Hamas is not Palestine and Netanyahu is not Israel

The position of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design Bratislava on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the end of November, the Rector of the AFAD Bohunka Koklesová, the Vice-Rector Marcel Benčík and Martin Piaček from the Department of Intermedia visited Israel. The decision to go to the country at the time of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was related to the need to visit our partner schools Shenkar in Ramat Gan (Tel Aviv) and Bezalel in Jerusalem in order to get to know the current situation of our colleagues and students. 


The AFAD is a school that speaks out on public affairs. That is why we have been approached by several cultural institutions to join the pro-Palestinian support. In this regard, we as a school have taken a restrained stance, as the situation surrounding the current war in the Middle East is not as clear-cut as that of the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 


The visit to both schools showed that the situation is not simple.  Classes have not even started, several percent of students from both institutions have to fulfill their duties as reservists for the Izrael army, a large part of them or their families have been directly affected by the development of the conflict, some of them may not even start their studies. Israeli and Palestinian teachers teach together at both schools, while at the same time many have been opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies in recent years, due to his leanings towards right-wing extremism, changes to the judicial system and, more recently, his failure to secure southern areas of Israel from Hamas attacks. The terrorist acts of Hamas on kibbutzim in the south of the country, as well as the taking of Israeli hostages, can be considered war crimes as well as crimes against humanity. Israel's military retaliation has been and is extreme, with a large number of civilian casualties. The two art schools thus find themselves in a situation where, despite long-standing criticism of the current government's policy, which has intensified in recent months, many teachers and students have had to return to the army.


It is important now for the AFAD not to judge one side or the other. Unlike many universities and students’ organizations in the world, where there is often only pro-Palestinian support, we believe that we should turn our attention to partners with whom we have long cooperated and whose views we know well. The representatives of both schools perceived the visit from the AFAD with gratitude, understanding and as a sign of friendship.


It was agreed to organize one-way mobility from Israel to Slovakia starting in the summer semester, consisting of Israeli and Palestinian teachers and students. We will try to bring the ambivalence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the school and in our conversations, we will try to understand how difficult it is to find our way to each other. Personal experience is the key for us to form our own opinion, which will not be taken over from the protesting universities. We will talk directly to people who come from the region and who shape their attitudes through art and culture.


There are big and small histories. The big ones include political decisions that have an impact on the lives of particular people, collectives and schools. We should be concerned with the small histories, because they actually reflect the anatomy of suffering, the rise of hostility and anti-Semitism, the syndrome of homeland loss, as well as oppression in a circumscribed zone. It is these lived experiences that become the subject of art and tell the stories in full for centuries. Hamas is not Palestine and Netanyahu is not Israel. Beneath the layers of these political structures are vast numbers of desperate and unhappy people. To see and experience this is something that changes a person forever.


Tel Aviv, 26.-28.11.2023