Just hours before the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem hosted an event by Breaking the Silence NGO, which included a discussion of their latest report on Israeli settler influence on Israeli Defence Forces activities in the West Bank, the city municipality ordered the eviction of the independent gallery within 90 days, reported The Times of Israel on 8 February 2017.
The eviction notice came one day after Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, famous for leading a campaign that artists and organisations funded by the state must show loyalty to the state, sent Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat pressuring him to cancel the event. Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Dov Kalmanovich also called for the cancellation of the event.
Masha Zusman, gallery co-founder and director, told Hyperallergic that the city municipality quickly initiated an eviction hearing without any gallery representatives present.
“This has nothing to do with free speech,” Barkat said. “The municipality needs the building for other municipal purposes and will consult, among others, with neighbourhood representatives about its future use.”
The Times of Israel reported that less than two years ago Barkat said the gallery would remain open after a kindergarten that qualified to take over the gallery’s building found another location.
“We have been working for 11 and a half years, each year with different considerations, but in these last two years, it is completely clear that for us it’s now a fight for freedom of speech,” Zusman told Hyperallergic. “If today they are telling us what event to hold and not to hold, and if we agree on that, tomorrow they will come and tell us which art to show and not to show. It is our duty to confront that. If we didn’t, I don’t know what would be next.”
Operating against regulations
The municipality’s legal adviser said that “municipal planning and building regulations forbade the use of the building as a gallery, and that the non-profit organisation operating the gallery did not have a permit to use it”.
Zusman told The Art Newspaper they never had a contract that included rules about political activities: “This is an attempt to tell us what subjects can be in the gallery. This is a shutting of our mouths.”
The gallery has been in operation in the same building since 2005 and continues to operate with its planned events; it receives approximately two-thirds of its funding from the government.
“We don’t plan to move anywhere,” Zusman told The Art Newspaper. “We believe that we have a strong case in the court if it will go there.”
According to their website, Breaking the Silence is a non-profit organisation established in 2004 of veteran Israeli soldiers “who have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories”.
The organisation is seen as a left-wing organisation that often receives criticism from right-wing politicians and groups, including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
» The Art Newspaper – 15 March 2017
Gallery refuses eviction after hosting Israeli veterans’ group
» Barbur Gallery – 28 February 2017
A few words from us
» Hyperallergic – 21 February 2017
Jerusalem moves to evict art gallery for hosting event about occupied territories
» The Jerusalem Post – 9 February 2017
Barkat evicts owners of gallery hosting breaking the silence event
» The Times of Israel – 8 February 2017
City of Jerusalem evicts gallery after invite to left-wing group
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