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Video: Vomit for Civil Rights — Israeli performance artist protests racism in Nazareth Illit

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Warning: the title of the post pretty much says it all (the fireworks start around the 9:30 mark).

In the above video, Israeli activist Asher Lev recites and “regurgitates” a racist declaration made by Nazareth Illit mayor Shimon Gafso where Gafso promised to do whatever it takes to maintain a Jewish majority in the Israeli city of Nazareth Illit (full statement below). The video isn’t for the faint of heart (the blue milk is a nice touch), but Gafso comes out of city hall towards to beginning of the video to see what’s going on and the interactions between Lev and passerbys are priceless.

The video’s YouTube page explains:

‘Vomit for Civil Rights’ is a political artistic performance. It is my reaction to the extreme racism of the mayor of Nazarth Illit (Israel), Shimon Gafso. I, Asher Lev, a former resident of Nazareth Illit, am reacting to a specific text that Shimon Gafso wrote and publicized. I find his words so raciest, fascist and antidemocratic that I feel like throwing up and so, that is exactly what I did. I should add that Gafso himself comes down to talk to me.

I translated the text into English and placed it below, after the Hebrew explanation of this political performance act.

Here is Lev’s translation of Shimon Gafso’s text:

Nazareth Illit — Jewish Forever!

This cannot be taken for granted, but it is rather the result of a decisive stance and a daily struggle

When I entered into office, many said to me that we will not be able to stop the emigration of Jews from the city. And so, in past years, entire neighborhoods were deserted by their Jewish residents and the rate of Jews in the population went and decreased with the passing of each year. This tendency, which began with the naïve belief in a message of coexistence, was and still is a big danger to the very existence of a Jewish community in the Galilee. It is the arrival of Arab residents that encourages Jews to leave and the danger of a complete abandonment of the city by Jews is not an unimaginable scenario. I have decided to face this complicated challenge with decisiveness and might. No more shutting of the eyes, no more nostalgic clinging to the law that allows each and every citizen to live where he or she desires. This is the time to guard our home!

And so, with a decisive stance in face of the surge, with a daily struggle, with public clear statements and with unspeakable acts, with courage and commitment, we have done the incredible: we have halted the demographic withdrawal and kept the Jewish rate in the population at 82%. Safeguarding Nazareth Illit’s Jewish identity is the most important task that the mayor has and it is the most critical one to the future of the city and to our lives here. Any other success in any municipal area will be worthless if our city loses its identity and the Jews look for ways to escape it.

I never hesitated and was never ashamed to declare in a loud and clear voice: I will not allow the Jewish character of the city to be altered. I will prevent at any cost the establishment of an Arab school in Nazareth Illit and I will move to building neighborhoods that are intended for Jewish residents. All requests for foreign characteristics in the city are refused. And following suite to this policy, we have placed Israeli flags in the entrances to the city so that people will know that Nazareth Illit is a Jewish city, this is how it was founded and so it will remain. And, ignoring what will be said about us, in Nazareth Illit, the Israeli flag will continue to be displayed at the top of the mast!

My decisive stance cannot be taken for granted and in fact, it is not characteristic to other mayors in a similar situation and even to my predecessors in office. It is true, this path of mine has “honored” me with many derogatory names, scornful letters and attacks by leftwing media groups. I was called a “fascist”, a “bully” and a “raciest”, but the condemnations and insults, and also the threats and pressures do not deter me and will not discourage me. This is because I receive my power and strength from you, residents of Nazareth Illit. You elected me to stand at the forefront of this just cause you are not willing to, anymore, for the beautification of the soul and for the sanctification of the values of democracy, to endanger the Jewish identity of your city.

About Adam Horowitz

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5 Responses

  1. gingershot
    May 10, 2013, 1:14 pm

    kudos – my sentiments exactly…

  2. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    May 10, 2013, 3:50 pm

    Although my sentiments are 100% with Mr. Lev I feel everyone is being unduly harsh to Gafso. After all he is merely articulating opinions that have been a part of Israeli landscape for decades. The only difference now is that unlike their predecessors of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s they don’t try to be likable which is refreshing.

  3. Linda J
    Linda J
    May 10, 2013, 4:53 pm

    I think I would rather do this than fast, but that is just me. ;) Good on Asher.

  4. Clif Brown
    Clif Brown
    May 11, 2013, 3:16 am

    Not the usual protest. I don’t think many will watch it through. At first, I was curious. Then it seemed silly, mundane. But as the words of the pamphlet were spoken, they affected me due to their familiar sound…of history, of other places and other people but with the same contempt mixed with arrogance of humans amid others they consider dogs, cockroaches, the names vary, of efficient removal of litter or refuse from a community. What a litter-free public space. It is a clean community!

    Then the vomiting, slow, deliberate, wordless expression. The national blue is forced down but comes up again from at least one stomach. The message arises with the method and my emotions began to stir.

    Then the upside is down. The head, the site of reason, is in the bowl of vomit and the dirty shoes are up at the level of face-to-face conversation. Finally, the song derived from pain, supporting the rise of a state…for the oppressed who dreamed of it, but not of what it does. The blue wiped on the shirt, making the clean shirt a rag…or is it a flag?

    Message received. Well done.

  5. akayani
    May 13, 2013, 2:06 pm

    My Name Is Asher Lev is a novel by Chaim Potok, an American author and rabbi. The book’s protagonist is Asher Lev, a Hasidic Jewish boy in New York City. Asher is a loner with artistic inclinations. His art, however, causes conflicts with his family and other members of his community. The book follows Asher’s maturity as both an artist and a Jew.

    Potok asserted that the conflict between tradition and individualism is constant and that the tension between religion and art is lifelong. His personal struggle seems apparent in “Brooklyn Crucifixion.” And yet despite this seemingly agonizing struggle, Potok remained active as an artist/writer and engaged in the religion of his upbringing until his death in 2002.”.

    Potok continued Asher Lev’s story in the book The Gift of Asher Lev.

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