Palestinian children’s art exhibition in California shut down under pro-Israel pressure

Ahram Online, Saturday 10 Sep 2011

‘The children in Gaza lose,’ after pro-Israel organisations pressure an Oakland gallery to cancel an art exhibition by Palestinian children of their experience in Israel-Palestine conflicts

One of the works submitted to “A Child’s View From Gaza” exhibition

The president of the board of Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) announced that the exhibition "A Child's View From Gaza" has been cancelled, citing it was 'inappropriate' to host it in an open gallery accessible to children. However, a San Francisco newspaper says pro-Israeli pressure is the real reason.

Over the past several months, MECA and Children’s Art in Oakland (MOCHA) were planning to feature art by Palestinian children living in the Gaza Strip. It was scheduled to open on September 24, and included special activities for children and families, such as a cartooning workshop and poetry readings.

Artwork created by children between the ages of 9 - 11 included drawings of military actions: bombs dropping and a number of scenes captured by the young minds who experience the Palestinian-Israeli conflict first-hand.

“Our aim, as with all exhibits, is to foster insight and understanding," Hilmon Sorey, the museum's board chairman said in a statement published by the San Francisco Chronicle. “However, upon further review and engagement with the community, it became clear that this exhibit was not appropriate for an open gallery accessible by all children.”

MECA states that it has learned that there was a concerted effort by pro-Israel organisations in the San Francisco Bay Area to pressure the museum to reverse its decision to display Palestinian children’s art. 

Barbara Lubin, the Executive Director of MECA, expressed her dismay that the museum decided to censor this exhibit, which is in contradiction of its mission “to ensure that the arts are a fundamental part of the lives of all children.”

“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. 

The San Francisco Chronicle writes that “The alliance said Friday it would seek another venue to display the children's art.”

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