This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights for May, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date: 8 May 2019
Artist: Action Zoo Humain, led by Chokri Ben Chika
Description of the antisemitic content: The Belgian city of Ghent hosted an art festival, called Tumult 7 in its public library in May. The five day festival hosted over 40 artists from the area, one of which was Chokri Ben Chika’s performance group Action Zoo Humain. The group performed an adapted version of the recent Eurovision theme song “Dare to Dream”, the moto of this year’s Eurovision, which was held in Israel. The aim of the adapted song, according to Action Zoo Humain, was to be “ironic about ‘dare to dream’ and its message of inclusion, diversity and unity.” The song was meant to be critical of the Israeli government, with Action Zoo Humain claiming the Eurovision was being used as a smokescreen for apartheid in Israel. Throughout the song, there is no distinction made between Israel and its government, and Jews as a whole. There are very clear signs that the song is talking not only about Israel, but about Jewish people, too. At one point in the video there are people dressed as soldiers standing in front of an EU flag, which has been altered to have the Star of David with the word ‘Jew’ written in different languages inside it. It bears similarities to the the yellow badges used to identify Jews during World War 2. The lyrics also allude to Jews being taught to hate other religions and about fear and terror.
The case and the festival in general did catch the attention of local media. However, when talking about the Action Zoo Humain performance, journalists remained passive and failed to point out the antisemitic tropes. An article on Het Laatste Nieuws mentions that the collective was adapting the symbolic #DareToDream to the “Israeli reality”.
Myth debunked: The main issue here is that the Action Zoo Humain group failed to differentiate between Israel and Jews, grouping them and the criticism of them together. The yellow badges with Jew written on the European flag clearly signal that this song is not just about Israel and therefore brings a different level of meaning to the song. The line between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism is one that has been much debated, and one that is at times abused by those who want to cover up their antisemitism. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defines antisemitism as: “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Anti-Zionism, or criticism of Israel, is not inherently antisemitic: one can critique the state of Israel without being antisemitic. Dr. Anna Szilagyi explains: “Any country can be criticized for its domestic or foreign policies. Nevertheless, in the case of Israel, a state of which majority of population is Jewish, the real purpose of the criticism of the country can also be the spread of antisemitism. This happens when instead of meaningful critique, anti-Jewish clichés are evoked in the context of the Jewish state.” Action Zoo Humain’s performance crosses the line from anti-Zionism to antisemitism, a fact which the media failed to pick up.
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