Israeli ambassador outraged by art exhibit at Ottawa City Hall

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. Darren Brown/QMI Agency

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. Darren Brown/QMI Agency

Giuseppe Valiante, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:13 PM ET

OTTAWA — The City of Ottawa has no plans to remove an exhibit at City Hall, despite the Israeli ambassador's claim it glorifies terrorism.

Ambassador Rafael Barak told QMI Agency the exhibit exalts people who murdered innocent Jews.

The artwork is so offensive to Barak that he met with Mayor Jim Watson to discuss the exhibit.

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa asked the mayor to remove it.

But the deputy city manager said the city isn't embarrassed by the exhibit and has no plans to take it down.

Barak said he isn't demanding the artwork be removed, but wants to let Canadians know that some of the alleged "artists and leaders" projected on a wall of the City Hall art gallery were also murderers.

Toronto-based artist Rehab Nazzal created the exhibit, called "Invisible." She is described in exhibit documents as Palestinian-born and a graduate of the University of Ottawa, Ryerson, and Damascus University in Syria.

The exhibit includes five pieces. The most controversial, called "Target," comprises a series of projections against a white wall depicting what the artist calls "assassinated Palestinian figures."

The exhibit booklet says the projections — which are flashed quickly on the wall making their written descriptions difficult to read — are of "lost artists, activists, writers and leaders."

The exhibit doesn't mention, however, that several of the faces belong to people who committed heinous crimes against Jews.

The pictures include the face of Abu Lyad, a man widely believed to have founded the Black September terrorist group, which murdered 11 Israeli athletes and officials at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.

Also projected on the wall is the face of Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in a 1978 bus hijacking in Israel that killed 38 people including many children.

At least five other people projected on the gallery wall are associated with terrorism, Barak said.

A sign on the door to the gallery says the "artwork, themes, points of view or comments...do not represent those of the City of Ottawa." A sticker with the same message is found on the back page of the exhibit booklet.

"I think the Canadian public should know that these people killed civilians," Barak said. "In a way, this exhibit is glorifying terrorism."

Deputy city manager Steve Kanellakos said the art displayed in the City Hall gallery is chosen by a panel of local artists, independent of elected officials and city staff.

He said city politicians shouldn't be in the business of choosing what art is displayed in the city gallery.

"I think it's dangerous when (our personal) opinions can influence what is going to be shown in a public space," Kanellakos said.

He said the city's legal team vetted the artwork and decided removing the display would violate the artist's charter rights "and we're not going to break the law."

Kanellakos also said the city is reviewing several of its internal policies, including the selection process for art displayed in the City Hall gallery.

Nazzal, who says she has received grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Ottawa, didn't respond to QMI Agency's requests for comment.


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