Since the end of May the prestigious Paris museum, the Jeu de Paume has been hosting a photo exhibition entitled “Phantom Home: Death”, by Ahlam Shibli. On display till the beginning of September, this exhibition is composed of several exhibits – the main one comprising 68 photos of Palestinian suicide bombers, described as “Freedom Fighters” and called “those who lost their lives fighting against the occupation”. There are photos of captured Palestinian terrorists, described as “Failed Suicide Martyrs” (“istishhadi”).
In the section of the exhibition called “Trackers, Palestine/Israel Trauma, Corrèze, France 2008-2009 Death. Palestine, 2011-12” Ms. Shibli, herself author of the notes for each exhibit, describes “the case of a French society which lost their lives in a war of liberation and members of the same society, who immediately after World War II, died in colonial wars against the independence of other peoples”. In an implicit comparison between Israelis and Nazis, she refers to Jewish survivors of Nazism living in a country which became “an overwhelming colonial power, forcing the Palestinians to invest their bodies and that which is dearest to them: their loyalty to their own people and, ultimately, their own lives.” In the section devoted to the Israeli Bedouin who served in the Israeli Defence Forces she implies clearly that these are collaborators and traitors to the “Palestinian cause”.
Among the murderers featured are Wafa Idris, Palestinian Red Crescent nurse, whose suicide bombing, on the 27th January 2002, caused two deaths and 90 injured, Jerusalem bus bomber Sa’ed Awada, who, on 18th June 2002, murdered 19 people and injured 74, and Ahmed Salim Abu Khalil, who, on 12th July 2005, massacred 5 people and injured 61 in front of a shopping complex in Naharya. Tribute is also paid to Bassat Qassem Odeh, who, on 19th M ay 2002, was one of those responsible for the Seder massacre at Netanya’s Park hotel, which left 29 dead and 130 injured – among the victims of which were Holocaust survivors.
If at the time of the IRA bombings or the outrages committed by members of the Baader-Meinhof gang a major state-funded museum had put on an exhibition making excuses for or glorifying these, in some way or other, it is extremely probable, if not certain, that the British or German government would have publicly protested to the government of the country in question.
In the speech of the 27th July 2013 which you addressed to Israeli citizens on resumption of the diplomatic process, justifying the unilateral release of murderers in exchange for the guaranteed participation in talks of the Palestinian Authority, you stated: “From time to time, prime ministers are called on to make decisions that go against public opinion – when the matter is important for the country. …. At the present time, it seems to me that it is very important for the State of Israel to enter into a diplomatic process.”
You also said: “This is an incomparably difficult decision, it is painful for the bereaved families and it is painful for the entire nation and it is also very painful for me. It collides with the incomparably important value of justice. It is a clear injustice when depraved people, even if most of them have sat in prison for over 20 years as in this case, are released before they have finished serving their sentences.”
I am sure that you will make sure that your government will take the necessary steps to support the efforts made by devoted defenders of justice like Gilles-William Goldnadel and Richard Rossin and organisations like CRIF – representative body for French Jewry – and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, who have called for Ahlam Shibli’s murderer-glorifying exhibition to be cancelled, and that your government will publicly protest to the French government. I am sure that you will ensure that this protest gets the maximum media publicity.
Paul Leslie (Docteur de l’Université de Paris 4, Sorbonne)