by Mordecai Plaut
Art Must Not be Immoral
Israel's ambassador to Sweden broke the diplomatic and
artistic rules. In response to a work of art that consists of
a photo of a smiling woman who murdered 22 people in a
restaurant in Haifa, floating in a large pool of what is
intended to represent Jewish blood, Zvi Mazel did not suffice
with a polite diplomatic protest -- however strongly-worded --
but he actually ripped out some of the wires and tossed a
spotlight into the basin.
The title of the piece is "Snow White and the Madness of
Truth," and the murderer is clearly the Snow White. If anyone
failed to understand the heavy-handed symbolism, there were
posters nearby in which the Israeli artist and his Swedish
wife explain why their heroine murdered innocent Jews.
Mazel explained that he planned his act in advance. He
carried it out calmly. He was not carried away by the passion
of the moment. Mr. Mazel was quoted in the New York
Times as saying, "There was the terrorist, wearing her
perfect makeup and floating on the blood of my people. . . .
This is not a work of art. This is an expression of hatred
for the Israeli people."
As undiplomatic as his act was, it was considered an even
greater "crime" against the modern principles of art. "An
artistic creation is absolutely protected by the principle of
freedom of expression without any relationship to whether one
agrees with it or not," said an Israeli artist in
The Israeli government backed its ambassador's action. The
Foreign Minister said: "Freedom of expression does not give
anyone the right to justify terror attacks against Israeli
Until less than 200 hundred years ago, it was generally
accepted that art has to teach, that is, it must carry some
moral content. This historically accepted principle is still
valid. It is a dangerous and ultimately destructive
perversion to lift any field onto a pedestal and say that it
Nothing is outside of morality. Everything must pass the test
of meeting moral standards, and only then can it be held up
to other standards. Morality is the true underpinning of the
world, and everything else is built upon it. If something is
morally abhorrent, then morality requires that it be opposed
regardless of what else asserts that it has a right to
It is a mark of the bankruptcy of our times that people think
that a charge of "censorship" is a response to a moral
attack. A exhibit such as the one in Sweden does not need the
heightened moral sense of daas Torah to determine that
it is not right. There is no moral system worthy of the name
that will justify a sympathetic portrayal of a suicide
murderer, whose contempt for the value human life extends to
Once, the world accepted and understood universal principles
of morality and applied them. Art had to serve moral ends, to
teach and to enlighten. In those days, Jews were the
conscience of civilization, with their moral awareness based
on their nurturing relationship with Torah.
Now, the Israeli educational system, aping the Western
approaches in all the worst ways, can turn out a man who
claims the mantle of an artist allows him to proclaim his
most perverted thoughts in public in such a work, as is
generally accepted in the West.
For the world to function as Hashem intended, art, like
everything else, must be a servant of morality, and morality,
like everything else, has its source in Hashem's Torah, the
blueprint of the world.
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