Catch-22: Contemporary Art
and Political Influence in Israel
In 2005, the Cultural Boycott of Israel began under the umbrella of the larger Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) meant to draw attention to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to put international pressure on the Israeli state to end the occupation.[i] The boycott emerged in response to a nationwide rebranding campaign to improve Israel’s image abroad and emphasize the country’s modernity, innovation, and vibrant culture in lieu of its religious basis and militaristic involvement with Palestinians. A result of these two campaigns and recent shifts in Israeli cultural policy, Israeli artists find themselves in the difficult position of contributing to the country’s rebranding campaign by virtue of the subversive and liberal nature of their works. Thus, even if they are not financially supported by the state, they find themselves in a catch-22, tethered to the state by way of their national identity and often despite their opposition to national policies. Still, while their have in some cases functioned in favor of the rebranding campaign, they have also been subject to censorship efforts from within the state.
In this article, I will attempt to explicate the position of these artists in relation to the Israeli culture wars and the cultural boycott of Israel. In tracing their recent histories, I further hope to delineate the tie between these systems [the Israeli Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Boycott of Israel] and their influence on funding sources, as well as how their authority in delegating state funds is deeply tied to the current state of censorship and silencing of the arts and cultural sectors in the region.
Keywords: Miki Kratsman, Public Movement, Cultural Boycott of Israel, Culture Wars
[i] Chen Tamir, "A Report on the Cultural Boycott of Israel," Hyperallergic, February 4, 2015
This essay was published in Kunstlicht: Journal for Art, Visual Culture & Architecture ,Vol. 38., "Breaking the Frame: Subversion from Within."