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Home arrow Canada and the Middle East arrow Why is the Israeli ambassador so unhappy about a multimedia art installation at Ottawa City Hall?
Why is the Israeli ambassador so unhappy about a multimedia art installation at Ottawa City Hall? PDF Print E-mail
Jul 02, 2014 at 01:46 PM

An open letter from Peter Larson


The Israeli ambassador apparently asked the City of Ottawa to take down this small multimedia installation, entitled "Visible", now on display at city hall. The Mayor, Jim Watson, has declined to do so. Please find below a copy of a letter I sent yesterday to His Honour the mayor.

Dear Mayor Watson and counsellors,

According to the Ottawa Citizen, you were visited this week by Israeli Ambassador Raphael Barak. Among other things he apparently expressed unhappiness about “Invisible”, the art installation at City Hall by Palestinian Canadian artist Rehab Nizzal. We are given to understand that he thought it “glorifies terror”.

I am not surprised that the exhibit would make the Ambassador uncomfortable and that he would want it removed.

This is because it graphically shows Israeli terror inflicted on Palestinians - something we don’t hear very much about. It reflects the artist’s memories of expulsion and the terror and repression suffered by her and her family. The largest part of the exhibit (the wall of photos) is composed of real stills from a video taken during a live “training exercise” by Israeli troops at one of Israel’s most notorious prisons. This terror was conducted by Israelis – not by Palestinians. (If you are interested, you will find below a bit more background to the incidents reflected in the installation.)

The Israel/Palestine issue is difficult and complex. It needs calm discussion and a cold assessment of the reality. My organization is dedicated to educating Canadians about all aspects of the issue.Limiting discussion, or hiding information, will not lead to solving the problem.

For this reason, I hope the Citizen article indicating that you have not acceded to the Ambassador’s demands, is accurate.

I would be very happy to meet with you, Mr. Mayor, or with any counsellors, who would like to know more about this sad and complex issue.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Larson
National Education Committee on Israel Palestine
National Council on Canada Arab Relations
email: peter.larson@nccar.ca
tel: 613 729 3660

A bit of background to the installation..

What is it that the show actually makes "visible"?

On October 27, 2007, Israeli security personnel carried out a secret “training exercise” at Ketziot Prison located in the middle of the Negev Desert.

Ktzi'ot Prison is Israel's largest detention facility in terms of land area, encompassing 400,000 square metres (99 acres). It is also the largest detention camp in the world. Today it is estimated to contain over 6,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited the camp in August 1990 and documented the shocking conditions in the prison. According to Wikipedia, no human rights organization has been allowed to visit the camp since.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ktzi'ot_Prison

The objective of the 2007 "training exercise" was to improve the effectiveness of Israel’s security forces in riot control.

This was done by launching an attack on sleeping prisoners at 2 a.m., provoking a riot, which then was brutally put down. One prisoner, Muhammad Ashqar was killed and over a hundred were injured.

Amazingly, because it was a “training exercise” the event was videotaped and eventually leaked to the Israeli public.  The video is captioned “Massada Unit Training - archive”. The Massada Unit is described as “the most combative unit in the prison service.”

The video tape became subject material for Palestinian/Canadian artist Rehab Nizzal. Her powerful multi-media installation, entitled “Invisible” is showing at the Karsh-Masson Gallery located in Ottawa City Hall until June 22.

Rehab Nazzal is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto. Nazzal was born in Northern Palestine and was just a child when the 1967 war interrupted the lives of Palestinians for the second time in two decades. Growing up under Israel’s occupation has shaped Nazzal’s life and identity. Her experience under the Israeli occupation remains the driving force behind her activism and artistic practice.

See her website at: http://www.rehabnazzal.com/

"Invisible is a multi-video and photographic installation that challenges perception s of those absent and silenced narratives of human rights violations in Occupied Palestine. Focusing on political prisoners and assassinated Palestinians, Invisible employs visual strategies to deconstruct, reconstruct, obscure and place still and moving images in order to shed light on colonial activities that implicate the viewers directly or indirectly."

- Gallery brochure

Peter Larson
National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine
National Council on Canada Arab Relations

Subscribe to Peter Larson's e-mail list by sending him a note at peter.larson@nccar.ca
Copyright © 2014 National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine (NECIP), All rights reserved.
Published with permission.

Our mailing address is:
National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine (NECIP)
146 West Village Private, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Ottawa, ON K1Z1E3

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