Ranjit Hoskoté, a member of the selection committee for the upcoming Documenta, has stepped down following revelations that he endorsed a 2019 statement by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDS movement seeks international support for Palestinian causes and aims to exert political pressure on Israel.
In a letter to Documenta’s new managing director, Andreas Hoffmann, Hoskoté vehemently denied the accusations of antisemitism, emphasizing his opposition to cultural boycotts of Israel. He criticized the pressure to accept a broad definition of antisemitism that he believes conflates the Jewish people with the Israeli state and misrepresents expressions of sympathy for the Palestinian people as support for Hamas.
The German parliament labeled BDS as antisemitic in 2019, with German Culture Minister Claudia Roth describing the statement Hoskoté endorsed as “clearly antisemitic and loaded with Israel-hostile conspiracy theories.”
The statement in question, titled “Statement against consulate general of Israel, Mumbai’s event on Hindutva and Zionism,” characterized Zionism as a “racist ideology calling for a settler-colonial, apartheid state where non-Jews have unequal rights.” Hoskoté, based in Mumbai, India, stated that his signature was a protest against equating Zionism with Hindutva or Hindu nationalism.
The previous edition of Documenta in 2022 faced controversy over several works containing antisemitic imagery, leading to the resignation of the managing director and scrutiny in the German parliament. The curators and artists involved issued an open letter expressing frustration with the chaos, hostility, racism, and censorship surrounding the event.
As Documenta 16 approaches in 2027, organizers have pledged to address antisemitism concerns from the previous edition and implement organizational changes to prevent a recurrence. Hoffmann emphasized the need to avoid a repeat of the events in the summer of 2022.
In a separate development, Israeli artist and philosopher Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger withdrew from the committee, citing the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel as a contributing factor. While she initially requested a postponement of the committee meeting, she ultimately decided to step down, stating that her decision was not related to Hoskoté’s departure.
Documenta’s board and shareholders are now engaged in intensive discussions on how to proceed with the selection process and timetable for announcing the new artistic direction, initially planned for the end of this year or early 2024.
On October 7, Hamas terrorists launched an attack on Israel, resulting in over 1,400 casualties and approximately 220 hostages. In response, the Israeli military declared war on Hamas, conducting airstrikes and imposing a siege on Gaza, resulting in the deaths of more than 11,000 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, according to Palestinian health authorities cited by the BBC.