Anti-Semitic Artwork Raises Eyebrows, but Not Hard Questions, in Germany

In May, one of Germany’s most prestigious art shows featured a giant mural created by an Indonesian artistic collective called Taring Padi. According to Taring Padi, “figures depicted in the banner reference commonly-known symbols within the Indonesian political context, for example corrupt bureaucracy, military generals [sic] and their soldiers, which are symbolized by pigs, dogs, and rats to criticize an exploitative capitalist system and military violence.” Jurek Molnar explains the ensuing controversy, which led to parts of the mural being covered up, before it was removed completely:

What is not mentioned [in the official description] is that some of the soldiers are depicted as pigs and one of them has a line on his helmet that reads “Mossad.” He is also wearing a Star of David on a scarf. Another figure is a somehow-identifiable Jewish man with vampire teeth and an “SS” logo on his bowler hat. The banner itself was made twenty years ago and shown around the world at several festivals of the same kind and nobody ever seemed to have taken offence. At least that’s the perspective of Taring Padi. They were never challenged at all, because “anti-Zionism” is a standard idea among progressives all around the world and outside Europe they never triggered any sensitivities.

Their perspective is what most progressives think about the issue. Anti-imperialism and anti-militarism come by default with a Palestinian flag. And nobody ever questioned that Taring Padi’s noble activism against Suharto’s dictatorship and its critique of militarism naturally has to involve Jews painted as pigs and vampires. If these are really “commonly-known symbols within the Indonesian political context,” then these must be quite regular images in [the artists’] work and of course in their own bubble of global political leftwing milieux.

The condemnations in the German press were shared by all mainstream media organizations; even demands for banning Taring Padi from the festival were widespread. That’s not nothing. But . . . Taring Padi’s excuse that the banner only reflects local political issues was accepted without further questions and they will continue to propagate their noble cause against imperialism and militarism. . . . . Nobody, it seems, wasted any thought how anti-Semitism and Jews with SS signs on their hats do play into the political protests in Indonesia.

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Read more at Harry’s Place

More about: Anti-Semitism, Art, Germany, Indonesia, Progressivism

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy