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Canadian Arts Conference Bars Jewish Illustrator over Previously Serving in the Israeli Military

The Vancouver Comic Arts Festival banned a Jewish artist on Saturday following backlash from anti-Israel activists about her participation in the exhibition due to her past service in the IDF.

VanCAF issued an “accountability statement” after Jewish nonfiction and autobiographical comics artist Miriam Libicki participated in the May 18–19 festival.

In 2008, Libicki published a graphic novel about serving in the IDF, which the festival described as recounting her “personal position in the said military and the illegal occupation of Palestine.”

“The oversight and ignorance to allow this exhibitor in the festival, not only this year but in 2022 as well, fundamentally falls in absolute disregard to all of our exhibiting artists, attendees, and staff, especially those who are directly affected by the ongoing genocide in Palestine and Indigenous community members alike,” said VanCAF. “This exhibitor will not be permitted to return to the festival.”

The festival assured that it would revise its policies and submission guidelines and adhere to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’s guidelines.“VanCAF condemns the ongoing genocide and land theft committed by the State of Israel in Palestine,” read the statement.”We stand in solidarity with all Palestinians and call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, right of return, and complete sovereignty of the Palestinian state.”

Libicki said that she has been publicly pro-peace and in favor of a Palestinian state through negotiations. The only novel that she said she had been promoting at VanCAF 2024 was an award-winning anthology of Holocaust memoirs, titled But I Live.

“In recent years, I have been working closely with Holocaust survivors to tell their own stories. I consider this urgent and timely work,” said Libicki. “Because of the vulnerable populations I work with, I prefer not to discuss my specific political views in public. I believe all policing of artists’ personal identities and nationalities is wrong. VanCAF’s illegal ban and defamation directed at me is bad for all artists of all political orientations and backgrounds.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said that it was unacceptable that taxpayer funds were being used, through the sponsorship of the British Columbia Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and the City of Vancouver, to support a festival that discriminates against Israelis. CIJA urged the BC Tourism Ministry and Canadian Heritage Department to review the funding of the organization.

“In Canada, you can’t discriminate against someone based on race, religion, national, or ethnic origin, and you certainly shouldn’t be rewarded for doing so,” said CIJA.