Pierre Forman, Has the Palais de Tokyo gone mad? – Rules of the Game

Pierre Forman, Has the Palais de Tokyo gone mad? – Rules of the Game
Pierre Forman, Has the Palais de Tokyo gone mad? – Rules of the Game

It’s incredible. When you enter this basement room of the Palais de Tokyo, looking at the hanging posters, some of them splendid, you quickly say that there is a problem. Calm but a little nervous, we advance, step by step, initially quite enthusiastic in front of texts, photos, magazines, which denounce Apartheid in South Africa, this abominable apartheid where millions of blacks were under the yoke of Boers, of pitiless Afrikaners, unjust, murderous with them. South Africa was a violent segregationist dictatorship, and these texts, these photos, these resistance posters remind us of this in a very beautiful way. A little further away, another dictatorship, this one military, denounced here by more texts, photos, posters, that of Pinochet, in Chile, the regime with around 38,000 tortured, which made the Chileans a martyr people.

Then, we climb a few steps, and there, the hallucination, the fear itself. We simply say that the Palais de Tokyo has gone crazy. Palestine. The PLO resistance movement, by Yasser Arafat. Several problematic points then appear to us. First, to draw up, to dare an equivalence between this Palestinian resistance to Israel, considered de facto, casually, without detour, like South Africa during the Apartheid era and like Chile during the Pinochet era, that is to say say, like a dictatorship, is an aberration. As if Israel, a democratic country, with democratic elections, democratic institutions, country of human and women’s rights, LGBT friendly, had anything to do with the aforementioned dictatorships. This insane parallel is politically, historically false and dangerous. This problem of fair evaluation of things, of discernment, of poor gauging, then seems to move the exhibition from a supposedly objective, even scientific, status to a status closer to a propagandistic gesture.

Another problematic point, Yasser Arafat, from the seventies, is presented as a hero, a sympathetic character organizing, in 1978, an exhibition in Beirut for Palestinian painters, which is true, which is entirely laudable of course. , but with one important detail: Arafat is one of the worst terrorists of the time without ever being mentioned, neither in the archive documents, nor, and this is even more problematic, in the cartels supposed to contextualize the exhibition. Was there no historian worthy of the name, ready to enlighten this era rationally?

View of the exhibition, “Worried Pass, museums in exile and solidarity”, Palais de Tokyo, 02/16/2024 – 06/20/2024. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

In 1978 alone, the year of the exhibition in Beirut, there were more than ten attacks on Israeli soil, causing around forty deaths, on buses, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere, including of course children. and women. Nothing of that side of Arafat appears, it’s revisionism. And the parallel finally jumps out at us: The PLO is exclusively presented as an organization for the liberation of Palestine, never as a terrorist organization, like Hamas by a whole section of the extreme left today, the LFI for do not name them, presented as a resistance movement and not terrorism. It’s difficult not to make this connection; It’s difficult not to be disgusted by the barely concealed message of this exhibition. Isn’t praising the PLO in the terrorist era an “apology for terrorism”?

Another problematic point, which concerns the cartels, put in place by the two curators, Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti, on which, once again, the lack of contextualization is obvious. Why write that Lebanon was attacked by Israel in 1982 without saying why? Presented like this, of course, Israel appears unapologetically barbaric. Why not say that the “Peace in Galilee” operation launched by the Israeli army, with the complicity of Christian militias, aimed to stop the PLO attacks against Israel from southern Lebanon? I can’t imagine what the first cartels in the exhibition were, hastily removed following the Sandra Hegedüs affair?

Let us add a significant detail: the word Israel almost never appears in this exhibition, as if, we understand well given its general tone, this country did not exist. As if it was wiped off the map, from the sea to the river. I noted two occurrences, “Israeli tanks return to Lebanon”, “Israel, fascist and racist country”: two terrible occurrences, revealing the intentions of the two curators.

Finally, one last point, no less thorny. Was it reasonable to maintain this violently anti-Israeli exhibition from every point of view, when October 7 had taken place, while the war between Israel and Hamas continues as I write these lines?

Curious, I went to see the X of the two curators, Kristine Khouri, Rasha Salti. One of them shares information from an online newspaper, Palestinian Online. I went to see this site that I didn’t know, and not without surprise, I came across a video of a conference by an American professor, John-J. Mearsheimer, who caused a scandal in the early 2000s with his book co-written with Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (translated into French at La Découverte in 2007). Which says a lot about the site, and by extension, about the curators.

There is still time to remove this part of the exhibition which dishonors the Palais de Tokyo, which we knew was more inspired.

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