A Study in Hypocrisy – Political Censorship at MOCHA

James Brandt from the JDEF makes it clear that the zionist lobby had a political agenda when censoring the “Child’s View from Gaza” exhibit scheduled months ago to be held at MOCHA.

Upon hearing about the exhibit, Jewish community representatives met with MOCHA staff to voice our concerns. First, the exhibit’s violent, even gory images are wholly inappropriate to be viewed by young children. Second, the exhibit and its associated programming were designed to further MECA’s well-documented agenda to delegitimize Israel.

But violent images of Israeli suffering are OK.

Certainly, an appropriate context could be created for MECA’s exhibit. Professionals could determine the appropriate minimum age for visitors. Images could be added to present a balanced context.

These would depict the shelling of Israeli schools, Israeli families praying for the return of kidnapped soldiers and Israeli children grieving for parents killed in terrorist attacks.

Got that? images of violence of Palestinians GOOD, images of Israeli violence BAD.

The Museum of Tolerance held a workshop for children to respond to drawings of children from Darfur of the genocide which they witnessed. These drawings are being used as evidence of war crimes by the Sudanese government in the International Criminal Court. Are Israel’s defenders worried that Gazan children’s drawings may be used similarly? Regardless, the Israel lobby’s double standards on violence and children are shockingly apparent.

Brandt originally accused the exhibit tellingly.

This exhibit constitutes propaganda aimed at indoctrinating our children under the guise of art. There is no context given to understand the complex issues facing Israel and the Palestinians.

Brand Israel bullies children. Palestinian children endure apartheid, occupation and oppression, and their art is deemed unacceptable because it challenges the monopoly on victimhood held by Brand Israel. The obsessive need to control the narrative of oppression was a striking characteristic of the apartheid South African regime also.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which appealed against the ban on Route 443, dared suggest the word apartheid and was reprimanded for it. In her ruling, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote that “the great difference between the security means adopted by the State of Israel for defense against terrorist attacks and the unacceptable practices of the policy of apartheid requires that any comparison or use of this grave term be avoided.”

Today, a demonstration of many community groups concerned about the political censorship of Gazan children’s art was held in Oakland outside MOCHA. Here’s an account of the protest and related events on the MOCHA facebook page:

Mocha partially changed its opinion half an hour before the demo after it saw the public and many artists rally behind the exhibit and also after realizing that MECA found a place nearby to show the kids’ drawings. Many Mocha staff members are outraged by the decision of the board and many Mocha members ended their membership after walking into the museum and throwing a fit because of the shameful behavior of Mocha. There were many angry emails and phone calls too. The presence of the media today also compelled Mocha to reconsider. Mocha’s scandal grew every day and public scorn grew with it too.

Mocha missed the Thursday deadline that was given to it by MECA and today, it was too late. Mocha realized that it made a big mistake and MECA was not going to save its ass from public scorn. Besides, Mocha refused to show all the drawings and wanted to pick and choose and that is still censorship. So yes, it’s still about censoring the artwork of the Palestinian children.

The BDS agendaSome of the advocates for censorship of the exhibition also revealed an underlying motivation to attack BDS, unstated elsewhere publicly.

David Marshak: We are trying to respond to the BDS campaign, which is very well-funded and organised. We can’t match the funding and numbers but we can improve our ability to respond to attacks like these. We have a lot of work to do. JVP is very good.

Crayons of mass creation speak truth to power. The Israel lobby art censors quiver and quake at their impact, and struggle to suppress images and language which attest to Israel’s war crimes and collective punishment perpetrated against the civilian population in Gaza subject to Israel’s oppression – apartheid, occupation and siege. Yet since Israel’s survival apparently depends on censoring children’s drawings of its crimes, Israel has surely doomed itself.

More of the exhibition

UPDATE 24/9/11

Disputed Palestinian children’s art exhibit shown near Oakland children’s museum:

An exhibit of controversial drawings and paintings by Palestinian children was shown in a downtown Oakland museum’s courtyard Saturday, after the Museum of Children’s Art canceled the display three weeks ago.

After criticism from exhibit founder Middle East Children’s Alliance, the museum made a late offer Friday to reschedule the event at a later time, but the organizers said they had already found their own space.

The Alliance’s executive director, Barbara Lubin, said she received a call Friday afternoon from a museum representative asking to meet with her group to discuss rescheduling the exhibit.

“I just laughed,” she said. “I said, ‘You must be crazy; we have spent the last three weeks looking for a place to display (the artwork.) … I
can’t believe you have the chutzpah (audacity) to call me at this late date.’ I have just signed a lease on a space for (an exhibit) for the next two months.”

On Saturday afternoon, a band played while people held up the drawings in the courtyard, and patrons filed into the Museum of Children’s Art.

The museum’s interim executive director, Masako Kalbach, was sympathetic to the views of museum critics.

“We do understand their feelings about our offer of being too late,” she said. “We would really like to talk to them.”

Also at the showing Saturday were about a dozen people from StandWithUs/San Francisco Voice for Israel.

“I think an exhibition that also shows the suffering of children of Southern Israel who have had (thousands) of rockets aimed directly at them could be a much more balanced exhibit,” said group spokesman Mike Harris.
The museum’s decision to cancel the exhibit triggered an outcry against what critics called censorship of Palestinian children’s art, especially since the museum has presented similar wartime artwork, including an exhibit of Iraqi children’s drawings depicting the U.S. war in Iraq.

A museum representative originally said the art was “not appropriate for an open gallery accessible by all children.” But late Friday, museum board member Randolph Belle issued a statement.

“When we canceled the exhibit ‘A Child’s View from Gaza’ earlier this month, we did so both because we lacked a formal policy for sensitive content, and because we were not confident that we had the resources to deal with the numerous concerns we received regarding the exhibit. In response to input from the community and careful consideration by our board of directors and staff, the Museum of Children’s Art has developed a new policy governing the exhibition of items with sensitive content,” the statement said.

Belle’s statement said the Middle East Children’s Alliance has been invited to reschedule the exhibit in keeping with the new policy.

Lubin said she had not seen Belle’s statement Saturday.

She is traveling to Gaza next month to collect new artwork from the children based on how they feel about having their exhibit banned from the museum.

Lubin said she will consider working with the museum to show this set of artwork as long as they do not censor the show.

UPDATE 26/9/11

Oakland Museum of Children’s Art stumbles into Middle East fray

Board member Randolph Belle said the decision was based on the violent nature of some of the work in the show. “Basically we got some [calls from] concerned parents, the Jewish Federation and MOCHA community members,” Belle said, “stating that they didn’t feel that children should be exposed to these images in a public space.”

On Friday, dozens of protestors in front of MOCHA, organized in part by the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), shouted “Shame!” and accused the museum’s board of censorship. “It is very hurtful,” said AROC Youth Program Coordinator Lubna Morrar, who spoke at the protest. “We had been working with [MOCHA] for so long, and if they felt like they didn’t want to take on this project then they shouldn’t have even implemented it to begin with.”

Ziad Abbas, associate director of the Berkeley-based Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), said that during the six months of preparing for the exhibit, which was to include various workshops, “the staff was very supportive, very helpful.” But just two weeks ago, Abbas said, MECA was informed that the event would not take place.

He said the MOCHA representative who called him did not explain in detail—”just that it is an internal issue they are having,” Abbas said. “But we know, we understand that the moment you talk about Palestine, or mention Palestine, you will find the pro-Israeli groups try to put the pressure to silence or to shut you down.”

Abbas said he understands MOCHA was under pressure from various groups. “That is what we saw on the Internet later,” he said. “Many people supporting Israel were congratulating each other after the museum cancelled the exhibition.” Specifically, Abbas and his associates point to both the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay as playing a role in the exhibit’s cancellation.

Faith Metlzer, of San Francisco Voice for Israel, said she was relieved the exhibit would not be shown at the museum. “The art has anti-Semitic, as well as anti-American, symbolism,” she said. “To me, things like this—bombs with Jewish stars on them—it’s just a way of demonizing our people and our religion.”

Metlzer said she worried about how the exhibit would have affected Jewish children in Oakland. “How would you go around with a Jewish star on a T-shirt or on a chain, when the symbol of your people and of your religion has become a hate symbol?” she asked.

In addition to complaints about the violent imagery included in the show, Belle acknowledges that MOCHA did receive calls from people worried that the exhibit was “painting the Jews in a negative light.” But he says the cancellation was not political, and was instead done to protect children from inappropriate, graphic images.

“We are being painted as censors, we’ve been portrayed as having caved in,” Belle said. “We’ve been portrayed a lot of different ways that are just not accurate. We would never have taken the show had we ascribed to any kind of censorship.”

Belle describes MOCHA as a small organization that was caught off-guard and overwhelmed by the emotional reaction the exhibit generated. “We probably did not diligently look at the implications of having this show,” he said. “I don’t know if it was naïveté or just a misjudgment, but there were some mistakes made, and we are paying for them right now.”

Before this controversy, MOCHA had no official exhibition policy, and the “Child’s View of Gaza” exhibit was accepted with a simple up-and-down vote by the board. “In retrospect,” Belle said, “we should have done things differently.”

While “no one threatened to pull [MOCHA] funding or anything else like that,” Belle said, the burden placed on the organization by a controversial exhibit was just too great a risk. “We can make a statement, or we can serve our constituencies,” he said.

In the past, MOCHA has featured work by children of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a WWII exhibit. “Those exhibits did not generate the kinds of passionate responses that this one did,” Belle said.

Abbas also points to those exhibits in questioning MOCHA’s actions. “Why is Palestine different?” he asked. “Children paint what they see in the street. They paint what the Israeli army did. They try to reflect the reality of where they live.”

The Middle East Children’s Alliance received a call from MOCHA on Friday afternoon proposing an alternate exhibit. “They used the terminology ‘modified some pictures,’” Abbas said, which he described as another form of censorship. “We told them ‘Shame on you…it is too late.’”

‘Eleanor Levine, a member of the non-violence advocacy group Code Pink, said Friday, “This is not about religion, it is about a very powerful lobby, the Zionist lobby, that exerts a tremendous amount of power. And they are simply not interested in having the Palestinian voice heard.” Levine called the conflict “a great shame and pity,” and said she hopes MOCHA has “the opportunity to show different cultural art and values” to the people of Oakland.’

Oakland Tribune editorial/slideshow: A cowardly decision by Oakland Museum of Children’s Art

Pro-Israel lobbying groups claimed that the Gaza exhibit was anti-Israel and fought to kill it. They asserted that the art could not possibly have been created by children.

Museum officials insisted that their abrupt about-face had nothing to do with pressure from the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay and other pro-Israel Jewish groups that threatened to withhold funding if the museum went ahead with the exhibit. But these same groups gloated on the Internet about getting the exhibit canceled.

Instead, museum officials asserted that their decision to pull the plug on the exhibit less than two weeks before its scheduled opening last Saturday stemmed from concerns from parents, educators and other community members over the violent war images and their appropriateness for young children.

But past exhibits belie that rationale. In 2009, MOCHA held an exhibit of children’s art from the war in Bosnia and Iraq. It also depicted graphic images created by children who had been witnesses to war and was, as one might expect, difficult to view.

Indeed, the curator for that exhibit, Joan Miro, says she is “appalled and mystified” by MOCHA’s decision to cancel the Gaza exhibit.

The museum’s actions have drawn justifiable condemnations from critics, including progressive Jewish groups who have demanded the museum reverse itself and allow the art work to be shown.

The entire event is troubling that certain individuals have prevented the public from viewing art they don’t want us to see. What’s to stop other organizations from using the same strong-arm tactics to silence opposing viewpoints?

The Middle East Children’s Alliance in Berkeley, which organized the exhibit, showed the artwork Saturday — in the courtyard in front of MOCHA. Museum officials have only themselves to blame for this public relations fiasco.

Oakland Tribune My Word: Censorship was wrong, but exhibit will be seen

We understand the enormous pressure the museum faced — including funding threats. But the decision is a violation of MOCHA’s own mission to give a platform to children’s expression from around the world.

Shamefully, pro-Israel groups have long strategized to silence Palestinian voices and those in solidarity. For 23 years, MECA has challenged such censorship and fought to raise the voices of Palestine, especially those of children.

In 1991, when we invited Professor Noam Chomsky for a speaking engagement, 19 professors from
UC Berkeley signed a letter to bookstores selling tickets to the event. The professors threatened to picket their stores, but the owners refused to be censored.

In December 2005, MECA, in collaboration with Alliance Graphics and the Berkeley Arts Center, presented Justice Matters: Artists Consider Palestine, an exhibit displaying the artwork of 14 Palestinian and North American artists. Fourteen rabbis visited Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley demanding that he cancel the show. They further insisted that the city withdraw funding to the Berkeley Arts Center and to be given the right to inspect any future art exhibit. Despite the rabbis’ objections to the art, the mayor rejected censorship and the show opened to a huge crowd of supporters.

MECA has always respected and loved MOCHA, and continues to support the museum and those who work there. Our support for the museum has not ceased — rather, our anger and our frustration is directed at the board of directors for lacking the courage to withstand bullying and intimidation.

What is so frightening to these pro-Israel forces that they are willing to put millions of dollars into a campaign to shut down protests on campuses, muzzle speakers who advocate for human rights for all, and even silence the voices of children by censoring their art?

WRITE! for Justice, Human Rights, and International Law in Palestine

UPDATE 28/9/11

Exhibition Opening Speeches

Your browser is not able to display this multimedia content.

Successful opening of ‘A Child’s View From Gaza’ exhibition despite efforts to suppress it
Bay Area Jewish Groups Celebrate Shutting Palestinian Art Exhibit – accentuating the despicable gloating of the Brand Israel lobby.
MECA Opens “A Child’s View From Gaza” Exhibit on Schedule at New Venue in Oakland: photos & video

UPDATE 30/9/11

Could censorship of children’s art prove a turning point?

Outraged activists spread the story far and wide via listservs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., and MOCHA’s e-mail account and Facebook page (apparently now closed down) were barraged with indignant messages.

The ADL was also active in promoting censorship of the exhibition: ADL Joins Local Jewish Agencies in Successfully Urging Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art to Cancel Controversial Exhibit of Art by Gaza Children
ADL Supports Censorship. Crayonophobia?
Photos of the crowd at the opening of MECA’s ‘A Child’s view from Gaza’ Exhibit
Palestinian Children’s Art Exhibit Canceled – Radio interviews with Lubin, Kahn and Belle.

Related Links

The Children of Gaza and MOCHA : Censored
Israel’s advocates strongarm education authorities to suffocate School participation in a Palestinian literature festival in England
Committal of war crimes was fixed in Israeli military policy in Operation Cast Lead:

‘Since March 2009, various organizations, including Amnesty International,1 Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission2 have produced reports on the entire operation or specific aspects of it. In addition, Israeli human rights organizations, both in joint statements3 and in individual publications such as those by B’Tselem4 and Gisha5, have also related in a critical manner to the IDF’s (Israeli
Defense Forces) actions during the operation. All these publications have arrived at the general conclusion that was expressed in one report:

“Much of the destruction was wanton and resulted from direct attacks on civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian objects. Such attacks violated fundamental provisions of international humanitarian law, notably the prohibition on direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects (the principle of
distinction), the prohibition on indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, and the prohibition on collective punishment.”6’

The No-Risk Policy

‘Kasher’s argument is that in an area such as the Gaza Strip in which the IDF does not have effective control the overriding principle guiding the commanders is achieving their military objectives. Next in priority is protecting soldiers’ lives, followed by avoiding injury to enemy civilians.

“Sending a soldier there to fight terrorists is justified, but why should I force him to endanger himself much more than that so that the terrorist’s neighbour isn’t killed? I don’t have an answer for that. From the standpoint of the state of Israel, the neighbour is much less important. I owe the soldier more. If it’s
between the soldier and the terrorist’s neighbour, the priority is the soldier”.25″

The Dahiye Doctrine

Two years later, in the beginning of October 2008, the Commanding Officer of the IDF’s Northern Command, Maj. General Gadi Eisenkott, gave an interview to Yedioth
Ahronoth newspaper, in which he unveiled what he called the “Dahiye Doctrine”:
“What happened in the Dahiye Quarter of Beirut in 2006, will happen in every village from which shots are fired on Israel. We will use disproportionate force against it and we will cause immense damage and destruction. From our point
of view these are not civilian villages but military bases.

This is not a recommendation, this is the plan, and it has already been authorized.”46

Palestine / Israel Links

Full transcript of Abbas speech at UN General Assembly
PM Netanyahu: “President Abbas, I extend my hand – the hand of Israel – in peace.”