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Exhibition “Welcome to Jerusalem” (11 December 2017 – 30 April 2019): View of the Film-Rotunda ìConflictî © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Yves Sucksdorff

Earlier this year, the Israeli government sent an official letter to the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel demanding Germany cut its funding of the Jewish Museum in Berlin over an ongoing exhibition, Welcome to Jerusalem, which is said to probe Jerusalem’s “extraordinary political tensions, claimed as the capital city by both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The seven-page letter, which was published on Thursday, December 6, by the left-leaning German Die Tageszeitung newspaper (TAZ), lists 12 NGOs and culture organizations that Israel demands Germany fiscally divest from, including the Berlin International Film Festival (the Berlinale), Women Wage Peace, Action Medeor, the Catholic Relief Services, and the Israeli opinion and news website +972 Magazine, which receives funding from the Heinrich Böll Foundation (an independent political foundation associated with the German Green Party). The letter urges Germany to “review its funding guidelines” for organizations that are involved in “anti-Israeli propaganda” or endorse the BDS movement (the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement).

The letter was sent from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office directly to Merkel’s office and to Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development directly, rather than sending it to the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, which would be the diplomatic norm. While it didn’t confirm sending the letter, the Prime Minister’s Office gave a response to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday, saying, “the prime minister has pointed out to various world leaders the issue of funding Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, which portray Israeli soldiers as war criminals, support Palestinian terrorism and call for the boycott of the State of Israel. Israel will continue fighting these organizations.” A spokesperson for the German government confirmed to Haaretz newspaper that Israel and Germany had discussed the issue of state funding to aforementioned NGOs in the past.

Exhibition “Welcome to Jerusalem” (11 December 2017 – 30 April 2019): View of the exhibition room ìBoth Sides of the City Wallî © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Yves Sucksdorff

Welcome to Jerusalem at the Jewish Berlin Museum is a year-long themed exhibition exploring historical, political, and religious aspects of the city. The exhibition includes works by both Palestinian and Israeli artists, including Mona Hatoum and Yael Bartana, as well as international artists like Gustav Metzger, Fazal Sheikh, and others. The Israeli government’s letter criticizes the exhibition’s alleged “Muslim-Palestinian” slant, as well as accusing the museum of hosting “regularly occurring events and discussions with prominent supporters of the BDS movement.”

The Jewish Museum said in a statement, “We believe open dialogue on controversial issues is crucial to allow [the museum’s] visitors to form their own position on the matter and judge it for themselves.”

Netanyahu’s demands for Chancellor Merkel come at the heels of the Israeli “Loyalty in Culture” bill, proposed by Culture Minister Miri Regev and supported by Netanyahu. The vote on the bill, which allows the government to pull state funding from arts organizations highlighting Palestinian narratives, was recently postponed after one of its co-sponsors, Finance Minister Moshe Khalon, withdrew his support.

Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

17 replies on “Israeli Government Sends Letter to German Chancellor Requesting the Country Cut Funding to Jewish Museum in Berlin”

  1. I am Jewish, but could it be any clearer that Israel does not give a damned about Jews, the Holocaust, or anti-Semitism? Their only agenda is keeping, and increasing, their stolen land. While they pressure the US to criminalize activism and divestment for justice for Palestine, they promote activism and divestment to promote Israel’s apartheid regime—and cozy up to Evangelical white supremacists, fascists, and anti-Semites the world over.

    1. Gordon? Thank you. Might I resoundingly repeat? Thank you. So. As an African-American, I am cognizant of my ‘ally’ status and continue to admire Jews who speak their/our truth to power. As such, your opinion/narrative should lead this discussion. My role is to listen, encourage, ask. However, I submit the following with humility and solidarity: in my own engagement in domestic issues of contentious race dynamics, I notice the most effective discourse invites rather than admonishes. Again, please know that I type in agreement, sharing the frustration you clearly articulate. And ‘frustration’ may be far too mild an assessment. I respectfully submit that Israel does give at least some damn about Jews and has at least some agenda other than continued illegal as unethical expansion of settlements. I extend such to acknowledge Israeli humanity and dimension not just beyond the central conflict but THRU it. And that extension, nodding to their own complexity, is intended as an alternate model to their oppressive interactions with/policies towards Palestinians. In addition, I champion your use of the term, ‘apartheid’. It might resonate even farther/wider, though, in more inclusive dialogue where Israel is less indicted than examined. I thank you, again, for concluding your comment with the notable hypocrisy of daring to silence the BDS efforts of US allies while standardizing such efforts in Gaza. Such inconsistencies, as well as the compromising associations which you are apt to mention, make the critique for us, highlighting the incessant sociological flaws in governance that ever requires our wise vigilance – whether in ‘Manifest Destiny’ justifying American Expansionism’s Indigenous Genocide or the current decimation of Palestinian human and frankly, common-sensical rights. Therein, a nuanced examination naturally imbeds indictment. Your contribution is too valuable. Our languaging matters and presents us with quite the delicate as damning task to be best received for the change we seek.

      As an African-American ARTIST, thank you, Gordon, for contributing to this particular thread. I appreciate art spaces most (of which HyperA is a leading, unique on-line option) when the medium serves as direct confrontation of ‘issue’ and ‘aesthetic’.

      1. A few further points (added to my below comment to you, so read that one, first), KM Fikes:

        Desmond Tutu said, re: Israeli state apartheid: “I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed. Realistic Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel will either end its occupation through a one or two state solution, or live in an apartheid state in perpetuity. The latter option is unsustainable and an offense to justice. We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.”

        Israel supported South African apartheid. And they continue to sell arms to regimes, across the world, while they actively commit massacres, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

        Given all of this (and so much more), I admit that I do find it hard to sympathize with the oppressor and to consider their motives and/or give them the benefit of the doubt.

        1. I know it’s against your entire paradigm but the conflict started way before Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan which occupied the territory for 19 years and who used the territory to launch terror attacks on Israel. Israel warned Jordan to stay out of 67 war but they instead launched attacks on Israel aimed at destroying her. After a 100 years of Arabs repeated attempts to destroy Israel and deny her legal moral and historical rights to exist in any territory Israel will not vacate the West Bank without a peace agreement that guarantees her security from its enemies. It’s that simple.

    2. Be careful Susan or they’ll accuse you of being a “self-hating Jew” like they do Noam Chomsky. You have nailed it in your comment.

      1. Blue Wren, as if they have not done that countless times, already. Didn’t you know that there are only 3 types of humans? Zionists, anti-Semites, and self-hating Jews.

        1. I must be an anti-semite then, although as a Catholic atheist could I come under the umbrella of self-hating Jew?

          1. Checking box ‘agnostic’ here – as I chuckle. Am devoted to the invented practice of marveling at the existential question mark. Chuckling since your atheism and my agnosticism seem appropriately reflected in our respective comments. And thank you for your generosity of extended reply. I have affirmed continued correspondence, and tried to submit, no less than four times. Hopefully the moderator will ‘approve’ soon and post to this thread. Still chuckling though. Always appreciate a giggle when people (myself entirely included) are consistently as they present.

          2. Hi, again, KM. I am not sure what you tried to submit 4 times. If you sent me a FB friend request, I did not receive it. Yes, I get what you mean about our consistency.

          3. Checking box ‘agnostic’ here – as I chuckle. Am devoted to the invented practice of marveling at the existential question mark. Chuckling since your atheism and my agnosticism seem appropriately reflected in our respective comments. And thank you for your generosity of extended reply. I have affirmed continued correspondence, and tried to submit, no less than four times. Hopefully the moderator will ‘approve’ soon and post to this thread. Still chuckling though. Always appreciate a giggle when people (myself entirely included) are consistently as they present.

    3. I am jewish too and I have engaged with your comments before where you repeatedly accuse Israel of being neo Nazis. You use inflammatory and inaccurate sweeping statements that are obscene to delegitimize Israel. Tell me in what way does Israel “not give a damn about Jews the holocaust or anti Semitism.” That extremist sentence alone is rediculous on its face and doesn’t even need refuting. Anyone interested in justice for both sides in this conflict would never go so far as to undermine Israel’s refounding as a safe haven for Jews in light of 2000 years of exile persecution culminating in the holocaust.

  2. It’s really funny! A Jewish Museum, in Germany of all places!, has antisemitic (BDS) political agenda and is proud of it. So what’s new? I mean, in Germany.

      1. Hrag why do you not chastise those making generalizations against Israel? Why do you allow people to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist in your forum?

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