Every Dark Regime Has Its Informers

In Israel, Shai Shammay Glick, a devout right-wing activist, for years has complained to every journalist and politician about every humanist or left-wing cultural event. He just got a gallery in Jerusalem shut down. And he has accomplices.

Shany Littman
Shany Littman
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Breaking the Silence Executive Director Yuli Novak at the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem, February 8, 2017.
Breaking the Silence Executive Director Yuli Novak at the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem, February 8, 2017.Credit: Emil Salman
Shany Littman
Shany Littman

The Jerusalem municipality may have been the one to close the Barbur Gallery, the capital’s only non-profit community gallery, because it hosted a speech by Breaking the Silence, but the real credit goes to someone else. It was neither Mayor Nir Barkat nor Culture Minister Miri Regev but Shai Shammay Glick, a devout right-wing activist, who for years has incessantly complained to every journalist possible as well as to various government ministries and local authorities about every gallery, cafe, cultural center or private individual that dares host a humanist or left-wing cultural event. Glick deems such events to be either encouraging terror or vilifying the military.

Not that Glick, heaven forbid, is a great culture buff. He isn’t at all. He hasn’t attended a single exhibition that he has tried to shut down. He suffices with reading ads about them and sets off to work. Glick isn’t satisfied solely with local cultural centers, either. A year ago he boasted that he had sent a protest letter to the French embassy in Israel (in Hebrew, mind you, and full of embarrassing mistakes), in which he complained that a dance festival in Marseille had invited Israeli choreographer Arkadi Zaides to present a work which included video clips that B’Tselem had recorded.

The Barbur Gallery was long in his sights. He joined Im Tirzu in August 2015 following an exhibition in which it displayed photographs and stories by Palestinians from East Jerusalem. Im Tirzu sent a letter to the Jerusalem municipality demanding that it freeze financial support for Barbur because it was “glorifying convicted terrorists.” In that case, Glick and Im Tirzu actually didn’t get what they wanted; the exhibition remained open. However, the setback didn’t stop Glick from claiming at the time that the move had succeeded. And this time, his information fell on sensitive ears, those of Minister Regev and Mayor Barkat, a candidate in the Likud primaries.

Glick sent an email to journalists Monday titled, “Appreciation and recognition of the completion of Operation Swan Song.” (Barbur means swan in English.) He reveled in his success and thanked Deputy Attorney General Danny Lieberman for “his personal and dedicated handling” of the move to close Barbur. It seems that even Glick didn’t believe that shutting down the gallery would be so easy.

Every dark regime has its informers, also called rats. Glick is no longer so alone in the system. He has students and others to carry on his work. Someone inside Shenkar College called the office of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to inform her about the nude caricature of her on display there, and someone else reported about the poster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a hanging rope at Bezalel Academy. The Glicks of this world know their time has come, and they are celebrating.

Glick has a long list of institutions in his sights, and he will make it his business to shut them all down, one by one. Perhaps he isn’t a big culture buff, but he now certainly looks like an artist, the kind whose hands hold strings to manipulate marionettes, who are none other than the politicians on the right.