US nudists rebuff Israel critics
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US nudists rebuff Israel critics

Young Naturists America defends its support of an Artists 4 Israel fundraiser to help erect murals in Golan Heights

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A woman at a nudist beach (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/a_happy_couple CC BY 2.0)
A woman at a nudist beach (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/a_happy_couple CC BY 2.0)

An American nudist organization is firing back at critics of its partnership with Artists 4 Israel, a pro-Israel group that brings artists to Israel to “offset the fear and destruction of conflict,” according to its site.

Young Naturists America, a group in the New York area promoting nude recreation and a healthy body image, announced an A4I event in New York City to raise money for artists to travel to the Golan Heights and create art in bomb shelters.

YNA called for nudist volunteers to have their bodies painted at the fundraiser at a Lower East Side tattoo parlor.

YNA co-founder Jordan Blum, who says he grew up in northern Israel, began to receive negative Facebook comments attacking Israel’s right to exist, in addition to other verbal attacks, after members were angered by news of the fundraiser.

“This is really disturbing… I mean seriously. Fundraising for an Artists4Israel trip to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights? For an organization that supports the Israeli equivalent of white supremacy?” wrote one commenter.

“Despite the edgy, progressive feeling of this event, the group sponsoring it, Artists4Israel, is a right-wing, nationalist, pro-settler group whose support [sic] racist policies of colonization in the West Bank,” charged another.

On Monday, Blum fired back at his critics on the YNA site, calling them “asses” and writing, “Screw everyone who thinks that one innocent child’s suffering is less significant than another!”

A4I seeks to “protect Israel by partnering with free artists to produce beautiful, radical and effective advocacy initiatives,” according to its website. The organization, which has been described as right-wing for holding events in Israeli settlements, came together during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, as a group of artists decided to take a pro-active step to fight attempts to isolate Israel culturally.

The Golan Heights Regional Council turned to A4I on September 12, inviting them in a letter to “help us turn some of our structures into beautiful pieces of art work” to lift the spirits of local residents. The council offered to cover room, board, and transportation within Israel for 10 artists, but not plane tickets. The bomb shelters could become necessary should the effects of the Syrian civil war reach the Golan.

The fundraiser is scheduled to take place Tuesday night. The artists hope to be in Israel from October 28 to November 1.

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