'The Criminals Here Are Not Hamas': Meet the Anti-Semitic Artists Accusing Israel of 'War Crimes'

Demonstrators march in support of "Palestine" on October 8, 2023 in New York City. (Adam Gray/Getty Images)
October 30, 2023

Included among the British artists who signed an open letter accusing Israel of "war crimes" are a number of anti-Semitic poets, writers, and producers who have argued that the "criminals are not Hamas" and compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

More than 2,000 artists—including Narnia actress Tilda Swinton and Tropic Thunder actor Steve Coogan—signed on to an Oct. 17 "Artists for Palestine UK" letter accusing Israel of "war crimes" and calling for an "immediate ceasefire" in Gaza. The letter, which did not mention or condemn Hamas's terrorist slaughter of innocent Israelis, also featured support from a wide array of anti-Semites who have defended Hamas and accused Israel of "deliberate and systematic civilian killing."

Painter Aya Gamil, for example, in an Oct. 18 Instagram post shared a photo that compared Gaza to Auschwitz and said both Israel and Nazi Germany were founded on racial "supremacy." "What's happening in Gaza isn't a war; it's ethnic cleansing, genocide, deliberate and systematic civilian killing," Gamil said in her caption. Artist Farah Hallaba in early October shared a string of posts that called Israel a "fascist colonial murderous entity" and argued that the "criminals" in the ongoing war in Israel "are not Hamas." Fellow artist Mona Essam Eldin after Hamas's attack on the Jewish state shared a Facebook post that read, "May God curse the Arab rulers, Help Palestine, Fuck Israel, Fuck America."

The letter and its signatories reflect the explosion in anti-Semtic rhetoric and attacks seen in the United States and abroad following Hamas's Oct. 7 terrorist assault on Israel. Though the assault left at least 1,300 Israelis dead, including women and children, Israel's retaliatory strikes have led to condemnation from celebrities through statements that failed to mention Hamas altogether.

Some of those celebrities have distanced themselves from the "Artists for Palestine UK" letter. Outlander actor Sam Heughan apologized for signing it, saying he "believed it was a simple call for peace" but "it wasn't." Coogan responded to criticism over the letter's omission of Hamas by condemning the terrorist group, but the actor nonetheless defended his decision to sign on to the statement. Swinton has not addressed the omission.

Representatives for Coogan and Swinton did not return requests for comment.

In addition to Gamil, Hallaba, and Eldin—none of whom returned requests for comment—the "Artists for Palestine UK" letter featured support from Leniko Sennoma, a self-described "fine artist" whose Instagram features a post lamenting the "echoes" between Israeli rhetoric and "the Nazi mythos of 'blood and soil.'"

Poet Ali Al-Jamri, a fellow signatory, on the day of the Hamas assault shared a post that blamed the attack on Israel and said there were "no 'both sides' argument" to the ensuing war. Signatory Sam Keogh similarly shared an article that accused the Jewish people of distorting the Holocaust "to boost the Israeli arms industry" and weaponizing accusations of anti-Semitism "to justify Israeli violence against Palestinians." Another artist who signed the letter, theater producer Mais Robinson, shared an Oct. 7 post that called Hamas's attack "self defense."

Al-Jamri, Keogh, and Robinson did not return requests for comment.

The "Artists for Palestine in UK" letter was not the only recent instance in which the art community rallied against Israel. Two days after that letter's release, Artforum magazine published an "open letter from the art community to cultural organizations" that accused Israel of "genocide." Hallaba, Keogh, and Robinson also signed the Artforum letter, which—like its "Artists for Palestine in UK" counterpart—did not mention Hamas.

A number of prominent artists, including Scottish painter Peter Doig, went on to remove their names from the Artforum letter, which was updated on Oct. 23 with a note condemning "the horrific massacres of 1,400 people in Israel conducted by Hamas." The magazine fired top editor David Velasco over the letter and said the decision to publish it was "not consistent with Artforum's editorial process."

Still, Velasco said he did not regret the move, telling the New York Times he was "disappointed that a magazine that has always stood for freedom of speech and the voices of artists have bent to outside pressure."

Charles Hilu and Alec Schemmel contributed to this report.