The article on the Hebron Hills art exhibit at Tel Aviv University was garbled, to say the least. This is precisely because our society is confused about its terms. Two terms, specifically: “apolitical”, and “neutral”. We Israelis are terrified of being political. Artists, institutions, and non-profits rush to proclaim themselves “apolitical”. What they mean, of course, is that they are non-partisan, i.e., not affiliated with a political party. But what everyone is missing is that very few things are truly apolitical, nor should they be. As we’ve learned – or not – from the feminist movement, “The personal is political”. This is particularly true of the settlers, which is why Nurit Gazit, organizer of Hebron Hills Faces Tel Aviv, is being disingenuous about the benignness of her exhibit: If you’re a settler, everything you do, every breath you take – every brush stroke, in Gazit’s case – is political. If you’re not willing to admit this, you shouldn’t be there.
But Gazit isn’t the only one missing the point here: Tel Aviv University told Haaretz: “The application to mount the exhibition contained only the artistic and location aspect without including or mentioning politics. The library lobby serves as a platform for a variety of exhibitions,” prompting me to ask: Why is a university, of all places, and an artist, of all people, hiding from politics? Historically universities and artists have acted as platforms for causes — ordinarily progressive causes, but in this specific case, a right-wing cause. And that’s OK. What’s not OK is to deny it and claim to be apolitical, which in our case is a euphemism, code for “neutral when it comes to the territories”.
It is probably a good idea for certain entities to remain neutral, examples being Magen David Adom and organizations that advocate for the disabled. Those are the only examples I can think of offhand. Everyone else should have an opinion and stand behind it, whether or not I agree with it. In the case at hand, if the university were truly neutral, it would have turned Gazit’s application down unless the exhibit included works by non-Jewish Hebron Hills artists, rendering it balanced and worthy of discourse. As it stands, a university that gives a platform to the right only and calls its choice neutral (“apolitical”, as we like to say) fools no one, not even the artists themselves.
Nurit Gazit, I throw down the gauntlet: I challenge you to mount a genuine Hebron Hills artists’ exhibit that contains artistic works by settlers alongside works by Palestinian Hebron Hills residents. When you do so, and when the university hosts such an exhibit, then I’ll believe in claims of balance and neutrality. Until then, this is as political as it gets.