Home Arts Tel Aviv Museum of Art Partially Closes in Support of Israel’s ‘Paralysis Day’

Tel Aviv Museum of Art Partially Closes in Support of Israel’s ‘Paralysis Day’

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The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel’s oldest art museum, has joined nationwide protests against the Israeli government’s controversial judicial reform.

On Thursday (March 23), the museum darkened its galleries, closed exhibits and canceled public lectures and tours. A press release described the closure as an act of protest against “the intensification of measures taken by the government to approve anti-democratic legislation”. However, the new exhibition of Israeli art from the museum’s collection remained open for free as a “position to support local creation”.

“These are historic days for our country and Israeli society,” said Tania Coen-Uzzielli, director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. “I encourage everyone to take a stand, whatever it is, and influence the future of this place.”

Museum management told staff they were free to join street protests on what was called Israel’s “paralysis day” if they took a day off.

Efforts by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government to exert greater control over the justice system and protect the prime minister from impeachment have prompted hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take to the streets for months. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former prime minister, joined the protests, along with senior figures from the security services and notable names from Israel’s business and academic sectors.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Thursday passed a law that will limit the possibilities for a sitting prime minister to be declared unfit for office. Protesters say the move is designed to protect Netanyahu, who faces an ongoing corruption trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases.

The controversial judicial reforms, introduced by Netanyahu’s Likud party, follow the Knesset’s repeal on Tuesday of a 2005 ban on four Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. The move comes amid rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions and has been condemned by the Palestinian Authority, the European Union and the US State Department.

In its statement of support for the protests, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art referred to its institutional mission to “promote freedom of thought and expression” and its “unreserved commitment to the values ​​of [1948] Declaration of Independence, on which Israeli society is founded”.

Israeli museums are increasingly becoming a focal point for protests. On Wednesday, hundreds of people demonstrated against the government outside the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, where several ministers were attending a conference. Protesters hung a large copy of the Declaration of Independence on the roof of the museum. Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin were scheduled to attend the event but canceled their attendance.

On March 6, at an event at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, billionaire philanthropist Batia Ofer also spoke out against the Israeli government in front of an audience of cultural figures. “We clearly lack strong leadership to be able to continue making Israel a democracy,” Ofer said. “We are literally fighting for our democracy on the streets of Israel.”

“Without peace, we will never have stability in the region,” Ofer added, referring to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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