(JTA) — Several staff members at a leading art magazine resigned in protest over the weekend after their editor-in-chief was fired following the publication of a letter that was sharply critical of Israel.
Pro-Israel figures in the art world had condemned Artforum and its editor in chief, David Velasco, since the magazine’s publication of a letter expressing support for “Palestinian liberation” without mentioning the 1,400 people murdered when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
The drama at Artforum follows similar sagas at other arts and culture institutions in the wake of Hamas’ attack and Israel’s military response in Gaza. At 92NY in New York City, for example, staff members resigned and a book-talk series was scrapped after the venerable Jewish cultural institution canceled a talk with an author who had signed a different open letter condemning Israel.
David Velasco, who had worked at Artforum since 2005, was let go Thursday, one week after he oversaw the publication of an open letter “from the art community to cultural organizations.”
Declaring, “We support Palestinian liberation,” the letter condemned what it called “the institutional silence” of the art world to “the crimes against humanity that the Palestinian people are facing.” It also endorsed a ceasefire in Gaza. In addition to being signed by Jewish art-world luminaries including Nan Goldin and Barbara Kruger, the letter was also signed by Velasco himself.
The letter’s initial wording made no mention of the Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian terror group Hamas. A clause added Oct. 23, several days after publication, notes that the letter’s original, unnamed organizers “share revulsion at the horrific massacres of 1,400 people in Israel conducted by Hamas on October 7th” and “hope for the expeditious return of all hostages” along with a ceasefire. But it claimed that the new text could not be circulated to all 8,000 of the original letter’s signatories.
Days later, Velasco was reportedly summoned to a meeting with Jay Penske, CEO of the media conglomerate that owns Artforum. At the meeting, The Intercept reported, Velasco was fired. That same day, the magazine’s publishers posted a separate item noting that the letter “was not consistent with ‘Artforum’’s editorial process” and saying it had been “misinterpreted” as reflecting the position of the magazine.
“I have no regrets,” Velasco told the New York Times in an email. “I’m disappointed that a magazine that has always stood for freedom of speech and the voices of artists has bent to outside pressure.”
Following Velasco’s firing, according to ARTNews, at least four editors resigned from Artforum in protest and dozens more employees and contributors signed their own open letter demanding he be reinstated. They argued that his firing over the letter stifled the kind of “cultural debate” the magazine had staked its reputation on. In addition, several artists have declared their intention not to work with Artforum in the future, including Goldin and the Jewish painter Nicole Eisenman.
Some artists who removed their names from the letter after its initial publication said they had done so following what they characterized as a pressure campaign by pro-Israel art collectors. The Intercept reported that Bed Bath & Beyond heir Martin Eisenberg contacted at least four artist signatories of the letter whose work he owns to voice his objections.
The New York Times reported that Jewish museum fundraiser Sarah Lehat Blumenstein told a WhatsApp group she was prepared to launch a “deaccession plan” to “diminish the artists’ status”; Blumenstein told the Times that such a plan was not active.
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Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta
i24 News – A protester was in critical condition on Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also wounded.
A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference. He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.
JUST IN: A pro-Palestine protester is in critical condition after they set themselves on fire in “political protest” outside of the Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta.
The protester was reportedly draped in a Palestine flag.
The protester has severe burns and unfortunately, a… pic.twitter.com/B8nUQAj2nU
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 1, 2023
“We do not see any threat here,” he said. “We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred.” Everyone inside the consulate building was said to be safe.
Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S., said: “We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building. It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way.”
“The sanctity of life is our highest value. Our prayers are with the security officer who was injured while trying to prevent this tragic act. We are grateful to the city of Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders for all they do to ensure safety.”
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Released Israeli Hostages Call for Captives to Be Freed
Israeli hostages released in the past week by Hamas in Gaza called on Saturday for the immediate release of fellow captives left behind, a day after a temporary truce that had allowed scores to come home broke down.
Tens of thousands gathered at a rally in Tel Aviv outside Israel‘s defense headquarters, where they cheered Yelena Trupanov, 50, standing on a stage just two days after being freed.
“I came to thank you because without you I wouldn’t be here. Now we must bring back my (son) Sasha, and everyone. Now.”
Similar pleas from other released hostages were shown on video.
A seven-day truce, during which Hamas had released more than 100 hostages, collapsed on Friday after Hamas breached the ceasefire.
Israel said on Saturday it had recalled a Mossad intelligence agency team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal that would have freed all children and women held hostage.
More than 240 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were abducted to Gaza on Oct 7. by Hamas terrorists who burst through the border with Israel and killed 1,200 people.
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IDF Foils Stabbing Attack Near Nablus in West Bank, Eliminates Terrorist
i24 News – The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported thwarting a stabbing attack on Saturday afternoon against reserve Battalion 7037 at the X junction near Nablus in the West Bank.
According to the IDF spokesperson, the event unfolded when the forces at the roadblock became suspicious of an individual approaching the barricade.
During the questioning process, the suspect suddenly drew a knife and advanced towards the IDF personnel.
ניסיון פיגוע דקירה אירע לפני זמן קצר לעבר כוח צה”ל במילואים מגדוד 7037 שפעל בחסם בצומת האיקס סמוך לעיר שכם שבמרחב חטיבת שומרון.
הכוח חשד במחבל שהגיע לחסם והחל לתחקר אותו, המחבל שלף סכין והחל להתקדם לעבר הכוח.
הלוחמים חתרו למגע והגיבו בירי לעבר המחבל שחוסל. אין נפגעים לכוחותינו. pic.twitter.com/mEaJs58hpE
— דובר צה״ל דניאל הגרי – Daniel Hagari (@IDFSpokesperson) December 2, 2023
The soldiers, faced with the threat, engaged in contact procedures and ultimately responded by opening fire on the assailant. The spokesperson confirmed that the attacker was neutralized due to the IDF’s action.
It was also noted that there were no casualties among the IDF forces involved in the incident. According to the spokesperson, the situation at the X junction has stabilized, and IDF continues to maintain vigilance in the area to prevent further attacks.
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