Artists’ posters of hostages held by Hamas, started as public reminder, become flashpoint themselves

by Andrew Wright
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Hostages Controversy

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Title: Artists’ Posters of Hostages Held by Hamas: From a Reminder to a Controversy

The creation of these posters stemmed from a deep desire to take action and foster connection.

Nitzan Mintz and Dede Bandaid, accomplished artists who usually call Tel Aviv home, found themselves in New York City participating in an art program when tragedy struck. On October 7, Hamas militants launched an attack in Israel, resulting in the loss of over 1,400 lives. In response to this heart-wrenching event, Mintz and Bandaid channeled their grief into a creative endeavor. They designed posters featuring the names and faces of over 200 individuals who were taken hostage during the attack, boldly labeled with “KIDNAPPED” at the top. Their objective was to generate public pressure and aid in the safe return of those abducted. Soon, replicas of their posters started appearing in cities worldwide.

What began as an initiative to raise awareness and garner support for the hostages has, however, transformed into a contentious issue. The posters have stirred controversy, particularly among those critical of Israel’s actions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some view these posters as propaganda, rather than a means of advocating for the hostages’ release.

In various cities, pro-Palestinian activists have torn down these posters, triggering a chain reaction. Pro-Israel activists, in response, have circulated videos and photos of people dismantling the posters, characterizing these actions as antisemitic. Tensions have escalated, leading to an incident at Columbia University where a woman was arrested for assaulting another student over a poster-related dispute. Another woman faced arrest in Brooklyn after allegedly pepper-spraying a Jewish man during a confrontation about tearing down posters. News stories and social media posts have gone further by attempting to expose individuals responsible for poster removal, with the aim of jeopardizing their employment or educational status.

Mintz and Bandaid collaborated with designers Tal Huber and Shira Gershoni in Israel to create the poster templates. Initially, when they shared the designs online for people to print and display, they advised against engaging with those opposing the posters. Yet, they were taken aback by the intensity of some responses.

Mintz emphasized that their campaign is not intended to vilify Palestinians, stating, “It is just to take care of one aspect out of this entire mess.”

Rafael Shimunov, a Jewish activist who has voiced support for Palestinians, believes that the removal of posters primarily stems from a desire to condemn a long history of violence against Palestinians. He contends that while there may be instances of antisemitism, the majority of those opposing the posters are motivated by a desire for peace and to prevent further harm to civilians.

Shimunov wishes the posters also highlighted the plight of Palestinians who have suffered in the conflict. Since the hostage-taking incident, Israel’s retaliatory military strikes in the Gaza Strip have claimed the lives of over 10,000 Palestinians, as reported by the Hamas-run Health Ministry. The Gaza Strip faces dire conditions, marked by shortages of water, electricity, food, and medical supplies.

Out of the more than 200 hostages held by Hamas, only five have been freed, leaving the fate of the others uncertain. Mintz remains resolute in her belief that they can all return to their families. “With the hostages, there is hope,” she asserts. “We hope that all of them are alive. We are sure that some of them are alive. It has to be that.”

Bandaid echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the shared hope among the families of the hostages for their safe return.

The artists personally posted many of their posters in New York City. In some ways, these posters evoke memories of the flyers distributed in the city by desperate family members in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Before the full extent of the tragedy became clear, these signs sought any information about missing loved ones, holding onto the possibility of their safe return. According to Kevin Jones, a communications professor at George Fox University, these posters, labeling people as kidnapped, similarly kindle hope in the hearts of those affected.

Holocaust survivors have also found a connection with these images. They recently gathered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in an effort initiated by the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation. Each survivor was photographed holding one of the posters, with the intention of creating a larger composite group photo. Jack Simony, the director general of the foundation, believes that these survivors embody strength and resilience, making them fitting representatives to hold the pictures of the hostages. He envisions this gesture as a message of courage to the hostages and hope to their families.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hostages Controversy

Q: Why did the artists create posters of hostages held by Hamas?

A: Nitzan Mintz and Dede Bandaid created these posters in response to a Hamas attack in Israel, aiming to raise public awareness and generate support for the more than 200 people taken hostage during the attack.

Q: What has been the response to these posters?

A: While intended to garner sympathy and outrage at Hamas, the posters have become a source of controversy. Some individuals critical of Israel’s actions view them as propaganda. Pro-Palestinian activists have torn them down in various cities, leading to arrests and tensions.

Q: How have pro-Israel activists reacted to the removal of posters?

A: Pro-Israel activists have shared videos and photos of poster removal, characterizing it as antisemitic. Some have attempted to expose individuals responsible, seeking potential consequences such as job loss or expulsion from educational institutions.

Q: What is Rafael Shimunov’s perspective on the poster removal?

A: Rafael Shimunov, a Jewish activist, believes that most poster removals are motivated by a desire for peace and to prevent further harm to civilians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He wishes the posters also highlighted the suffering of Palestinians.

Q: What is the current status of the hostages?

A: Out of over 200 hostages taken by Hamas, only five have been freed, leaving the fate of the others uncertain. The artists remain hopeful for their safe return.

Q: Why do Holocaust survivors connect with these posters?

A: Holocaust survivors have been photographed holding these posters, as they symbolize strength and resilience. This gesture is meant to convey courage to the hostages and hope to their families.

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