Thousands of artists ask Venice Biennale to exclude ‘genocidal’ Israel over Gaza war

Anti-Israel alliance calls any official representation of Israel on international cultural stage ‘an endorsement of its policies and of Gaza genocide’; no response from organizers

A view shows 'Tunnel Boring Machine, 2022' by artist Teresa Solar, during a press day at the 59th Venice Art Biennale in Venice on April 19, 2022. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)
A view shows 'Tunnel Boring Machine, 2022' by artist Teresa Solar, during a press day at the 59th Venice Art Biennale in Venice on April 19, 2022. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)

ROME – Almost 9,000 people, including artists, curators and museum directors, have signed an online appeal calling for Israel to be excluded from this year’s Venice Biennale art fair and accusing the country of “genocide” in Gaza.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” said an online statement by the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective, that organized the appeal. “The Biennale is platforming a genocidal apartheid state.”

Israel has been facing mounting international criticism, including in the arts world, over its offensive in the Palestinian enclave, which was triggered by a massive October 7 attack by Palestinian terror group Hamas on southern Israel.

The Hamas raid killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians amid horrific atrocities including widespread gang rape, torture and mutilation of victims. Some 3,000 attackers who burst through the border from the Gaza Strip rampaged murderously through southern areas slaughtering those they found, in some cases butchering entire families as they huddled in their homes. At an outdoor music festival, 364 people were massacred. Terrorists also abducted 253 people of all ages — including the elderly and infants — who were taken hostage in Gaza.

Israel responded to the attack with a military campaign to topple the Hamas regime, destroy the terror group and free the hostages, over half of whom remain in captivity.

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to Hamas-run health authorities, though these figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 12,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Israel strongly rejects any accusation that its actions amount to genocide.

The ANGA statement made no mention of the October 7 Hamas attack or the atrocities terrorists carried out.

ANGA noted that the Venice Biennale previously banned South Africa over its apartheid policy of white minority rule, and excluded Russia in the wake of the Kremlin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The Venice Biennale press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Signatories of the appeal include Palestine Museum US director Faisal Saleh, activist US photographer Nan Goldin and British visual artist Jesse Darling, who won last year’s Turner Prize.

Dubbed the “Olympics of the art world,” the Biennale is one of the key events in the international arts calendar. This year’s edition, “Foreigners Everywhere,” is due to host pavilions from 90 countries between April 20-November 24.

Controversies over Israel have roiled the arts ever since the outbreak of the war. Awards have been called into question, speakers have been disinvited and staff at publications and venues have protested their employers’ stances on the conflict. Lately, petitions have circulated calling for Israel’s exclusion from the Eurovision Song Contest.

Israel is also defending itself at the International Court of Justice in the Hague where South Africa brought a case accusing it of genocide in Gaza.

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