One of the images that was to appear in the canceled Palestinian children’s art show.

Pressure from some Bay Area Jewish groups and others have pushed the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) in Oakland, California, to cancel A Child’s View from Gaza, which is an exhibition featuring 50 art works by Palestinian children aged 9 to 11. Slated to open at the Oakland institution on September 24, the rather last minute cancellation has shocked many who are disturbed that the voices of young children are being silenced in America. Many of the images portray the bloodshed of the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2008 and 2009, known as Operation Cast Lead, and they were created by the children during art therapy sessions that help them cope with the trauma.

In an open letter to the MOCHA community, chair Hilmon Sorey wrote that, “…as an organization that serves a large and diverse community, we tried to balance this with the concerns raised by parents, caregivers and educators who did not wish for their children to encounter graphically violent and sensitive works during their use of our facility.” In an interview with the Contra Costa Times newspaper, Sorey was more specific and said that “the board felt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is too divisive an issue.”

Yet the Museum is no stranger to exhibitions that portray violence and a 2004 exhibit showed art done by Iraqi children immediately following the American invasion and the institution has explored children’s art that portrays violence in other shows.

Barbara Lubin, who is the chair of The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which organized the show was dismayed by the cancellation. “We understand all too well the enormous pressure that the museum came under. But who wins? The museum doesn’t win. MECA doesn’t win. The people of the Bay Area don’t win. Our basic constitutional freedom of speech loses. The children in Gaza lose,” she said in a MECA media advisory issued today. The document suggests a disturbing trend:

… [T]his disturbing incident is just one example of many across the nation in which certain groups have successfully silenced the Palestinian perspective, which includes artistic expression. In fact, some organizations have even earmarked funds for precisely these efforts. Last year, regrettably the Jewish Federation of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative to effectively silence Palestinian voices even in ‘cultural institutions.’

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the pressure to cancel the show “came from Jewish groups as well as others in the community, board members said.”

You can view 15 images from the show, which is currently looking for a new venue in the Bay Area, on MECA’s Facebook page.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

10 replies on “Museum Bows to Pressure From Jewish Groups and Cancels Palestinian Children’s Art Show”

  1. Lets face it.. this isn’t about children not being exposed to violence or about the divisiveness of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Its about keeping the impact of Israeli policies and actions on civilians, especially children from being widely known.  

  2. Thank you, Krista, for posting this; otherwise I might not have known about this cowardly decision by the Oakland Children’s (ha! ha!) Museum.  Recently, I received a disgusting email from a relative about how a Palestinian pressure group was putting the pressure on Whole Foods Markets, Inc. to remove all Israeli products from their markets.  And so it goes.

  3. So then who are the crazy people taking the children’s therapy work and putting it on display. Those are the people I worry about.

    1. I’ve seen these types of shows before, it’s not uncommon. The kids were quite happy that their voices were being heard. The sad part came when their instructors told them that the show was cancelled.

  4. Outrageous. Kowtowing to a special interest group subverts the museum’s role as a public institution.

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