By: Fern Sidman
Artists 4 Israel Counter Anti-Israel Propaganda through Education
Hip Hop artists and graffiti virtuosos from New York painting their way throughout Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Sderot? Who’d a thunk it, but it appears that a new organization called Artists 4 Israel will be doing just that. Founded about a year ago following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, young artists in the New York area had just about enough of the incessant anti-Israel propaganda being spewed forth by the “politically correct” denizens of the radically left-wing enclaves that figure so prominently in the eclectic world of the New York artist and decided to do something about it.
Taking a courageously bold stance in their support for Israel, a cadre of young artists led by New York artists Craig Dershowitz, Tara Lyn Gordon and Seth Wolfson and several others were determined to debunk the ubiquitous myths that circulate about Israel being a racist, apartheid state and a callous war machine bent on the destruction of its enemies. Thus, Artists 4 Israel was born as an umbrella organization for graffiti and street artists, alternative poets and playwrights, hip hop musicians, modern dance troupes, photographers, sculptors and rap chanteurs to express their support for Israel as an open and free pluralistic society that fosters artistic license and expression. Through the implementation of highly inventive educational modalities as well as original street theater and other creative outlets they have succeeded in opening the hearts and minds of a new generation.
“Hamas started a culture war. We decided to be pro-active rather than defensive. Artists 4 Israel is the offense. Rather than countering the misconceptions, lies and hate preached by the terrorist funded Hamas culture war against Israel, A4I utilizes the arts to tell our own stories and create our own narratives highlighting the rights, beauty and strength of Israel”, intoned Craig Dershowitz, a founding member of the group.
For the last year, this seminal movement of collective artists and culture warriors has virtually exploded within the parameters of the chic art scene by “creating their own narrative” and garnering support in the bastions of the downtown art gallery world. “When the war in Gaza broke out, our artists started painting really great signs for the pro-Israel demonstrations that were held and people took notice of the fact that our signs were way more powerful than those of Israel’s detractors. Subsequently, we held a pro-Israel art gallery showing in Manhattan that drew close to 500 people and 85% of those in attendance were contemporary artists under the age of 30. It was then that we knew that Artists 4 Israel could really have a major impact in the liberal arts community”, said Mr. Dershowitz
Other awareness initiatives began soon thereafter including “The Keffiyah Exchange Program” which was modeled on the NYPD’s Cash for Guns program. While the keffiyah fashion craze has gripped the artists community, many in the Jewish world are disturbed by the jihadist symbolism that it represents. As such, Artists 4 Israel is offering “Free Stuff for Stupid Scarves” in partnership with a number of clothing brands, bars and restaurants and is giving away gifts to anyone who gives up their keffiyah at any of their drop off locations.
In order to spotlight the brutal oppression of women by male hegemonies in Islamic countries, Ariists 4 Israel
has created a campaign to “dress down radical Islam” by sending out their own civilian cops or “fashion police” to hand out what appears to be tickets to immodesty dressed women on New York’s most populous streets. In actuality, these tickets are postcards addressed to the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, DC protesting their nation’s treatment of women as inherently inferior beings. The A4I web site says, “Israel is a country of many freedoms, including equal rights and protection for women. By contrasting these liberties with the oppression and subjugation practiced by Israel’s neighbors Artists 4 Israel demonstrates the strength of Israel’s democracy”.
Empowering and educating young artists is also a major tenet of Artists 4 Israel and as such the group conducts programs on high school and college campuses. Artists 4 Israel teaches students that they have the power to use their individual talents and creativity to become advocates of their chosen causes. A4I offers practical guidance and leadership training to help students affect change.”What makes our organization effective is the fact that we are totally inclusive and we reach out to everyone, irrespective of religion, race or nationality. While we are an advocacy group for Israel, we are non-political and we do not take stances on issues pertaining to the conflicts between religious and non-religious factions in Israel or the disparity of viewpoints between the left wing or right wing parties”, said Mr. Dershowitz.
The highlight of this year’s A4I activities will take place from April 24th until May 2nd, when Artists 4 Israel will be sending some of America’s most famous street and graffiti artists to Israel on their “Murality” project. Murality joins the words “mural” and “morality” to display an ideal of justice within and through art. “Israel is a country that is predicated on the highest levels of morality and ethics” said Mr. Dershowitz and “we want our artists (who are not Jewish) to experience this first hand.”
The artists will be traveling to Sderot, Kiryat Gat, Herzliyah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to battle terror and rockets with messages of unity and peace. In Sderot and Kiryat Gat the artists will be conducting art therapy classes with the children of these war torn communities who often experience post-traumatic stress disorder. These children and the entire community will join with the artists to transform the grim reminders of terrorism into soaring masterpieces of freedom and expression. While in Sderot, they will paint bomb shelters, Chabad’s rocket defense walls, army bases, the Jewish National Fund’s Indoor Recreational Center and Ateret Esther, the only school not fully protected from rocket attacks. In Kiryat Gat they will transform bombed out buildings into living art installations. In Jerusalem, they will design murals for “The Story of Hope”, a haven for Jewish women trapped in abusive relationships with Arab partners. In Tel Aviv, the artists will organize a large scale art exhibit of their works for the entire community in one day.
“Our art ambassadors will be painting from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed”, said Mr. Dershowitz. We want them to maximize their time and efforts as the artists hope to share their gift with as many of Israel’s residents and organizations as possible” he continued. Artists 4 Israel has also attracted the attention of Israeli performance artists including Meital Dohan, a leading actress in the Showtime series “Weeds”, who contacted A4I indicating her interest in becoming involved in this endeavor and has been chosen to be the official spokesperson for the “Murality” project in Israel.
“It is our fervent hope that this trip to Israel will prove that America’s avantgarde arts community supports Israel by sharing a message of hope and peace from America to Israel” said Mr. Dershowitz.