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Italian minister condemns ‘shameful’ call for Israel ban at Venice Art Biennale

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Italy’s culture minister on Tuesday condemned as “shameful” a letter signed by thousands of artists, architects and curators seeking a ban on Israel at this year’s Venice Art Biennale.

The Art Not Genocide Alliance said the Biennale -- a major international art exhibition -- had two years ago banned anyone linked to the Russian government following the invasion of Ukraine.

For the latest updates on the Israel-Palestine conflict, visit our dedicated page.

“The Biennale has been silent about Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians. We are appalled by this double standard,” said the letter, signed by more than 12,500 people, according to the alliance.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” it said.

“The Biennale is platforming a genocidal apartheid state. No death in Venice. No business as usual.”

Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano condemned the letter as “unacceptable” and “shameful”, saying it “threatens freedom of thought and creative expression”.

“Israel does not only have the right to express its art, but has the duty to bear witness to its people at a moment like this, when it has been hit by surprise by merciless terrorists,” he said in a statement.

He added that the Biennale, which runs from April 20 to November 24, “will always be a space of freedom, of meetings and dialogue, and not a space of censorship and intolerance”.

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Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

They took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, according to Israel.

Israel’s relentless military retaliation has killed at nearly 30,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to its Hamas-run health ministry.

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