Scottish gallery cancels Israel embassy sponsorship cash

A Scottish art gallery has cancelled the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship of an exhibition after anti-Israel activists threatened to mount a 90-day protest.

The embassy had paid around £1,300 to support video artist Yael Bartana’s contribution to a project on diaspora communities. The money had been provided by the embassy despite Ms Bartana’s well-publicised criticism of the Israeli government’s policies towards Palestinians.

Her work went on display last week at the prestigious Stills gallery in Edinburgh. The gallery returned the money and removed the embassy’s logo from promotional material. The exhibition will run until July 20.

A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora features the work of seven international artists, looking at minority groups in countries including Togo, Finland and China, as well as Israel.

The embassy said it was ironic that the boycotters had demanded the money be returned, despite Ms Bartana’s stance towards her own government, and its willingness to support her regardless.

An embassy spokesman said: “The role of culture is to open channels of understanding and foster dialogue. We regret that a divisive minority has in effect blackmailed a reputable cultural institution into withdrawing the embassy’s support.”

The British Embassy in Tel Aviv also condemned the gallery’s decision. But the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed the gallery’s action, which came after the group told Stills it would “mount a sustained protest against Israeli government involvement every day of the three-month run”.

A Stills spokesman would not discuss the reasons behind the return of the money, but said: “Despite the change in funding, the list of exhibiting artists and works has remained unchanged.”

Born in Afula, Ms Bartana studied photography at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and in New York. She has said she is not “an Israel hater” or a political activist but accepted that her work had “a more critical point of view”.

Last updated: 4:45pm, April 24 2014