Once again, the proposition that one man’s art is another’s atrocity is being tested by a controversial new exhibit. This time, the site of the hubbub is the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, a world-class museum. And the show igniting the firestorm, titled “Death,” features dozens of intimate and often disquieting portraits of Palestinian suicide bombers with anti-Israeli captions that glorify their deaths as acts of martyrdom.
Ynet.news reports that the retrospective, by Palestinian photographer Ahlam Shibli, has outraged France’s Jewish community, which has announced a planned boycott of the museum this coming Sunday.
Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, France’s leading Jewish group, told the news portal:
This is unacceptable. You have the right to be shocked when an apology for terrorists is made in the heart of Paris.
And to think this is a state-funded museum. There must be more vigilance. One minute France is fighting terrorists in Mali, and then celebrating the same ones here.
Ynet notes that Cukierman wrote to France’s culture minister last week, in a letter protesting the display.
Among the featured works are shots (perhaps an injudicious word choice) of suicide bombers from the controversial Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is on list of terrorist organizations maintained by both the European Union and the United States.
According to Cukierman, one image depicts a proud mother holding aloft a photo of her son who killed 19 people and himself in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem in 2002. A caption on another photo indicates that the suicide bombers it depicts are “martyrs” since they died “as a result of the Israeli occupation.”
Several signs have been posted noting that the captions were written by the artist, not the museum. But that is as far as the administrators of the Jeu de Paume appear willing to go. They have defended their decision to stage the exhibit in a strongly worded statement that reiterates the fact that the captions represent the views of the photographer and do not speak for the museum.
The ministry of culture has defended the museum’s right to host the exhibit as well, but also said the photographs “pose an important question: Where is the limit of freedoms to artistic expression?”
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