San Francisco Art Gallery Censors Writing and Art Work as Too Zionist
Posted by chutzpaleh on October 16, 2007
Himmelberger Gallery, a well-known art gallery located in San Francisco’s tony Union Square, has decided to cancel plans to publish an art catalogue of one of its represented artists, noted author Alan Kaufman (pictured here), who is under contract to the gallery. The decision is due to use of the word Zionism in the catalogue’s title ‘Visionary Expressionism: A Zionist Art.” Kaufman said in response:
For myself, I want to say that to see oneself and ones colleagues censored for expression of a Zionist perspective is one of the most shocking experiences I’ve ever had as an artist, or writer. But what made it especially hard was to see my fellow writers, David Twersky, David Rosenberg, Etgar Keret, Polly Zavadivker, also censored. It was then that I understood that this was not merely censorship of me: this was censorship of an entire community, of my people, the Jewish People; of my colleagues, my fellow writers and artists. This drove home to me like nothing else that I must never accept such censorship from anyone, under any circumstances. I must stand up proudly as a Zionist and express myself freely, without shame or reservation.
The gallery objects to the expressly Zionist focus of several essay contributions to the catalogue by well-known authors and journalists, including David Twersky, contributing editor of the New York Sun and senior adviser, International Affairs for American Jewish Congress; noted scholar David Rosenberg, author (with Harold Bloom) of The Book of J and most recently of Abraham: The First Historical Biography; Etgar Keret, widely acknowledged as Israel’s most popular young writer, and whose books include The Nimrod Flip-Out and The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be G-d ; and Polly Zavadivker, a young scholar completing graduate studies in Hebrew and Judaics at New York University and currently working as a grants officer at the Jewish Federation in Oakland, California. Kaufman, whose critically acclaimed books include the memoir Jew Boy and the novel Matches has an essay and an interview, conducted by Zavadivker, in the catalogue.
The catalogue was to present 15 of Kaufman’s paintings which are under contract to the gallery and whose subjects range from the Holocaust to Israel to the New Antisemitism. The gallery’s prices for the works in question have been cited at between $3,275 and $36,000. The works have hung in the gallery and a cross-section of them also appeared on the gallery website .
At a meeting between gallery head David Himmelberger and Kaufman, Himmelberger surprised the artist and author with an eleventh hour decision not to proceed with the catalogue due to the Zionist “agenda” of the essays as well as some of the paintings. Himmelberger said that such a presentation was antithetical to the aims of the gallery, which promotes “international understanding” and forswears all forms of nationalism and religion. But the authors see this as a transparent example of the way in which the word Zionism has been exiled from civil discourse and has been turned by the cultural establishment into a refugee of a word, a pariah of an idea, and a euphemism for Antisemitism.
Polly Zavadivker, one of the authors to be published in the catalog, told Oy Bay,
“My personal feeling is that David Himmelberger’s refusal to publish the catalog due to the use of the word Zionism is an action that confirms the prevalence of anti-Israel and by extension, anti-Jewish sentiment in our modern, supposedly enlightened and progressive West Coast culture. The Bay Area, despite being home to the ethnic pride movements of the 1960s and 70s, is today a place where the struggle for Jewish sovereignty is marginalized and framed as a form of racist oppression, while those of Latinos, Native Americans, Chicanos, Asians and African-Americans are celebrated. As someone who studies Jewish history, and as someone who writes, I feel the imperative to add my voice to the growing movement to reclaim the word Zionism from its enemies and to rehabilitate its use in the general lexicon. This movement is happening right now! “
The Zionist 5, as the group refers to itself, released the following statement:
Zionism is the Civil Rights Movement of the Jewish People. It is the answered prayer to two thousand years of ceaseless persecution at the hands of unpredictable host nations and of religions that at times abandoned their own highest moral precepts in the pursuit of dubious political objectives at the expense of Jewish life and limb.For an individual or institution to claim to respect and tolerate Jews and yet deny a Jew, any Jew, the right to proclaim Zionism as a personal spiritual, cutural and political raison d’etre, is like telling a Black person that you regard him as your equal and friend but please, do not mention the March on Birmingham; please, don’t talk about Martin Luther King; please, don’t bring up Rosa Parks to me.Zionism is the March on Birmingham, the Martin Luther King, the Rosa Parks of our people, the Jewish People. It is our march on the death camp at Auschwitz; it is our fight for an equal place on the bus of human history.And the State of Israel is our Promised Land of freedom and equality on earth.
How the term Zionism, and all that it so powerfully represents to our people after the Holocaust; how this term Zionism, this vision of redemption, this philosophy of empowerment, this bright candle held up to the night and which lead back home the displaced and tortured remnants, the dreamers and idealists, the Jews who came from all corners of the earth with a vision of self-determination and cultural, spiritual and political renewal; how this miracle of an idea was brought to fruition through the sacrifice and struggle of the brave Israeli people, is one of the great miracles of human history.
And how this same Zionism, distorted and vilified by one of the most sordid disinformation campaigns in history, became the bete noire of the present day, a refugee of a word, a pariah of an idea, is one of the most sordid instances in the long, cruel campaign to marginalize and, ultimately, to destroy the Jewish People.
Let us, then, be perfectly frank about one thing. To vilify, marginalize, suppress or outlaw Zionism politically, socially or culturally, for any reason whatever, is to wish no less then murderous extinction upon every Jewish man, woman and child in the world today. It is to refute our history entire, to deny us the memory of our long march out of bondage into equality and dignity. It is to assert ghettoization and ostracization, exile and massacre as the only fate befitting a Jew.
If ignorance of the law does not exempt one from the law, then ignorance of the unthinkable consequences to Jews of a world without Israel, and of ones own action to libel, marginalize or censor Zionism in any way, regardless of how subtle or seemingly innocuous, does not exempt anyone, then, from the charge of participation in fostering genocide against the Jewish People. For no less then genocide awaits our people should the present campaign against Zionism succeed.
We, the undersigned, affirm our right –moral, spiritual, cultural and political — to proclaim our Zionism in any manner that we choose, without hinderence or proscription, and further, we condemn, forcefully and completely the stance of anti-Zionism for what so blatently it is: a human rights violation and euphemistic mask behind which lurks the age-old nightmare of anti-Semitism.
The above was a statement released by the ‘Zionist 5’.
[UPDATE 10/17/2007 @ 14:21 PST] Some places where this story has been appearing: