This letter originally appeared on Wednesday, July 23, 2013, on the official (today archived) Blog of Artists 4 Israel.
An Open Letter to Shuki Sadeh and the Haaretz
I do not write nor speak on behalf of the JNF and, although I do speak for Artists 4 Israel, this letter is not on their behalf. As an author and a proud supporter of freedom of press, I write on behalf of journalism. What you have published is not an article, it is not reporting, it is a thinly and insultingly poorly veiled editorial. It is out of date, fallacious, inflammatory and flies in the face of journalistic standards. Oh, yeah, and it is really, really poorly written.
At your own words (words you use twice in one sentence – high school writing 101 mistake), Artists 4 Israel is a “small organization”, yet, you spend a whole half a page above the fold decrying our work. Must have been a slow news day or, perhaps, there is something more here. After all, if you are going to give us so much press (PS, thanks for that), you should at least really make your accusations sting and not just ridicule our size. Yet, the best you do is describe us as “right-wing” (again, using that phrase twice – seriously, can we buy you a thesaurus – maybe the JNF will pay for it) yet your only proof of this political orientation is that we paint “Pro-Israel” messages. Your equation then is that “Pro-Israel” is synonymous with “right-wing”. We do not ascribe to a notion of right and left wing as such divisive politics is an invention of bigots like yourself who choose to separate and alienate. We choose to unite. We believe that beauty of art is pan-wing. However we do see your bias through this false equivalency. Yours is a sad belief which paints (pun intended) everything life affirming with the gloomy sepia of politrix (typo very much intended).
Spray-paint (I want to write “sic” here but I think it is more relevant to point out that you don’t even copy edit your own work. It is spray paint – two words, no hyphen) is a form of creation. It is creation, like the Third Temple might be. It is creation like our paintings in Judea, Samaria, Tel Aviv, Ariel, Shiloh, Arab villages across Israel, mixed schools and community centers. We have created art in child daycare centers, in refuges for battered women and homes for at-risk children. It is creation like the JNF’s planting of trees, building of parks, growing of flowers, green grass and a hopeful earth-driven future. It is the opposite of your attempts to destruct and to destroy. Grab a can of spray paint (hyphenate if you must) or a handful of seeds and earth and create something other than the fictions in your reporting. No one can hate life that much so, maybe there is something else going on here.
Your story’s lies go from the wishful (saying we come to Israel to paint every few months (if only!) to the mundane (there are no videos on our website) to the slanderous (painting on a “Palestinian’s” home never happened). The only truth in your fable comes from your uncredited appropriation of a JPR video. The JPR, unlike you, are serious, investigative journalists. Their story was timely (aka the “new” part of “news”), their reporters were on the ground, their sources were primary, their reporting comprehensive and multi-sided. You couldn’t even post the video that matched your description of it! That is not me speaking on the video. That is SKI, a member of the UR New York art collective, a New Yorker of Dominican descent and Catholic beliefs. Yet, you hinted at some sort of racist, evil religious Jewish plot in our painting of the Temple. That makes no sense. Maybe there is something more going on here.
SKI’s words are precious. He informs everyone (well, except for your editorial staff it seems) that he is there “spreading the word of peace through art”. Peace. Art. Creation. How dare you respond to such unbridled life affirming actions with destructive lies and hate?
SKI’s words are also prescient. Being in Israel to “see the reality – it is not what you read about.” According to your words, Haaretz is “the world’s leading English-language Website for real-time news and analysis of Israel and the Middle East” As such, it is the monolith of your bastardized reporting that is creating the misrepresentation of Israel that SKI had to venture into Hebron to expose.
And, SKI learned the truth well. While bricks and giant rocks were being hurled at him in an attempt to maim and kill an artist of the world by “Palestinians”, SKI was being treated to watermelon and lemonade by his new Israeli friends. When a group of stick weilding “Palestinian” youth tried to ambush SKI, he was saved by an IDF soldier. When SKI asked the soldier why he wore his helmet in the sweltering heat he was told because it was too unsafe for him to take it off. SKI learned, even in the heart of Hebron, a site of so much ridicule from your paper, that he loves Israel. “This place is amazing. It is this little gem.” And, he hadn’t even seen the Tel Aviv beach.
If only you could see what SKI saw. If only you could see the country through the wide-open eyes of an unbiased observer. But, you can’t because you were not there. You weren’t even there when you wrote this article. If only you could remove your destruction-tinged glasses that want only to strip and break. But, you can’t. You can’t because there is something else going on here.
Maybe you are not just evil-doers who hate all art and creation. It would be very Haaretz of me to make such black and white, sweepingly broad, generalizations. It would be far too much like the “reporting” of Mr. Sadeh to make accusations without merit and to find negative in all your actions. Maybe SKI was prescient again when he said that graffiti is “more powerful than any billboard…anything that advertisers spend money on.” While your market share continues to plummet in Israel, your pay walls become increasingly taller. While your subscription base dwindles, your need for financing becomes greater. Perhaps that is why my computer is littered with pop-up ads whenever I have to pay to access one of your hit pieces. It is well known that bashing Israel creates controversy that then begets readership. Controversy increases when you drag a name like the JNF into your fire as you attempt to siphon off their following at the same time you steal a JPR article hoping to cannibalize their readership. Maybe this is what is going on.
Maybe you are not haters of art. Maybe you are just petty thieves. Trying to rob the JNF and JPR makes (corrupt and nefarious) sense. But, including such a “small” and “small” (if you read closely, you will get this joke) organization like mine seems foolish. After all, I don’t have a PR office like the JNF. I don’t have filters and talking points. I have this silly little thing called reality and this big stupid thing called a mouth and I use both often. So, why pick on us? we have nothing to lose. After all, I don’t write to you to ask you to fix your erroneous comments (we all know you fired or merged your corrections department long ago in an attempt to stop the fiscal bleeding). Thinking Mr. Sadeh would open his eyes to nuance or dialogue is silly too – we’ve seen his other “articles”. I write because you are bigger than us and if I can bait you into the next round of this fight you started, I might be able to get some free publicity and some funding and go to Israel and add beauty as often as you think we do. That is my gain. You do not have a similar advancement from throwing stones at us.
Unless, and this would be awesome, we are not as inconsequential as you try and make us appear. When we painted bomb shelters in Sderot, we helped expose the world to the constant trauma that “Palestinian” rockets inflict upon Israel. When we painted in Hebron, our artists were exposed to the violence that “Palestinians” visit upon their Israeli neighbors and, in this case, on visiting international artists with no political agenda. When we paint in Judea and Samaria, we expose the warmth and righteousness of these people you sneeringly call settlers. When we speak, we elevate and educate. We provide truth and, like good journalists should, bring reality to the eyes of the uninformed. Artists 4 Israel must be on the cusp of exposing something good if you are attacking us preemptively. Like the Temple being re-built, I hope we find whatever it is that you fear and we expose it speedily. Maybe we already know something about you and why the JNF and JPR are so fearful to you. Then again, maybe we don’t. Whatever it is, it is coming. In the meantime, I thank you for your support.