Writer Ranjit Hoskote quits German art festival panel over ‘anti-Semitic’ letter

Writer Ranjit Hoskote quits German art festival panel over ‘anti-Semitic’ letter

Mumbai, Nov 15 (PTI) Mumbai-based author Ranjit Hoskote has quit the Finding Committee for the upcoming Documenta art festival in Germany, following criticism for signing a letter that compared Zionism and Hindu nationalism.

Documenta is one of the world’s biggest exhibitions of contemporary art, which takes place every five years at Kassel in Germany. The 16th edition of Documenta will be held in 2027.

Hoskote’s resignation follows an article published in Germany’s daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on November 9, accusing him of “BDS sympathies and anti-Semitism,” based on his signing of a 2019 BDS petition against a far-right event on “Zionism and Hindutva,” co hosted by the Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai.

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians.

In his resignation letter to Andreas Hoffmann, managing director of Documenta, Hoskote said, “These last few days have been among the most deeply distressing days of my life. The monstrous charge of anti-Semitism has been brought against my name in Germany, a country I have regarded with love and admiration, and to whose cultural institutions and intellectual life I have contributed for several decades, as a writer, curator, and cultural theorist.” Hoskote said those who have “no acquaintance with my life and work have judged, denounced, and stigmatized me on the basis of a single signature on a petition, taken out of its context and not approached in the spirit of reason.” “I have been written about with harshness and condescension, and none of my detractors has thought it important to ask me for my point of view. I feel, strongly, that I have been subjected to the proceedings of a kangaroo court,” Hoskote said.

He said he was being asked to “accept a sweeping and untenable definition of anti-Semitism” that conflates the Jewish people with the Israeli state.

“Let us now consider the so-called evidence that has been presented against me: my signature on a petition circulated by the Indian Cultural Forum and dated August 26, 2019, protesting a discussion hosted by the Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai, on “Leaders’ Idea of Nations: Zionism and Hindutva.” “The invitation for this event presented a portrait of Theodor Herzl, the founding figure of Zionism, alongside a portrait of V D Savarkar, a founding figure of Hindutva.

“My reason for signing this petition was because the event clearly posited an equivalence between Herzl and Savarkar, and was intended to develop intellectual respectability for an alliance between Zionism and Hindutva.

“I found this highly ironic, since Savarkar was known to be an admirer of Hitler and openly expressed his admiration for Nazi ideology and methods, which he proposed as a model for a Hindu-majoritarian India to follow, especially with regard to the treatment of the religious minorities,” Hoskote said in his resignation letter.

“I have dedicated my life to opposing authoritarian forces and discriminatory ideologies,” the poet and art critic said.

In a release, Hoffmann said, 'I would like to thank Ranjit Hoskote for his willingness to stand by us in these difficult times and believe that his decision to resign is a logical and respectable one. We need to consistently distance ourselves from all forms of anti-Semitism.' PTI VT VT

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