s – announced on his Instagram account that he would be displaying a replica of the West Bank separation barrier at the World Travel Market London international trade show. This is the largest trade show in the world, with some 50,000 travel agents in attendance, conducting $4.2 billion in business deals.
A post from Banksy's Instagram account November 7, 2018. Instagram

 Opening my first ever stall at a trade fair next week. I’ve painted a replica separation barrier to promote the Walled Off Hotel. … We’ll be at the Palestine stand giving away free stuff,” 
Banksy wrote, attaching a picture of the work to be displayed: Two gray concrete slabs – mimicking the 700-kilometer (435-mile) wall that separates Israel and the West Bank – and featuring two angels representing Israel and Palestine attempting to pry the wall apart.
This is not the first time Banksy has showed support for the Palestinian cause, or the first time he has helped Palestine with its tourism efforts. His nine-room Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, which boasts of offering “the worst view of any hotel in the world,” has attracted over 50,000 tourists since it opened last March.
Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah, who has credited Banksy for driving younger people to visit the West Bank, praised the artist’s help at the trade show this week for promoting "Palestine and [focusing] on the occupation, but at the same time … talking about the beauty of Palestine.”
The delighted World Travel Market, meanwhile, took to social media to crow about the artist’s attention.
The Palestine stand, one of the smallest at the trade show, seemed to be the place-to-be when the event opened last Tuesday, with hundreds of travel agents and other travel professionals lining up to get a glimpse of the anonymous artist’s latest work.
Ofer said she is all for tourism to the West Bank and supports some Palestinian causes – including a yearly fellowship she and her husband set up for two Palestinian students (along with two Israeli ones) to attend the Harvard Kennedy School.
What bothered her, she said, was a limited edition poster by the artist, which the Palestinian team handed out at their booth. The poster, which Banksy also promoted on his Instagram account, shows children using a watchtower as a fairground ride. The slogan underneath reads: “Visit historic Palestine, the Israeli army liked it so much they never left!”
You may criticize Israel for the current situation – and I’m totally for a two-state solution and fight for justice on both sides,” said Ofer, addressing Banksy on both the artist's and her own Instagram page. “BUT insinuating we don’t have a right to exist … is disgraceful. In addition – military service in Israel is mandatory! So your poster is denouncing all Israelis! Your posters resemble Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and spread antisemitism @banksy #antisemitism"
Ofer attached an image making the social media rounds to her post: A version of the Banksy poster, replacing the word “Palestine” with “Israel,” and replacing Banksy’s slogan with the tagline “All are welcome to the only democracy in the Middle East.” The children spinning around the watchtower are tagged, in Ofer’s post, with names: “Christian,” “Palestinian,” “Druze,” “Muslim,” and – one holding a rainbow flag – “LGBTQ.”
Banksy has not responded to Ofer's criticism.

Pictures Don’t Lie, But Israeli Oligarchs Do

There’s nothing like a picture to convey with graphic, instinctive intensity a political message.  Images also can link historical events or eras or political causes in ways that reams of words may fail to do.  Two sets of images have moved me in different ways over the past few weeks.  The first and most recent is a new Banksy poster designed to promote his Walled-Off Hotel which abuts the Separation Wall in Bethlehem.  The British artist very cleverly took advantage of one of the world’s largest travel exhibitions to promote both the cause of Palestine and his hotel project, which is designed to parody the Occupation and the oppression enshrined in it.
Today, Haaretz published a puerile report on the Banksy art work, which it lamely called “a stunt. That makes it appear that the reporter actually has some artistic chops to be able to tell the difference between a piece of art and a stunt.  Much of the world finds Banksy’s art quite significant and it commands huge figures when it comes up for sale. I suppose one reporter’s stunt is another person’s serious artistic expression.
The pro-Israel hook for the reporter was an attack against the artist by the wife of billionaire Israeli oligarch, Idan Ofer.  The couple have their primary residence in England in order to avoid the Israeli tax regime.  They are included among the 18 Israeli oligarchal families which own 60% of the corporate capital in Israel.  They earned their fortune in Israel but refuse to pay their fair share, leaving the average Israeli who can’t afford to live such an extravagant lifestyle abroad, to foot their share of the tax bill.
The Haaretz “journalist” also repeated not once, but twice that Ofer was “known for her left-wing views.”  When you hear an Israeli who you know is not left-wing boast about themselves being left-wing or some other Israeli figure being left-wing, you know he or she is revealing far more about their own views than those they’re describing.  The first thing to consider about this odd claim is: how can an Israeli billionaire oligarch be “left-wing? If the Ofers are indeed left-wing then either they’re deluded or the Israeli left exists in some alternate universe in which what’s left has lost all meaning.
Indeed, how does Ofer defend her claim that she is left-wing?  She writes:
…I’m totally for a two state solution and fight for justice on both sides…
Oh and let’s not forget that she’s a champion of Palestinian rights because she funds a scholarship for four graduate students (two Israeli Jewish and two Palestinian) to attend the Kennedy School of Government.  My, that’s mighty white of her.  That’s the extent of her leftism. She’s for two-state and “justice.”  In the context of dominance by the extreme right of Israeli national politics I suppose someone who in any other country would be a milquetoast liberal at best, can claim to be a flaming radical.
But her subsequent claims about the nature of Banksy’s posture are ludicrous:
…Insinuating we don’t have a right to exist (which is exactly what your poster does using the term “historic Palestine”) suggesting Israel has no right to ANY land is disgraceful. In addition- military service in Israel is mandatory! So your poster is denouncing all Israelis! Your posters resemble Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and spread antisemitism
Though Ofer owns a substantial modern art collection, she apparently hasn’t grasped the artistic tradition of graphic art in the service of political satire. The poster doesn’t resemble Nazi propaganda in the least. Nor were Nazi graphic images especially known for use of irony or satire, as Banksy’s are. 
As for her claim about Israeli military service, it’s a complete non-sequitur. Banksy refers to Israel’s military Occupation of Palestine, while Ofer claims that he’s referring to all of Israel as being occupied Palestinian land.
Israeli Border Police menace Palestinian protesters

You can see the crudely reworked image which Ofer appears to have hired a pro-Israel artist to create. It offers an entirely fictional image of Israel in which the many minorities in Israeli society exist in the midst of a gay carnival atmosphere. Druze, Muslim, “Israeli,” Christian, Palestinian, and LGBT all live together in bliss.  All one need do is ask representatives of any of these groups whether they feel as welcome and respected as this image makes them out to be.  How Ofer would know that these groups live in such bliss given that she’s fled Israel for tax purposes is another good question.  Her poster adds the tagline, “Israel: the only democracy in the Middle East.”  One only hopes that her financial and artistic acumen are better than her political sloganeering.
Last week, in the run-up to the midterm elections, the U.S. Border Patrol organized a preparedness drill for the Central American refugee caravan winding its way slowly through Mexico to the U.S. border.  As soon as people discovered the event was scheduled for Election Day and likely to intimidate Hispanic voters from going to the polls, it was quickly cancelled.  But not before a photographer captured this image of Border Patrol mounted-horsemen presumably planning to herd the refugees like cattle back away from our sacred border.  Not to mention our very own president who intimated that any rock-throwing by such deplorables would be “a firearm.” In Trumpese, that amounts to a shoot to kill order from the commander in chief.
This image reminded me of similar ones I’ve seen of mounted Israeli Border Police charging into crowds of protesting Palestinians.  The massive bulk of these ominously-hooded horses as they face down the puny human protesters is genuinely frightening.  Just as Israeli Border Police exploit the power of horses to maintain Occupation and subjugate Palestinians, so Trump’s militarized border presence is meant not only to teach a lesson to foreigners seeking safe haven on our shores; it’s meant to rub salt in the wounds of those Americans who continue to believe this country is meant to offer comfort to the poor, starving and oppressed from around the world; just as we’ve done since the first Dutch and English settlers, many of them fleeing religious tyranny, set down roots on these shores.

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