Sunday, May 2, 2010

Provocative Street Art in Berlin Presents Map Without Israel Under Text "Endlosung" (Final Solution)


The most shocking thing about this story, for me, is that the artists would be considered sincere about wanting to remove Israel off the map and using Nazi terminology like “Endlosung” (Final Solution). 

If I saw this posted on a street corner, I would think it was done in a sarcastic manner by artists who wanted to drive home the point that the arab “palestinian” people are playing the victim card in order to destroy Jews in the same way that Hitler played the victim card in order to destroy Jews.

It is hard to wrap my head around the idea that, in Berlin in 2010, people would actually take these artists seriously or that, in Berlin in 2010, the artists themselves would take themselves seriously.  Also, considering the little I know about these artists, it seems that their work is intended to be provocative.

Is it incitement, or well crafted irony?  Does it incite or does it play off current events--showing them to be the same as historical events?  I guess it matters entirely on the context of the art, not just the artistic piece itself (obviously a place for post-modern criticism as “New Criticism” would obviously provide little interpretive assistance in this circumstance).

But, I am not part of the culture in Berlin at this time, and I have no knowledge of this group, the neighborhoods where the signs were posted, or the artistic “intent” of these posters.  

Adding to this mental quandry is the reaction of the German authorities and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  

The Mayor of Berlin has at least recognized the "satire" in the artistic representation, and I wonder if he objects to the artistic expression because he thinks it is anti-Semitic incitement, or if he objects to it because it will incite the arab population by presenting them with the truth of their actions and its historic parallel (essentially labeling the arab "palestinian" apologists with their true identity:  Nazi).

I am even further perplexed by the reaction of the Simon Wiesenthal Center director in Paris, who seems to have no understanding of the artistic group, the choice of Berlin as their contextual canvas, and/or the ironic presentation of the art itself.  I am also not familiar with the group, but a five minute reading in Wikipedia has already identified them as a group that used satire to attack the Iranian PM--which does not seem like an anti-Israel move.
I guess the point of the installation was to be a provocative artistic statement and, if it had not drawn criticism it would not have attained its goal.  

Like all provocative artistic statements, this installation will soon leave the canvas of society, but it will provide an enduring canvass of the mind upon which we can all draw conclusions.


Danish artists in Berlin wipe Israel off the map  
Berlin mayor rejects ‘Ramallah’ exhibit.  

 BERLIN – The Danish street art duo “Surrend” started to blanket selected Berlin neighborhoods on Wednesday with maps of the Middle East in which the State of Israel does not appear, with the term “Final Solution” at the top.

According to critics, the artists, Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen, are stoking genocidal anti-Semitism with their provocative “art in hot spots” tactics, by employing Nazi terminology.

Klaus Wowereit, the Social Democratic Party mayor of Berlin, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “there cannot be any doubt regarding Israel’s right to exist. This form of satire is not what I like.”

Dr. Shimon Samuels, head of the international department of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, told the Post that the “artists should be sued for genocidal incitement,” and that they are “talking like Ahmadinejad.”

It is unclear if the Berlin public prosecutor will invoke Germany’s anti-hate law barring incitement to violence against minority groups. The exhibit’s call to abolish Israel also meets the European Union’s definition of anti-Semitism, outlining a rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a modern expression of Jew-hatred.

The Austrian news outlet Vienna Online and the English-language Copenhagen Post reported that Egesborg identifies himself as a Jew, and regards Israel as a “historical mistake.”

The artists renamed the Jewish state “Ramallah” on the maps.

“As  a Jew, I always thought it was problematic that Israel was built on stolen land. The way the Israeli state treats the Palestinians today is terrible. There is no other answer but for the Jews of Israel to find a new homeland, perhaps in the USA, Germany or Denmark,” Egesborg said.

Lala  Süsskind, the president of Berlin’s Jewish community, told the Jerusalem  Post that the “artistic group Surrend is traditionally provocative.  With this action the founder Jan Egesborg stresses for first time that he needs, as a Jew, to comment on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. He not only denies Israel’s right to exist on the poster but in interviews strips Israel’s of its right to exist. His statement can no longer be assessed as ‘artistic provocation’ but as a political statement. The statements of a Jewish artist have crossed the line into anti-Semitism, which we as a Jewish community cannot accept.”

In an e-mail to the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, wrote, “This so-called art is outrageous on so many levels. Firstly, it seeks to obliterate the existence of a United Nations member-state and the nation-state of the Jewish people.

“Secondly,  by using the term “Final Solution,” this group is intentionally belittling the extermination of 6 million Jews and is exercising a form of Holocaust denial. This exhibit is according to all criteria deeply anti-Semitic. Examples like this only emphasis the need for broader legislation against such hateful anti-Semitic expressions.

“This is another example of how the systematic delegitimization of the State of Israel is absolutely anti-Semitic, and no false cries of freedom of speech can justify it,” Kantor said.

Egesborg did not reply to a Jerusalem Post e-mail query.

According to media reports, the Danes said that their maps will be plastered in the Berlin neighborhoods of Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte and Kreuzberg, a diverse area with a large German-Turkish population.

Observers said the timing of the anti-Israeli action coincides with International Workers Day on May 1 and will resonate with both leftist and neo-Nazi groups that mount annual protests against the German government on the holiday. It is unclear if the Danish artists staged their action to garner support from leftist and extreme right-wing haters of Israel.

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