Head of Israel's Top Art School Says Freedom of Speech 'Under Attack', Sparking Anger at N.Y. Gala

Israeli consul general in N.Y. Dani Dayan calls out head of Bezalel, who said prestigious art school is 'at forefront of struggle for defense of democracy'

FILE: Professor Adi Stern, president of Israel's Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design
Emil Salman

NEW YORK – Israel's consul general in New York stormed out of a fundraising gala for Israel's most prestigious art school on Wednesday evening, after the school’s president claimed that freedom of expression in Israel is “under attack.”

"I have no patience - and I'm using a diplomatic expression - for those who defame the State of Israel abroad in order to appeal [to an audience] and raise funds,” Dani Dayan said after the comments Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design's Professor Adi Stern.

The New York event, organized by the Friends of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design organization, was held at the Morgan Library and Museum in midtown under the title “Celebrate, Create, Connect”.

Shortly before Stern’s speech, Dayan was invited to address the forum and praised the art academy’s contribution to Israel.

Israel Consul General in New York Dani Dayan speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, February 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

According to the statement released by the Israeli consulate in New York, Prof. Stern then took the stage and spoke of Bezalel’s academic plans, before veering into political issues and declaring that "freedom of expression in Israel - like in the U.S. - is under attack and Bezalel is at the forefront of the struggle for the defense of democracy.”

As Stern spoke, Dayan called out: “This is not true!,” and then left the venue in protest. “I was not going to dignify this with my presence," he commented after leaving the event.

Located in Jerusalem, Bezalel Academy serves some 2,000 students with programs ranging from Architecture, Ceramics & Glass Design to Fine Arts, Industrial Design, among others.