Through making a film about the Arab- Israeli conflict, artist Nick Larkin found his allegiances swaying:
I used to hate Israel. Not any more. Now I loathe Palestinian terrorists. After Israel’s incursion into Gaza in December 2008 I applied for funding from the Irish Arts Council to make a film in Israel and Palestine and spent seven weeks in the area.
Posters of martyrs followed us throughout the West Bank. They watched from lamp-posts and walls wherever we went. But the more I felt the martyrs watching me, the more confused I became. After all, the Palestinian mantra was one of “non-violent resistance.” Yet when I interviewed Hind Khoury, a former Palestinian government member, she refused to condemn the actions of the suicide bombers. She was all aggression.
Back in Tel Aviv in the summer of 2011, I began to listen more closely to the Israeli side. I remember one conversation in Shenkin Street – Tel Aviv’s most fashionable quarter, where everybody looks as if they went to art college. I was outside a cafe interviewing a former soldier. He talked slowly about his time in Gaza. He spoke about Arab teenagers sent running towards the base he’d patrolled. Each strapped with a bomb and carrying a hand-held detonator.
Conversations like this are normal in Tel Aviv. I began to experience the sense of isolation Israelis feel. An isolation that began in the ghettos of Europe and ended in Auschwitz. Israel is a refuge – but a refuge under siege, a refuge where rockets rain death from the skies. My film is called “Forty Shades of Grey.” But only one side was wanted back in Dublin. My peers expected me to come back with an attack on Israel. No grey areas were acceptable.
Why have Irish artists surrendered to group-think on Israel? I would urge every one of those 216 Irish artists who pledged to boycott the Israeli state to spend some time in Israel and Palestine. Maybe when you come home you will bin your PLO scarf. I did.