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Art Not Genocide Alliance

We, the undersigned, call for the exclusion of Israel from the Venice Biennale. As the art world readies itself to visit the Giardini’s nation-state diorama, we say platforming art representing a state engaged in ongoing atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza is unacceptable. No Genocide Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

The world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, has affirmed that Israel is plausibly committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The ICJ has issued interim measures warning Israel to cease any acts of genocide in Gaza. Israel’s months- and in fact many-decades-long assault on Gaza continues regardless, while its leaders proclaim they are above International Law and boldly advertise their genocidal intent. 

The Biennale was modelled on the Eurocentric world fair and retains these geopolitical biases. Demands for it to acknowledge atrocities committed by its participants are not, however, without precedent. From 1950-1968, due to widespread global condemnation and calls for boycott, apartheid South Africa was discouraged from exhibiting and sidelined when the Biennale allocated spaces. An official ban was put in place in 1968 based on the UN resolution 2396 to suspend “exchanges with the racist regime.” South Africa was not readmitted until its apartheid rule was abolished in 1993. 

Leading international, Palestinian, and Israeli human rights organisations have long argued that Israel’s occupation of Palestine, of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip — deemed illegal by the UN Resolution 242 of November 1967 — constitutes, together with its treatment of Palestinians inside 1948 borders, a cruel system of apartheid and a crime against humanity.

In 2022, with Russia’s war on Ukraine freshly underway, the Biennale and its curator issued numerous public statements in support of the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination, freedom, and humanity. The Biennale’s public condemnation of “the unacceptable military aggression by Russia” included an avowal to reject “any form of collaboration with those who have carried out or supported such a grievous act of aggression” and a refusal to “accept the presence at any of its events of official delegations, institutions or persons tied in any capacity to the Russian government.” 

The Biennale has been silent about Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians. We are appalled by this double standard. Israel’s assault on Gaza constitutes one of the most intense bombardments in history. By the end of October 2023 Israel had already fired tonnes of explosives on Gaza equal in force to the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. In January 2024 it was reported that the daily death rate in Gaza exceeds that of any other major conflict in the 21st century.  

The Israeli pavilion curators and artist have issued a simplistic statement about the necessity of art in dark times, insisting on a “pocket for free expression and creation amidst everything that’s happening.”  Another double standard. 

Art does not happen in a vacuum (let alone a “pocket”), and cannot transcend reality. Euphemisms cannot erase violent truths. Any work that officially represents the state of Israel is an endorsement of its genocidal policies. There is no free expression for the Palestinian poets, artists, and writers murdered, silenced, imprisoned, tortured, and prevented from travelling abroad or internally by Israel. There is no free expression in the Palestinian theatres and literary festivals shut down by Israel. There is no free expression in the museums, archives, publications, libraries, universities, schools, and homes of Gaza bombed to rubble by Israel. There is no free expression in the war crime of cultural genocide. 

While the Israeli pavilion presses ahead, the genocidal death toll in Gaza and the West Bank increases daily. While Israel’s curatorial team plans their “Fertility Pavilion” reflecting on contemporary motherhood, Israel has murdered more than 12,000 children and destroyed access to reproductive care and medical facilities. As a result, Palestinian women have C-sections without anaesthetic and give birth in the street.

Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza. 

The Biennale is platforming a genocidal apartheid state. 

No death in Venice. 

No business as usual. 



ANGA - Art Not Genocide Alliance

*** An earlier version of this letter suggested the absence of Palestinian artists from the Biennale’s collateral program. While an exhibition titled “Foreigners in their Homeland” by the Palestine Museum US was rejected, the project “South West Bank: Landworks, Collective action and Sound” by Artists + Allies x Hebron includes Palestinian artists.


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