Israeli Artists Denounce Open Letter Calling for Ceasefire in Gaza

Over 2,400 people have signed a statement criticizing an open letter published by artists and cultural workers last week that called for a ceasefire in Gaza. The petition, first published by the Israeli art magazine Erev Rav over the weekend, decries the open letter for its “omission of any substantive acknowledgment and condemnation of Hamas’s acts.” 

On Thursday, October 19, Artforum and other art publications published an open letter that has since been signed by thousands of artists and scholars including Nan Goldin, Cecilia Vicuña, and Barbara Kruger. That missive called for institutions to recognize “the crimes against humanity that the Palestinian people are facing” in reference to Israel’s retaliatory strikes and siege on Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 attacks. In the last two weeks, Israel has killed over 5,000 Palestinians, the UN reports, and displaced over a million. Hamas’s attacks resulted in the killing of approximately 1,400 Israelis and an estimated 200 people taken as hostages.

The relentless bombing on Gaza has triggered international calls for a ceasefire and sparked protests in solidarity with the 2.3 million people living in the besieged Gaza Strip, about half of them children, who have been under Israeli occupation for more than half a century after the 1948 Nabka displaced the majority of Palestinians from their homelands. In recent days, petitions for a ceasefire have been shared by leading figures in Hollywood, legal scholars, writers, and White House staffers, as well as several Jewish advocacy organizations.

The response statement posted by Erev Rav this weekend condemns last week’s open letter for failing to mention the “heinous massacre” by Hamas or the hostages taken by the militant group. “By ignoring the rights of all who live in Israel, it is as if those who signed the letter are dehumanizing all of those who live in Israel, the 9 million people who have a right to exist,” reads the missive.

Though the letter does not explicitly call for a ceasefire, its signatories say they “accept and support calls for ending the violence, supporting Palestinian liberation, putting an end to the occupation (as we have for years), and the cessation of the killing of civilians in Gaza and elsewhere.” The statement was signed by many Israeli artists including Ronen Eidelman, Yonatan Amir, Ilit Azoulay, Yael Bartana, and Zoya Cherkassky. Non-Israeli artists including Hito Steyerl and Zoe Buckman also signed.

Last week’s open letter decrying the current genocide on the Palestinian community specified that “the root cause of violence” lies in Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian people, which has been described by multiple human rights advocacy groups as apartheid. The letter was first leaked by the artists collective For Freedoms in a since-removed Instagram post and then published by Artforum along with a list of over 4,000 signatories. The following day, on Friday, October 20, Artforum took down its Instagram post about the letter and published a response authored by art dealers Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, and Amalia Dayan, who jointly run a gallery in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, “condemn[ing] the open letter for its one-sided view.”

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