The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has finally released a statement addressing the October 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas.
In its statement, ICOM wrote: “Icom expresses its deep concern about the current violence affecting Israeli and Palestinian civilians and deplores the significant humanitarian consequences that the conflict has had over the past weeks.” The group also added that it “expects an immediate ceasefire in respect of international humanitarian law in order to prevent further loss of human life and safeguard cultural heritage – which is essential to our collective humanity – and reaffirms its commitment to the principles of peace, understanding, and unity through the preservation and protection of cultural heritage.”
On October 7, the terrorist group Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in the deaths of hundreds while many more were kidnapped. In retaliation, Israel launched a full-scale offensive against Palestine which has reduced Gaza City to rubble and resulted in the deaths of thousands. The response from ICOM came after an open letter signed by every major museum director in Israel, which asked the UNSESCO-affiliated organization to condemn Hamas in the strongest terms.
Ever since the initial attack by Hamas and the subsequent retaliation by Israel, there has been anticipation around how people and organizations of influence address the issue. The art world has not been untouched by this trend. Many art institutions in the Middle East have publically shown support for the Palestinian side. The Sharjah Art Foundation, which organizes the prestigious Sharjah Biennial, proclaimed support for Gaza and denounced the ‘Israeli occupation’. The Qatar Museums hoisted a Palestinian flag on the Museum of Islamic Art. American art institutes, however, have been wary and remained mostly silent on the issue. Even those who did speak about it, like the El Museum del Barrio in New York, diplomatically shared sympathies for all “affected by the conflict” without naming any parties.