The plates on display at the hospital (all images courtesy UK Lawyers for Israel)

A London hospital removed artwork said to be made by schoolchildren in Gaza under pressure from the Zionist organization UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI). In a letter published February 9, the organization stated that Jewish patients had approached the group for “help,” saying they felt “vulnerable, harassed and victimised” by the drawings. The letter was not a formal legal complaint but did suggest legal proceedings.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital placed the artworks on view in 2012. The display was a collaboration between the hospital, its affiliated Chelsea Community Hospital School, and two schools in Gaza. According to a project description, Palestinian students sent pictures of “everyday life” and London schoolchildren then transposed them onto plates. The finished artworks were hung near the entrance of the hospital’s pediatric outpatient wing.

UKLFI called the works “anti-Israel propaganda,” taking issue with two drawings and their accompanying short texts. One text read, “The olive branch is the symbol of peace used to express the wish for an independent Palestinian state.” UKFLI stated that the work depicts the flag at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a holy site for Muslims located on the Temple Mount. The group said the drawing implies that Jerusalem and the site “would be part of a Palestinian state” and added that “it is offensive for Jewish people to see a Palestinian flag over their holiest site.”

The drawing shows a Palestinian flag raised at Dome of the Rock.
Another drawing’s text describes a coastline length which UKFLI said “denied” the existence of Israel.

UKFLI also complained about a text stating that Palestine’s shoreline “stretches for 224km from Rafah in the south to Ra’as Al Naqoura in the north,” claiming that this description covers Israel’s coast and “denies” Israel’s existence.

The censorship of pro-Palestinian artists and artworks has made headlines in Europe over the past year. In September, artists expressed their anger at the Documenta 15 festival when its council suggested not screening a film it said included “antisemitic and anti-Zionist elements” and depicted Israel as “fascist.” In January, an antisemitism commissioner for the German government criticized a Jewish photographer’s stance on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Last year, the president of England’s University of Manchester was allegedly removed due to his decision to allow the display of a pro-Palestine statement. Two dozen artists subsequently withdrew their work from an exhibition.

In response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, a hospital representative said they would be working with the “relevant parties” on the next steps regarding the artwork. “Our primary focus is to care for everyone who is unwell,” the spokesperson said. “We are sorry that the removal of this artwork has offended some communities and that its contents offended other communities.”

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.