‘Bursting With Hatred for Israel:’ Antisemitic Video Exhibited at Scandal-Plagued Documenta Art Festival

‘Bursting With Hatred for Israel:’ Antisemitic Video Exhibited at Scandal-Plagued Documenta Art Festival

Ben Cohen

A protestor outside the Documenta art festival in Germany holds a sign reading “Where Israel is boycotted, Jews are boycotted.” Photo: Reuters/Boris Roessler/dpa

The ongoing Documenta festival of contemporary art in the German city of Kassel was the site of yet another scandal involving antisemitism on Wednesday, as a German media outlet highlighted a video installation that allegedly glorifies Palestinian terrorism and explains the creation of the State of Israel by way of conspiracy theories.

The installation, called the “Tokyo Reels,” brings together 20 pro-Palestinian propaganda films from the 1970s and 1980s, assembled by a group of Japanese and Palestinian artists to win attention for “the largely overlooked and undocumented anti-imperialist solidarity between Japan and Palestine,” according to an article by antisemitism scholar Jakob Baier in the German daily taz

One of the initiators of the project is Masao Adachi, a former member of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) terrorist organization. Founded in 1971, the JRA was known for its rigid Marxist ideology and the punishing, often violent, internal discipline meted out to its supporters. In May 1972, the group carried out one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in Israel’s history, when three JRA terrorists launched a gun and grenade attack in the arrivals terminal at Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion Airport) near Tel Aviv. Twenty-six people were murdered and 80 injured during the attack, with a group of Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico and the renowned Israeli biophysicist Prof. Aharon Katzir among the dead.

Other false claims contained in the film according to Baier include the accusations that the IDF sabotages toys with explosives for the specific purpose of “murdering children,” and that the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut, executed by Lebanese Christian Phalangist forces, was carried out by Israeli troops.

Baier asserted that the films gathered for the “Tokyo Reels” installation were “bursting with hatred for Israel.”

“They describe the establishment of the Jewish state as the result of a ‘Zionist conspiracy,’ claiming that Israeli soldiers desecrated corpses in a Christian cemetery and destroyed shrines in a church,” he wrote. The video’s claim was accompanied by a voiceover commentary that declared, “respect and reverence for the dead is taught by all religions, but even that meant nothing to the Zionists.”

Already beset by widespread criticism of the antisemitic artworks that were either removed or haphazardly covered over at this year’s festival — curated by ruangrupa, an Indonesian artists collective — Documenta’s management team finds itself in familiar territory. It has faced severe criticism of its approach to antisemitism since January, when revelations of ruangrupa’s support for the anti-Zionist BDS campaign targeting Israel first emerged.

Subsequently, the Documenta festival featured a mural containing classic antisemitic caricatures, a triptych featuring a man wearing a kipah proferring large bags of money, a brochure featuring antisemitic drawings of Israeli soldiers and a row over the statements of Hamja Ahsan, a British artist exhibiting at the festival, who praised the BDS movement and slammed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who canceled a visit to the festival in protest at the presence of antisemitic works, as a “fascist pig.”

In a commentary for the Spiegel news magazine on Wednesday, columnist Sascha Lobo called for the festival to be shut down forthwith.

“When the country that perpetrated the Holocaust promotes and spreads such blatant antisemitism … then you have to sound the alarm and let the consequences follow,” Lobo wrote.

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