The current exhibit of landscapes of Israel by Nova Scotia painter Tom Forrestall (at the Provincial Archives http://theajc.ns.ca/gallery-tom-forrestall-35-days-in-israel/) consists not only of watercolours but also of “whitewash,” says a Jewish human rights group.Independent Jewish Voices – Halifax sees the show as part of Israel’s attempt to “change the channel” from its human rights abuses.
“For example,” says Zalman Amit, an IJV spokesman, “one of the very pastoral paintings is of Ir David (City of David), actually one of the most controversial archaeological sites in the country.Located just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, it was handed over by Israel’s Department of Antiquities to a settler group which is using it to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the surrounding Silwan neighbourhood, and to propagate its fanatical version of Jewish history.This is toxic to any eventual future peace.You get no hint of this looking at the idyllic painting.”
Amit was born and grew up in Israel and served in its army, as well as represented Israeli organizations in Canada for several years.“The paintings,” says Amit, a resident of Lunenburg, “are lovely, but the entire project, sponsored by the Atlantic Jewish Council, is an excellent example of what we Israelis call ‘hasbara.’”
Hasbara denotes Israel’s attempts to deflect growing world disfavour over its treatment of the Palestinians.“All art is political even when it appears not to be.This is especially the case when it is used to distract people’s attention from other matters.” says Amit, an artist himself and distinguished professor emeritus of Psychology at Montreal’s Concordia University.
Israel’s director-general for public diplomacy Gideon Meir, recently told the Jerusalem Post that his government was launching a 50 million shekel (approximately $17 million) worldwide campaign to counter criticism of the country.Meir said the campaign would try to “widen the lens and give the visitors a wider context of Israel beyond what they were provided in the media.”
Says Amit, ”The show in Halifax is consistent with Gideon Meir’s statement.It focuses the lens away from what’s really going on in Israel/Palestine and then covers that lens in coloured gauze.”
Adds Amit, “In recent months Israel has bombed Gaza killing 158 people, announced a huge illegal settlement building program, ransacked Palestinian villages, and killed unarmed civilians including children in the West Bank.A United Nations’ report just last week determined that Israel’s practice of ‘creeping annexation’ clearly violates the human rights of Palestinians, and demanded the country stop the practice immediately.How convenient for this art show to come at this time! ”
Zalman Amit is co-author (with fellow Israeli and south shore resident Daphna Levit) of the book Israeli Rejectionism: A Hidden Agenda in the Middle East Peace Process (Pluto Press, 2011).
Independent Jewish Voices – Canada (www.ijvcanada.org) is a national organization that promotes a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties. IJV has chapters in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria