Israel, Jews express ‘disgust’ at anti-Semitic imagery at German art festival

BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — Jewish leaders and the Israeli Embassy in Germany on Monday expressed their “disgust” at anti-Semitic images on display at Documenta, one of the world’s largest art fairs.

Documenta had been clouded by controversy for months over its inclusion of a group of Palestinian artists strongly critical of the Israeli occupation.

Two days after the exhibition opened to the public, one of the works exhibited by Indonesian art group Taring Padi was also criticized for depictions that the German government and Jewish groups said went too far.

The incriminated fresco represents a pig wearing a helmet bearing the inscription “Mossad”.

In the same work, a man is depicted with sideburns often associated with Orthodox Jews, bloodshot fangs and eyes, and wearing a black hat with the SS insignia.

“We are disgusted by the anti-Semitic elements publicly displayed at the Documenta 15 exhibit,” the Israeli embassy said in a statement.

In another area of ​​the same mural, a pig is seen wearing a helmet emblazoned with the word “Mossad”. (Screenshot/Twitter)

“Items depicted in some exhibits are reminiscent of the propaganda used by Goebbels and his henchmen during the darkest periods of German history,” he added.

“All red lines have not only been crossed, they have been broken.”

Josef Schuster of the Central Council of Jews in Germany noted that “artistic freedom ends where xenophobia begins”.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth also said this is where “artistic freedom finds its limits”, as she urged the curators of the exhibition to “pull the necessary [conclusions].”

The chairman of the German-Israeli Society, Volker Beck, told the Bild daily that he was filing a complaint with prosecutors over the photo.

President Josef Schuster, center, and Vice Presidents Abraham Lehrer, right, and Mark Dainow speak during a press conference in Frankfurt, Germany, November 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Probst/ Queue)

Documenta, held in the German city of Kassel, includes the works of more than 1,500 participants.

For the first time since its launch in 1955, the show is organized by a collective, the Indonesian Ruangrupa.

But even ahead of the show’s opening this weekend, the group has come under fire for including the collective called ‘The Funding Question’ because of its ties to Israel’s BDS boycott movement. .

BDS was labeled anti-Semitic by the German parliament in 2019 and banned from receiving federal funds. About half of Documenta’s 42 million euro ($44 million) budget comes from public funds.

Opening the exhibition this weekend, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he had considered skipping the event.

Illustrative: German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, left, with former President Reuven Rivlin before the fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, Israel, January 22, 2020. (Atef Safadi/Pool Photo via AP)

“While some criticism is justified of Israeli policies, such as settlement building,” he said, recognition of the Israeli state is “the basis and precondition for the debate” in Germany .

He called disturbing the refusal of some from outside Europe or North America to participate in cultural events attended by Jewish Israelis.

It is striking that no Jewish artist from Israel is represented at this edition of Documenta, he noted.

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