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Demonstration against anti-Semitism in front of Berlin's Volksbühne: Red box "Pro-Zionist"

Photo: Christoph Soeder / picture alliance / dpa

The Google spreadsheet document is titled "Index of Cultural Institutions & Collectives' Stance Towards The Current Palestinian Liberation Movement." Accessible via the Instagram account index.palestine, the table lists for over a thousand cultural institutions from all over the world whether and how they have positioned themselves on the Middle East conflict.

The fact that this list does not want to be neutral is already evident in the headline: the attitude to the "current Palestinian liberation movement" is queried, not to the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

Institutions that have clearly criticized the Hamas massacre and declared solidarity with Israel must expect to receive a red box in the index with the text "Pro-Zionist." Anyone who has drawn the consequence of this pro-Israel stance to prohibit performances or texts is branded "censorship". Green stands for "Support" or, paler, "Support/No statement". There is also the category "Silent" and, if there is uncertainty about the attitude, "Checking".

"A boycott index?"

The list has been around since 2021, when reports were reported by »Welt« and the online portal »Belltower News«, which is supported by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, among others. Belltower author Nicholas Potter, recently co-editor of the book »Judenhass Underground. Anti-Semitism in emancipatory subcultures and movements," he asked himself at the time: "Is this supposed to be a blacklist? A boycott index?"

The suspicion is that the list is intended to provide a kind of manual on which institutions should be avoided if necessary. And this would put the "Index.Palestine" directly in line with the logic of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, which seeks to isolate Israel, among other things in the field of culture.

After a long break, work on the list resumed in mid-October 2023. In an Instagram post, there was talk of the "brutal colonial machine killing our people in Palestine" and of a "genocide" accompanied by the silence of cultural institutions, or even the "active censorship and intimidation of our allies." The perpetrators must be "held accountable," wrote the initiators of the list. Users were invited to make entries in the list, which now has a column for 2023.

Numerous German cultural institutions are described as "pro-Zionist" in the list. These include clubs such as the »About Blank« in Berlin or the »Conne Island« in Leipzig, the Fusion and Reeperbahn Festivals, the Berlin Academy of Arts, universities such as the Free University and the University of the Arts, the Bauhaus University in Weimar and the RWTH Aachen University. In addition, the Maxim Gorki Theater and the Volksbühne in Berlin as well as the Mousonturm in Frankfurt and the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen.

Because of their recent treatment of curators or commission members, the Biennale for Contemporary Photography and the Documenta also appear in the list. The German section of Fridays for Future is also not to be missed after distancing itself from Greta Thunberg's Middle East positions.

The Berlin House of World Cultures, of all places, is accused of censorship, which actually wants to give postcolonial, non-Western art greater visibility. The activists also accuse the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main and the Museum Folkwang in Essen of censorship.

»Creepy, demagogic and denunciatory« – »About Blank«

Berlin's Tagesspiegel, which picked up the index on Monday and called it a "pillory list," learned that the Berlin police were aware of the list. The data set "had been analyzed and evaluated by the State Security Service of the State Criminal Police Office," but the resulting measures could not be communicated "for tactical reasons."

The newspaper also interviewed some of the institutions listed. Several declined to comment specifically on the table, citing their statements on Hamas' attack and anti-Semitism. In response to an inquiry from the Tagesspiegel, the Berlin club »About Blank« called the list »creepy, demagogic and denunciatory«. It is "characteristic of the binary, under-complex and stigmatizing worldview of the BDS movement and its adherents."

In 2021, »Belltower News« researched that a multimedia artist from Egypt had been named as the owner in the first version of the table, who, according to »Tagesspiegel«, now lives in Berlin. When asked by the newspaper what was meant by the phrase "hold accountable," he did not respond, but deleted the advertisement for the index from his personal Instagram account.