Rockets are coughing up death over Israel’s cities like swarms of incendiary summer wasps – 1,000 rocket strikes in six days at last count (July 8-14).
Elsewhere, editors at BBC and CNN collectively yawn and ask, “Uh … so what else is new?” while they wait for some “news.” One dead civilian? It only counts if he’s not Jewish. They could hardly give actual statistics, as this as would reveal they’ve been ignoring attacks against Israeli civilians for years.
Meanwhile from Hollywood’s hallowed hills, most of our fabulously wealthy performing artists side squarely with terrorists. Lest there be any doubt how much the average star hates Jews (or the place Jews happen to live or anyone doing business with Jews – I’ll be fair here) they issue silly tweets and statements denouncing anyone but terrorists. Unfortunately there are so many – how to choose?
Stupid statement No. 1: Hollywood is a “town that’s run by Jews,” claims actor Gary Oldman, although he’s apologized – but Louis Farrakhan, who probably started the rumor, never has.
Stupid Statement No. 2: Famed Spanish singer Paco Ibanez is “boycotting the Hebrew language” by refusing to use it ‘”for political reasons.”
Some rays of hope escape the asphyxiating hold of “progressive” thought on artists, though. Ignoring shaming and death threats, singers Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Madonna and others have the moxie to show up anyway. Singer Moby suspected the intensity of attacks against his performance in Israel wasn’t an objective concern with people’s welfare, “but with something dark and dubious.” Lovely Scarlett Johansson battled corporations and bigots before the entire nation.
Visual artists openly supporting Israel ‘s right to exist are few and hard to find, especially those who do it with drama and flair. Such is the New York-based collective “Artists 4 Israel,” which travels the world using art for peace and education.
Being a “security fence around cultural terrorism” could be their mission statement. Artists 4 Israel advocate for Israel through the arts, focusing particularly on “censors who use criticism of Israel as a guise for stifling creativity and expression.”
Created in 2009 to counter unfair images cast on Israel during Operation Cast Lead, Artists 4 Israel (A4I) uses graffiti, street art and other mediums to reach college students and artists with the truth about Israel and Jews. Organizer Craig Dershowitz realized “there was a culture war against Israel – using the arts to manipulate the truth.”
Hamas was attacking Israel with bullets and fire, but also attacking the arts by arresting, intimidating or even killing artists who refused to support their version of reality or, even worse, sought peace.
Still the intimidation, threats and smears continue against Israel, and by extension Jews, across the world. Artists need more information claimed Dershowitz, and A4I planned to fight back by exposing Israel’s freedom of expression and promotion of the arts, as opposed to their neighbors’ repression.
Phyllis Chesler called Artists 4 Israel “a cultural resistance.”
She wasn’t the only one to take note of the shadow war moving through the art world. On July 23, 2009, Ethan Bronner wrote “Hamas Shifts from Rockets to Culture War” in the New York Times.
Succeeding beyond their wildest dreams, Hamas convinced much of Hollywood, academia, the United Nations and other usual suspects to boycott or even actively campaign against Israel. Many musicians and theater and dance companies obediently trotted behind, swallowing their lies whole, particularly rock and pop singers – it must be the drugs.
“Armed resistance is still important and legitimate, but we have a new emphasis on cultural resistance,” Hamas co-founder Ayman Taha claimed.
Their site notes that recently “a play has been staged, a movie premiered, an art exhibit mounted, a book of poems published and a television series begun,” all demonizing Israel and attacking their right to exist or live in the region.
In response to the deafening silence by Western media, A4I began to decorate bomb shelters in Ashkelon, Sderot and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, Israelis in these towns spend a lot of time in them.
To give us a notion of impending death by rocket A4I have an innovative traveling exhibit. “Bomb Shelter Museums of Living History” has traveled to over 30 nations so far but particularly shows up on college campuses. Multi-media, fully immersive experiences – they simulate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
A4I describes them: “The sights, sounds, smells and feel of an attack are recreated in frightening detail, while information is provided to attendees describing the human elements of a bomb shelter that [are] so often overlooked when considering these attacks.”
Sometimes artists are inadvertently prophetic, and A4I found their pierce of a bombed wall with faces in Sderot eerily matched reality of the altered landscape a short while later.
“We create beautiful works of art, with internationally famous artists, who are literally writing it on the wall,” Dershowitz shared with the Jewish Chronicle in 2012. “This is about the idea of sharing art and having the freedom to make new art.”
Their efforts succeeded to the point where “a couple thousand artists” now support their efforts.
Describing Artists 4 Israel’s efforts as the first “offensive, coordinated and direct response to the cultural war” against artists’ attacks on Israel, they refuse to play defense. Rather, they create positive messages of Israel that are “credible and adaptable” for the widest possible audience.
Producing diverse types of works with various messages, A4I “take over trucks” (artistically hijacking them in New York and Israel) with commemorative paintings or current campaigns. Recently a truck projected the haunting, oversized faces of the three “missing boys” with a wish for their safe return. Another celebrates Israeli celebrities such as Lexi Bella’s tribute portrait to Miri Ben-Ari.
I’m no expert on street art or graffiti, but theirs’ is complex and striking, as good as any I’ve seen. Compositions are bold and clean with vibrant painting and varied and sophisticated techniques. Portraiture and figures are especially evident in their work and very strong for this type of art.
Because A4I includes painters as well as street oriented graffiti “writers,” the results are a symbiotic collusion to tell the tales they need. Elements of architecture, machinery, crowds and drapery are set off by the brilliant, comic-style coloring or “inked” edges. Most still sport the original tags or stylized signatures – one of the signals that set graffiti apart from other forms of art.
Founder Dershowitz is heavily inked and energetic – a “hurricane of a man” according to Israeli press. Honored for “changing our perceptions of PR and having an impact on our policy and style,” he’s also received the Key to the City of Sderot and been acknowledged in the Knesset.
There’s reason for the gratitude from Sderot, a city heavily bombarded and traumatized from constant attacks by Palestinian terrorists. A4I artists support Sderot, Askelon and other cites near Gaza where shell-shocked residents of Southern Israel have only 25 seconds to find shelter after a code red alarm – the ones BBC has never noticed.
It’s about the kids as much as anything. Artists 4 Israel sends “emergency arts kits” to the region as well as closer neighbors, such as Hurricane Sandy survivors. They decorated or built play sets, helped restore schools or painted T-shirts with kids, noting, “Children are creators and creation in one … the next painters, singers, dancers, who are innocent and deserving of protection. ”
Gregg Bruno, going by “Col Wallnuts,” has worked with the group and thinks highly of Israel’s “amazing people” and their efforts to work for peace with little encouragement from the rest of the world. Bruno’s works are elegant, abstract and somewhat minimalist. They work as stand-alone pieces, and a recent show in Tehran proves his art isn’t particularly political or biased.
Col Wallnuts, with New York graffiti artists BROKER and GlossBlack, showed support for Israel with outreaches to Pennsylvania colleges using what they call “disruptive arts” (though legal in their case). Something between a protest, intervention and performance art – they created an interactive mural project inspired by Andy Warhol’s art to discuss the boycotts and struggles around arts in Israel and the Middle East. Oh, there was an hip-hop artist too – Fab 5 Freddy.
Although openly supporting Israel’s right to exist (and indirectly a right to protect her people), the collective equally mourns the deaths of all innocents. A4I avoids overt politics because their artists hail from “many faiths, nationalities and ethnicity – Jewish, Christian, Black, White, Asian – and they desire that all feel protected and welcome.
One piece commemorates the death of an Israeli Arab child accidentally killed in the conflict. I have never seen anything even close to this kind of equanimity and consistency of grief by Palestinians, terrorists or even Arab civilians.
Arieala Robinson is an artist and art therapist who appreciates the outlet A4I gives her to “express my love for Israel in a nonjudgmental, off the beaten path, diverse, accepting, artistic, non-violent, non-threatening, non-political, and most of all honest and creative way.”
In spite of the heavy bombardment and dicey situation in Israel right now, A4I is rowing ahead with plans to work again.
“We are coming to Israel, to Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Tel Aviv to paint bomb shelters and communities in need the last week of September,” they announce on Facebook. “I do not know where we will get the funding or which artists will run into rocket fire to do this. We don’t even yet have permission from the Mayors. But, we are coming, and no one will stop us. ”
New Yorkers are invited to join A4I for a unique art anti-war vigil Thursday, July 24, in Washington Square Park from 6-9 p.m. Along with a number of churches, mosques, synagogues and other faiths, they will use art in solidarity for peace and Israel.
A4I opens their arms to the city: “If you have a community you would like to be part of this program, we are open to meeting them.”
I salute these artists, who are also humanitarians and cultural warriors. May their tribe increase and prosper.
Sources: The Jewish Chronicle; Algemeiner.com; Arutz Sheva.