Sometimes, it seems, public imbecility knows no bounds.
David Reeve is a well known artist who protests from time to time against the separation fence in Bilin, and signs petitions against Israel..
In the beginning of 2009 Reeve signed a petition that claimed Israel was committing war crimes and which called for sanctions against Israel. The second petition Reeve signed claimed that Tel Aviv was built on the wreckage of Palestinian villages after the Palestinians were exiled in large numbers, and that identifying with Tel Aviv was akin to identifying with white Johannesburg in the era of apartheid.
And now, this same artist, him of all people, will soon receive, in a festive ceremony, the Dizengoff Award, which is the most important award of the Tel Aviv municipality in the field of art and painting. Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv’s first mayor, was a great Zionist. One can only assume he is now spinning in his grave. So out of all things, a prize in his name? And a prize from Tel Aviv? Chairing the prize commission is Ido Bar-El, chair of the arts department in Bezalel. Bar-El is part of Reeve’s political coterie. No surprises there.
Does someone who calls for imposing sanctions on Israel and boycotting Tel Aviv deserve to get an official prize from the city? We are already familiar with the mechanical responses to this: freedom of art, freedom of expression, distinction between opinion and creation, blah blah blah. Enough. We’re fed up. It’s okay to say to someone who spits in our face-fine. That’s your prerogative. Its part of the freedom of speech, even if it’s unpleasant.
It’s also fine to lie and spread libel, to situate not only Israel, but also Tel Aviv, within the realms of apartheid. It’s also fine, even if one requires a sick and evil imagination to do so, to compare Johannesburg and Soweto to Tel Aviv and Jaffe.
But there are boundaries, and the boundaries are the tax payers, of the country or of Tel Aviv, who ought not to be forced to grant prizes or fund those who spit in their faces. There is no need for a law and neither is it a matter of left or right. It’s just a matter of common sense. And we are losing it. Israel is demanding that European countries stop financing anti-Israel organizations in their territory. This is a just demand in general. However, these people, and others with opinions even more sickening, are being granted awards at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer. Is there any greater absurd?
This is not an unusual event. It has become a norm. On Independence Day it was the cinematographer Jad Neeman, who had found the time at the beginning of the year both to sign a petition calling for the boycott of Israel and in the middle of year to win the Israel Prize. No boundaries.
For one man to forfeit his dignity is one thing, but must also the entire state?
And the long march is unending. Always, or almost always, these awards are at the expense of the taxpayers, and are controlled by these same people, who are about one half a percent of the population. One time it’s Yossi Sarid who gives a prize to Alon Hilo, another time it’s lectors of the political coterie of Eyal Sivan who provide him with funds to produce another film resonating of anti-Semitism, and now it’s David Reeve, who gets a prize from a commission headed by a figure belonging to the same political quarter. They are, of course, sincerely dedicated to freedom of creation and all the rest, under the condition that they be able to spit in Israel’s face and then enjoy its amenities.
They deserve this of course.
Sometime one gets the impression, that you need to have particularly anti-Israeli credentials in order to win funds or grants or awards at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer. I shall reiterate: freedom of expression mandates that these folks too be allowed to sign petitions, even if these appear akin to Hamas propaganda. This is legitimate. But there is no need to finance them. There is no need to bestow honors, glory and legitimacy on those who deny Israel’s own legitimacy. Someone who signs Hamas propaganda writings – let him or her be funded by Hamas. Not by the citizens of Israel.
Lunacy is the norm. Today Ken Loach’s film is to be shown at the Haifa Film Festival. This is the same Loach who just a few months back led the petition against Tel Aviv in Toronto’s film festival. He spits on us, and we bestow on him our respect and honor through the festival.
Oh how enlightened are we.
The award has not yet been given to David Reeve. He is confident that he merits it. Sure. They’re always confident that they merit it. But it’s not too late to come to our senses. Public figures fear commissars whose strength is great within their coterie, who continue to tell tales of the perils facing freedom of expression and creativity. Just so long as they keep on dispensing awards to each other.
Reeve may be a terrific painter, but he is someone who called for imposing sanctions on Israel. He is the person one who called on culturally boycotting Tel Aviv. So please, stop spreading nonsense about a distinction between creativity and opinion. This is true in most cases. Not in all cases. Stop with your moral duplicity. The one who fails to draw this distinction himself – let him not enjoy such a distinction later on.
David Reeve is not the problem. The problem is the system in which those who spit on us garner more and more awards, more and more funds and more and more grants. The public must rise in protest. We must not submit.
There is no such thing in any other democratic country. Simply no such thing. It’s high time that Israel become a normal democratic state, with a little, just a little, self respect.