Inciting Violence and Supporting Terrorism at Israel’s Bezalel Art School
by Miriam Blum
Established in Jerusalem in 1906, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is considered one of Israel’s prestigious academic institutions for the study of Art, Architecture, and Design.
Recently, it has encouraged the popularity of “Saada” — a student-led movement producing artwork promoting anti-Israel extremism and glorifying terrorism. Earlier this month, Saada’s founder, Lubna A-Sane, the daughter of former Knesset member, Taleb A-Sane, was awarded the Keren Azrieli prize in architecture.
Lubna’s father, Taleb A-Sane, is an anti-Zionist, Bedouin Israeli politician and lawyer, who served in the Knesset for 20 consecutive years on behalf of the Ra’am Ta’al party. Throughout his two-decade-long career, A-Sane has been the subject of numerous controversies.
In August 2001, he participated in an interview with Abu Dhabi television, two months after the terrorist attack at the Dolphinarium discotheque on the beachfront in Tel Aviv, in which 21 Israeli civilians were killed. A-Sane said:
This is an operation of a special quality, because it was not intended against civilians but against soldiers in the heart of the State of Israel. The Israelis need to understand that if there is no security for the Palestinians, there will be no security either to the Israelis. Just like they come to Nablus, that’s how the Palestinians come to Tel Aviv.
In 2005, while serving in the Knesset, A-Sane visited Syria and met with various heads of the regime including the Secretary-General and founder of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Nayef Hawatama, who was responsible for the Ma’alot Massacre in which 24 children were killed. Shortly after his visit, a criminal investigation was opened against A-Sane, as he had visited an enemy country of the state of which he was an acting legislative representative, which was in violation of the law.
On May 15, 2008, A-Sane took part in commemorating “Nakba Day,” where Palestinian leaders lament the establishment of the State of Israel, and wrongly attribute the Palestinian refugee crisis to Israel — instead of the five Arab armies that attempted to destroy the fledgling Jewish state. During the ceremony, A-Sane actively participated and declared “Zionism [is] violent and racist.”
In April 2011, while lecturing at the Arab American University in Jenin, A-Sane accused the State of Israel of “enacting laws like that of Nazi Germany.” A-Sane also claimed that “Israel established special cities for Jews like the cities that were created in South Africa for white citizens during apartheid.” In 2020, when being interviewed on Radio Galei Israel, A-Sane stated that “harm against Israeli soldiers is a part of a struggle against the occupation army.”
In the case of Taleb and his daughter Lubna, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The Saada movement was established with the aim to promote “Palestinian Identity” among minority students at the art school. But the movement instead promotes violence and animosity between Arab and Jewish students, with artwork depicting crude and unmistakable antisemitism.
One of the most blatant Saada artistic works was made popular during Operation Guardian of the Walls, showing “methods of Palestinian popular resistance” with depictions of attacks on Israeli security forces and troops. The illustrations were posted on Saada’s Facebook page and were originally from a cartoon booklet published after the First Intifada. The brochure’s title was “methods of the Palestinian popular resistance.” Written next to photos detailing severe actions against Israelis, the caption read: “We wish our great men steadfastness and strength until victory.”
Pictures of the illustrations can be seen below, and here, here, and here.
Saada is openly glorifying terrorism, but the problems at Bezalel run deeper, as faculty have also promoted anti-Zionist propaganda.
In January 2023, Tamar Berger, a senior lecturer in the Department of Architecture issued an email with her colleagues addressed to students, declaring their sympathy and understanding of the “Palestinian struggle against Israeli police brutality and violent settlers.”
Berger wrote, with support from some of her associates, that they “understand the difficulty in learning in institutions run by the Israeli occupation,” and that they hope that through the contribution of higher education, social and political opinions can be transformed “for the better.” Berger stresses that she and her colleagues will “assist students to the best of their ability who struggle learning during the ongoing circumstances of occupation and call for professors to join the call in supporting the Palestinian cause.” The letter is riddled with falsehoods.
The Bezalel school should not be platforming student groups like Sadaa, and allowing faculty, in the name of academic freedom, to glorify terrorism and promote a narrative misrepresenting the Arab-Israeli conflict. Administrators at Bezalel must take action to ensure that the school does not allow hatred and bigotry to drown out true academic discourse and collaboration between Jewish and Arab students.
Miriam is a CAMERA on Campus fellow and MA student at Tel Aviv University.