Silence 2016


This is a political protest exhibition on the subject of fish and palms, representative metaphors, symbols that I chose as representative of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. My work arises out of a process of asking questions about the world and the reality in which we live. I chose the silence of the fishes as the subject of my exhibition in an act of protest against the state of political silencing surrounding us.

We live in an unbearable time of false messages, in a racist, exclusionary, violent, discriminatory society that tramples human rights and is inconsistent with Israel’s pluralist, democratic principles. A society that silences and widens the socio-economic gap. One reform initiative replaces another. Peace negotiations are stalled for cynical gain, the chances for peace continue to decrease as long as Netanyahu is in power. The social protests burst forth. The people took to the streets demanding social justice and a decrease in the cost of living. The protests dissolved and what happened? We have returned to the very same point as before, and have even gone backwards. From a condition of crying out for social justice we have passed on to silence.

These are the days when we must not give up on our freedom of expression, our freedom to write and create. We must not forget that “democracy is first and foremost a moral essence. An essence whose goal is to advance and to realize human rights in society.”[1]

Have we really reached such a state in our nation that we fear to express our thoughts and feelings in public?

Furthermore, the exhibition establishes a dialogue with Dr. Anat Rimon Or, a lecturer in education, philosophy, sociology of culture, and cultural criticism. Anat Rimon Or’s work deal with silencing and the education that opposes it. She is the author of the book series “Raising a Human Being” (Pardes), gathers testimony for the rearguard battle for the right to speak and the right to understand, and tries to transform this testimony into a voice; she is an expert in rearguard battles.

Alongside the symbolic representation of fish, I decided to focus on the figure of the palm tree, infested and consumed from within by the red palm weevils throughout the country. The figure of the palm signifies for me our sadness and helplessness in the face of the situation in Israel. Withered and consumed from within, palm trees cry out my internal feeling in the complex situation in which I live and create in 2016.


Amos Roger

[1] Yaakov Hecht, Democratic Education – A Beginning of a Story (Tel Aviv: Keter, The Institute for Democratic Education, 2005), 32.


Fill Your Stomach and Shut Your Mouth

Swallow everything your voice:


In order to make all-swallowers, you simply need to swallow your voice; just like in those nightmares where someone screams but no sound comes out. A thing that cannot be testified to does not exist: its existence is swallowed up along with the silenced testimony. What remains is a person who has swallowed the words he wanted to scream, and a herd of people who know nothing. They will say, “I was stupid,” after the fact. Swallowing one’s voice is a production line for all-swallowing stupidity.


But swallowing one’s voice is not silence, at least not in the beginning. When something needs to be said, when something cries out inside but cannot find its way out, it creates an unquiet stillness. The hands shake, the legs give way, the throat is suffocated, the windpipe turns to stone and the stone sinks down inside. What remains is heaviness and slow decline. We can call it: “UNSS” (UNquiet StillnesS). Jean-François Lyotard calls this state “the differend.”


If we insist on silencing the things that should be expressed, silence will prevail. (Perhaps). In silence’s prevailing, the UNSSs will disappear, as if they had never been, just like those unspoken words. So we must invent them: give names to what has ceased to be, cause pain in a place where it has ceased to hurt. We must break the silence.


The witness will become a nuisance, a terrorist, a public-silence-breaker. Who needs people like that?


Destruction as a state of being — the normalization of murder, the everyday humiliation, the lawful destruction of nature and natural resources, the desecration of the human mind by amusement and education, the atrophy of public space — that kind of destruction is generated by UNSSs. UNSSs obscure these acts, and allow them to continue. In their desire to banish from the publish arena all witness of the destruction and those who testify to it, all those seeking “industrial silence” are part of it: who in a suit, who with a smile, who with practical arguments, who in demanding efficiency, who by threats, who by aggression, who by firing trouble makers, who by quiet abstention, who by naive requests to “keep politics out of the conversation,” who by court rulings, and who by the law’s decrees.


We do not say: “The silencer is the nuisance.” This statement, which should have been said long ago, it is now impossible to say. The stillness around it has become silence.


And yet, in an era of destruction the silencer is the nuisance: every one, in every place. The silencers’ hands are soaked in the blood spilt between, on, and under the ruins of the destruction that make possible the UNSS. They will say: “You do not understand,” “People need to live, to earn a living,” X is the Minister of Education, C is the Minister of Infrastructure, and Y the Minister of Culture: the organism must survive, the children must eat and get their medicine, things are complicated, etc.


The voice everything is true. And above it all, surrounding the voice, UNSS prevails, and the destruction continues, and blood is shed, and the lives of the occupied, the dispossessed, and the deported fade more and more, and children are abused, and mothers are humiliated, and men are humiliated, and thirst, and hunger, and destruction. And the silencers can be found in the eye of the storm, trying to survive. Some of them act at the central nodes: where they layoff, forbid, arrest, remove, issue demolition and expulsion orders, block ears.


In order to give a voice to this silencing, in order to make it present in the discourse, one has to point to tens, hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of instances in which junior employees were asked to keep silent and to work efficiently. Every instance on its own is meaningless. Together, they make up the banality of evil. The unbearable lightness by which the UNSSs of society, which is itself another UNSS, prevail.


Jean-François Lyotard points to four ways of creating UNSS, all easy to do, all widely used in the political-social-academic-security space in Israel.


1) Remove the speaker: Put him in administrative detention, remove him from the academic sphere, banish him from the country, file a criminal charge: for any reason — a Facebook post, a visit to a book fair, affiliation with something that you have made illegal. Precisely follow legal torture, lengthy arrest, loss of income. All the witnesses of your acts will silence themselves in any case. There is no need to prove a thing, and years later you can always apologize.


2) Change the meaning of the testimony: Declare that the witness is a traitor, unfit mentally, intellectually, and practically. He will not make a sound even if you yell at the top of your lungs on Facebook or at the UN: if “traitor!” sticks to everything that comes out of his mouth; or, “Is it permitted to say: ‘this is murder,’ or is it forbidden to say: ‘this is murder?’”; or, “What are the limits of expression?”; or, “Is it forbidden or permitted to discredit Israel abroad?”; or, “Can one give him a prize or not?”; or, “Is there a place for her in the Knesset or not?” If these are attached to the testimony — the testimony will be silenced. Despite the noisy debate going on all around. The greatest crimes, those committed under the guise of the law, take place under the cover of a particularly noisy UNSS. The noise is a central part of silencing testimony. UNSS number 2 is an efficient fascist tool.


3) Make sure you are not the addressee. Western democracies were destroyed with the help of UNSSs of the type: inattention. The trick is to allow a person to shout as much as he or she wants, to strike as often as she or he likes, to gather as many people in the street as he or she can. The person who is the object of all these acts pretends as if he or she did not hear. In the end, the scream will slowly dissipate until silence remains. Perhaps there will be a committee that will deliberate for ten months, perhaps they will even consider recommendations, or possibly decide to implement one of two of them, until the implementation is rescinded due to budgetary restrictions. Applying UNSS number 3 means eliminating the public political space, and it is not a bad tool: it cannot be bypassed or overcome. UNSS 3 will break every strike, disperse every demonstration, every protest. There is no need to kill or imprison anyone, to use teargas or handcuffs, nor to declare anyone a traitor. All the office-holder needs is to self-destruct his or her standing as a proper addressee — his or her own attention. Simple and easy.


4) Last exit: concealing evidence. By concealing evidence, eliminate the possibility to point to something and say: “This occurred.” Plant trees where there was once a village, hide the bodies in a place where they will decay forever, destroy the documents attesting to the event, close the archive. Last exit.


When UNSS 1-4 prevail, together or separately, what remains is a full stomach and a shut mouth.


Slowly or quickly, silencing becomes the central cultural project: many people, whose hands were involved in the treachery without calling it such, feel the absolute command: silence the testimony so that you feel clean. Elimination is the name of the game: of testimony, of witnesses, of protesters, or the remains of the evidence. The command: “Eliminate!” becomes the cultural glue that binds society together. The demand for freedom and liberty becomes an existential threat: the witnesses of the atrocities become: “anti-Israel.” The thing that it is forbidden to speak, that it is forbidden to say, is created at this very moment. Culture becomes an elimination machine.


There are those who believe that there is a limit to this process. That at a certain point the masses will understand, that in the end someone else will arise. But elimination machines do not cease. The only way to stop them is with tens, hundreds, and hundreds of thousands of small acts of saying “no” to silencing. But one has to survive the elimination machine: behold “X is the Minister of the Economy; C is the Minister of Defense; Y is Minister of Culture; Z is the Minister of Justice. One must survive.”


Dr. Anat Rimon Or