London art gallery chief quits over Israeli spy firm report

London art gallery chief quits over Israeli spy firm report

Yana Peel decries ‘misguided personal attacks on me and my family’ after UK daily says she’s a co-owner of controversial NSO Group

Yana Peel (YouTube screenshot)
Yana Peel (YouTube screenshot)

LONDON — The head of London’s Serpentine Galleries, Yana Peel, resigned on Tuesday following a newspaper report about her links to a controversial Israeli spyware firm.

The board of trustees of the contemporary art galleries announced “with a mix of gratitude and regret” that it has accepted Peel’s resignation, adding that she would be “sorely missed.”

In a separate statement carried by The Guardian newspaper, Peel referenced a “concerted lobbying campaign against my husband’s recent investment.”

The Guardian reported last week that Yana Peel co-owns NSO Group, a spyware company based in the Israeli seaside high-tech hub of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.

It has faced questions over its Pegasus software, which can reportedly switch on a target’s cell phone camera and microphone, and access data on it, effectively turning the phone into a pocket spy.

The logo of the Israeli company NSO Group is displayed on a building where they had offices in Herzliya until 2016. (AP Photo/Daniella Cheslow)

Security researchers believe it was used in an attack on the WhatsApp messaging app in May.

The company has also been forced to deny it was used against Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi before he was killed last October in Istanbul.

“The work of the Serpentine — and its incomparable artistic director — cannot be allowed to be undermined by misguided personal attacks on me and my family,” Peel said, according to the statement.

“These attacks are based upon inaccurate media reports now subject to legal complaints.”

Peel said she was saddened to leave the role, which she started in 2016, adding: “The world of art is about free expression.

“But it is not about bullying and intimidation. I welcome debate and discussion about the realities of life in the digital age.

“There is a place for these debates, but they should be constructive, fair and factual — not based upon toxic personal attacks.”

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more: