Guidelines for Free Speech and Creative Freedom in Wartime

Freedom of speech and creative freedom are fundamental to the teaching and learning processes at Bezalel, and securing them requires a safe space for experimentation, reflection, trial and error. Our students’ professional and personal development involves individual exposure, vulnerability, and working through intimate thoughts and raw emotions, hence requiring them to feel safe. Bezalel is constantly active in maintaining the safety of its members, so that each receives an equal opportunity to develop and mature as an active creative professional in society.

The massacre perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, 2023, and the ensuing war have overwhelmed the Israeli public, resulting in harsh feelings and political extremism. In addition to military casualties, the current conflict exacts a terrible cost in life, property and mental health from noncombatants in both Israel and Gaza. The events of the massacre and war radicalize the public discourse and contribute to an increase in the frequency and intensity of violent incidents, as well as racist expressions and harassments, which make many feel afraid, anxious, angry, grieving and confused. All of these processes are also experienced within the Bezalel community as well, affecting its cohesion and harmony, and reminding us of the fragility of our shared space. Under these circumstances, our ongoing duty to provide a safe, inclusive, creative and productive learning space becomes extremely complex, and yet all the more essential.

Bezalel is an inclusive academic space that represents the sociopolitical diversity of Israeli society. Our academy brings together lived realities, diverse identities, complex and contradictory worldviews. Despite the tensions and conflicts that may arise in formal lessons, informal encounters, lecture halls, studios and other Bezalel spaces, maintaining a diversity of populations and opinions is a precondition for enabling significant creative and learning processes, and for the academy’s key contribution to the intellectual, cultural and creative life in Israel. Accordingly,

Bezalel protects the free speech and creative freedom of all its members, and their right to exercise those freedoms safely in all discursive and activity spaces, physical or virtual.

Bezalel encourages the expression of a wide range of opinions by its individual members, even if others may find them controversial, unpleasant, objectionable, or annoying.

Bezalel does not allow these freedoms to be exploited in order to deny other’s individual rights, or to harm the safety of its students and faculty.

Bezalel denounces all expressions of violence, discrimination, racism, persecution, as well as all forms of harassment or threat against any of its members due to their expressions, whether we find them legitimate or not.

Solidarity, Creativity, and Rules of Discursive Conduct: Q&A

  • How can free speech and creative freedom be maintained in this time of crisis?

    To exercise freedom of expression to create and ensure an academic environment that facilitates the professional and personal development of all its members, we must act both together and individually to ensure that all our members f‍eel safeguarded and safe. On the one hand, we must develop the ability to contain a complex reality with divergent views, as unsettling and unpleasant as these may be, and on the other hand we must denounce every expression of violence, threat and persecution. Each one of us has the responsibility and ability to contribute to such an environment.

  • What are the dos and don’ts of free speech?

    Free speech is the cornerstone of every democracy. It is an essential condition for creativity, expression and academic and artistic work. Free speech applies to both conventional and unconventional opinions, to congenial exchanges as well as harsh criticism, to the pleasant and obvious and to the irritating and infuriating, to verbal, visual and performative expressions. Having said that, note that free speech is not absolute, and that in rare and extreme cases it is weighed down by other values, particularly when the expression in question constitutes a real and immediate threat to an individual or a community.


    Express a political view.

    Express one’s individual identity, among other things using national, religious, or cultural narratives, symbols and representations.

    Identify and empathize with the suffering of innocent people, Israelis, Palestinians, or others.


    Express support for the injuring and killing of innocent civilians, as in the October 7 massacre. Such expressions represent a severe offense to the dignity of each of the community members, and is forbidden by law.

    Act violently, including verbal violence.

    Call for or incite to violence – it is forbidden to threaten any person or call for damage to the life and property of individuals or collectives.

    Express support for a terrorist organization.

    Express racism and/or incite to racism. Avoid all generalizations that attribute negative qualities or inappropriate acts to individuals based on collective characteristics such as religion, nationality, or gender, and do not call for action against people based on such collective characteristics.

  • Is it OK to express political opinions in Bezalel?

    Yes! Academic space is essentially one of asking questions and examining ideas. This is why it must be as free as possible. In an academy of arts and design that strives for innovative and even norm challenging work, broad and profound thinking, and a discourse capable of containing complexity, diverse expressions and ideas must be enabled. The law allows faculty members, students and management to express their personal opinions and discuss politics. Moreover, contents and discussions relevant to Israel’s socio-political reality are of academic value and are sometimes essential in the academic context. In environments where learning takes place in the presence of a faculty member, the decision whether to discuss political issues is subject to their discretion.

  • How should I express myself freely and responsibly in Bezalel?

    We all have the right to express our thoughts and feelings honestly and directly, so long as we do so within the boundaries set forth by Israeli law. Spaces of expression include all spaces of learning and creation at Bezalel: classrooms, studios, and campus workshops, as well as digital spaces, WhatsApp groups and social media.

    At the same time, we must be aware that in periods of escalation and tension, there is a tendency to converge into one’s original ingroup, to radicalize one’s views, ignore nuances, and have difficulty empathizing. We must therefore be mindful of the way our messages may be interpreted in various contexts, in various spaces and with different identities, and be prepared to provide explanations as required.

    In particular, the nature of communication in WhatsApp groups and social media tends to radicalize statements and foment disagreements and conflicts whilst that it is liable to lead to harsh and even illegal expressions. In certain cases, attacking a person verbally in social media may even place their lives in danger. We must be aware of these pitfalls when posting and sharing views and comments, and express ourselves in our name rather than under the guise of anonymity, thereby taking responsibility for our words.

  • How to interpret controversial expressions and performances?

    The learning outcomes and artwork produced in Bezalel, as well as its teaching processes, encompass a wide range of verbal, visual, and performative forms of expression. These include complex, multilayered and sometimes challenging content. The encounter with the diverse learning outcomes in academia invites a broad range of comments and interpretations, according to the various contexts and the spaces where these expressive artwork and performances have been developed and presented. Accordingly, sometimes, artwork, statements and expressions can make some people feel unpleasant and even be interpreted as violent and threatening.

    While recognizing the fact that messages may be interpreted in different ways and indifferent contexts, we must assume that others fundamentally mean well, and that they do not deliberately intend to harm us. Whenever we feel discomfort or threat, or encounter what we believe is a call to violence, we must talk with the creator of the expression, share with them, the way we interpret their messages, and listen to their explanations.

  • How to respond to an expression that undermines our sense of security?

    At this time of crisis, verbal, visual, and performative expressions can undermine our sense of safety. When we feel a certain act or expression threatens our safety, we should respond level headedly and factually, and address the explicit content of the claims and messages, as much as we may find them difficult to accept. We should try and understand the intent, context and background of the expression. If it is possible to address the creator of the expression directly, we should seek clarification. If this does not assuage our sense of threat, we should contact the Dean of Student and/or the relevant Department Head and file a complaint. The latter will refer the complaint to Bezalel’s professional academic team who’s responsible for the clarification of complaints on suspected support for terrorism, racism or violence. In any case, it is forbidden to threaten violence or act violently against another member of the community, even if you find that they have expressed themselves illegitimately. Shaming, vilification, incitement and excommunication are violent, illegitimate acts themselves.


Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is a person’s right to having an opinion and expressing it in any way. It is a basic human right in a democracy, and applies also to outrageous, and even racist or mendacious expressions. Various laws restrict freedom of speech when it poses a danger to an individual or a public. Laws that partly limit free speech include laws against racist expressions, support for terrorism, denying the Holocaust, etc. These laws are interpreted in a way that recognizes the significant value of free speech. Freedom of speech enjoys a broader, special protection when applied to artistic expression.


The penal code defines racism as follows: “persecution, humiliation, denigration, expression of hatred, hostility or violence, or incitement of or against a certain group or part of the population, all because of skin color or belonging to an ethno-national race or origin; racism is opposed to the principles of democracy, and in particular, it severely injures human dignity and the principle of human equality”.

The penal code forbids the publication of any statement designed to incite to racism, whether it has been successful in that or not, or whether it is truthful or not.

The Bezalel ethical code provides broad protection of free speech, but states that the academy “rejects artworks that call for violence explicitly (i.e., not critically or ironically)”.

Calling for or inciting to violence/violent acts

Israel’s penal code forbids publications “calling for acts of violence, or expressing praise, sympathy, or encouragement for acts of violence, supporting such acts or identifying with them, whereby, based on the content of the inciteful publication and the circumstances of its publishing, there is a real possibility that it may lead to perpetrating violent acts”.

Bezalel’s ethical code provides broad protection of free speech, but states that the academy “rejects artworks that call for violence explicitly (i.e., not critically or ironically)”

Support for a terrorist organization

The Counter-Terrorism Law forbids any expression of identification with an organization defined by the state as a terrorist organization, including by way of expressing praise, support or sympathy, waving the organization’s flag, presenting or publishing a symbol, or presenting, playing or publishing a slogan or anthem. All given that this publication is public. Support for a Palestinian state and waving the Palestinian flag do not constitute support for a terrorist organization.

An inclusive academic space

An inclusive academic space welcomes members of diverse identities and groups, and offers them equal opportunities to participate in its activities and to develop within it. An inclusive campus is a thriving scene of thoughts and opinions that is open to different voices within an egalitarian, fair and tolerant climate. The Bezalel campus is an academic space where all participants share a common belonging and common interests, enabling them to present competing and contradictory points of view, without fear, and without this affecting their ability to learn, teach, explore and work together.


Safety (Safeguarding) is an umbrella term that refers to an organizational culture that protects the well-being of all those sharing the same space, and to the right to be protected. Safety means being protected from harm in various areas, including health, physical, emotional, social, gender, and occupational safety. A safe environment is one where the well-being of every individual or group is ensured.

Bezalel is a diverse community

Located in the heart of Jerusalem, Bezalel is a unique space for cultivating a creative community that brings together different lived realities, multiple identities, and often also contradictory worldviews. Our community reflects the social and ideological diversity of Israeli society. Social and political diversity are essential prerequisites of art and culture, and play a decisive role in realizing the academy’s objective: to foster activist, critical and relevant artists and designers, to contribute to a thriving and engaged culture, and to act for a just society. The encounters between members of the Bezalel community, the ties they form through learning and creating in a shared space, and their acquaintance with the lived reality of the Other often involve tensions and conflicts. However, these are necessary conditions for creative-critical work that opens up or reveals new perspectives on reality, and enables mind-shifting learning and new and transformative knowledge.