Antisemitism Scandals at Major Art Festival Demonstrate Danger Posed by BDS Campaign, Says Head of German Jewish Community - Maccabee Task Force

The successive scandals over antisemitism plaguing one of the world’s leading showcases for contemporary art demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the BDS campaign targeting the State of Israel for economic and cultural isolation, the head of Germany’s Jewish community has said.

Mounted in the city of Kassel every five years since 1955, the Documenta festival is held in high regard across the art world for its cutting edge displays of painting, sculpture and audio-visual works. However, this year’s edition, curated by an Indonesian artists’ collective, was completely overshadowed by sustained accusations of antisemitism, culminating in the removal of the “caricatures” mural referred to by Schuster — which included depictions of an Israeli soldier as a pig  and and an Orthodox Jew with a hooked nose and a fedora hat emblazoned with the letters “SS,” for the Nazi paramilitary organization. The widespread shock with which the mural was received led to Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, canceling an official visit to the festival.

On Sunday, the row over antisemitism claimed its first major scalp with the resignation of Documenta’s director, Sabine Schormann, by mutual agreement with the festival’s board. Since January, when the first concerns about the BDS campaign were aired, Schormann has been heavily criticized by politicians and Jewish community organizations for allegedly minimizing the extent of the problem.

Last week, she claimed that the festival’s Indonesian curators had “feared censorship” because of the antisemitism accusations, asserting that they felt “that they were under general suspicion and defamed and sometimes threatened, because of their origin, their skin color, their religion or their sexual orientation.”

Schuster said that Germany’s cultural scene had failed to understand the true nature of the BDS campaign, pointing out that several artists had opposed the 2019 decision of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, to classify boycott calls as “antisemitic.”

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Article Photo: Reuters/Boris Roessler/dpa