Oakland Children’s Museum of Art’s cancellation of “Children’s View from Gaza” is downright shameful

September 23, 2011

Recently, The Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) in Oakland announced the cancellation of an exhibit entitled “Children’s View from Gaza,” which would have opened on last Saturday.

The exhibit featured drawings by Palestinian children from about ages 9 to 11.  The decision to cancel the exhibition was the result of pressure and complaints “from Jewish groups as well as others in the community” that the content was too violent, museum board members told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Campanil staff feels the cancellation perpetuates violence in Gaza by silencing the artist’s voices,  and has deprived children here in Oakland of a valuable opportunity to learn about their peers in the Middle East.

The drawings do depict the violence of war, but wouldn’t you know, MOCHA has presented similar exhibits in the past without giving in to “pressure and complaints.”

For some reason, equally violent art by children in years past — American kids in ’07 and Iraqi children in ’04 — made the cut.  The reasoning behind admitting those exhibits is not mentioned in MOCHA’s open letter regarding the cancellation.

Instead, it contains disengenuous excuses, including, “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 use of our facility.”

And no, using parental concerns as a smokescreen to silence these children’s voices isn’t even the end of it. The letter diplomatically claims that “MOCHA is a facility that must be accessible for our entire community.”

Oh, really?  Because the last time we checked being “accessible” included representing people’s voices, especially those that are normally left out.  The cancellation is contradictory and unfair, and the racist logic behind it is familiar in the decades-old ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,’ a euphemism for the ethnic cleansing and continued illegal occupation of Palestine by Israeli settlers.

A good example of this diversionary tactic can be found in the recent staff editorial in JWeekly, the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, which asks:  “But if an exhibit is to highlight the suffering of children during war, then why not hang the art of these Gazan children side by side with drawings by Israeli children from Sderot, who have endured years of deadly Hamas rockets?  Would this not be a more fair-minded expression of the horrors of war?”

No, JWeekly, it would not.  It is almost always the Israeli “side” that is represented or heard, thanks in large part to the unwavering efforts of Zionist groups to keep Israel’s military occupation quiet — or, more accurately, to keep up the image that Israel is the victim of Palestinian “terrorism” and their military actions are only out of defense.  How better to justify more illegal settlements and denial of basic human rights to Palestinians, right?

Being the journalists we are, The Campanil staff is typically in favor of “both sides” and “fairness.”  The occupation and continued ability of Jewish (read, pro-Zionist) groups to silence so many voices that try to speak out is hardly fairness.

This enforcement of “fairness” and “concern-balancing” on the part of MOCHA is not an isolated incident, and it will not be the last of its kind if museums and other places of free expression continue to remain so “accessible.”  The museum’s actions are a blatant display of selective censorship.

We find the cancellation of “Children’s View from Gaza” particularly telling of the fear pro-Zionist Jews have of word spreading about the violence and coercion its occupation relies on — even the voices of children must be quieted.

The Campanil staff urges you to tell MOCHA what you think about their decision.  To be silent is to be complicit.  Write them a letter at 538 9th St. #210, Oakland, CA or call them at (510) 465-8770.

Oakland Children’s Museum of Art’s cancellation of “Children’s View from Gaza” is downright shameful was published on September 23, 2011 in Editorial, Opinions

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  • Anony88

    I will write more later, but for now, I just want to say that your article is very one-sided. Israeli children suffer from war as well, and it would be perfectly reasonable to place the pictures side-by-side with those from Israeli children. Palestine isn’t all innocent. Nor is Hamas. The situation is much more complicated than you make it out to be, and it is very naive to dismiss Israeli security concerns as “racist.”. I hope other people comment.

  • Rabbi Menachem Creditor

    This is a vicious article, with no sensitivity to the terrorism Israelis endure.  Journalism requires investigation, and this article is hardly journalistic.  The article is reactionary, biased, and misleading.

    Rabbi Menachem Creditor
    Berkeley, CA 

  • http://thecampanil.com/ The Campanil

    A couple of things to keep in mind while reading editorials (of all types, including our staff editorial):

    1. This is an opinion piece – we do not claim to have remained objective or to have done lengthy reporting (though we do research our points and try to give as much context as possible)

    2. While most editorials do not reflect the views of The Campanil, the staff editorial is a chance for our staff to express their opinions. It is a conglomeration of ALL of our opinions, including unpopular ones. While the rest of the paper is devoted to the community’s voice and the community’s opinions, this is the one and only place in the paper where we get to have some say in what is portrayed as important. As such, it is a bit unfair to call our journalistic integrity based on the one and only piece in our paper that includes our blatant, unabashed opinions. 

    As for this article in particular, our main point had absolutely nothing to do with Israel and Palestine – we did have several staff members who were concerned about that particular political question and so it was included. Our main concern, as journalists, was what it means to refuse to show art because of its “delicate” nature. Censorship is the real problem here, and that is what we are truly speaking out against.

    Thank you for taking the time to read our paper and I do hope you take the time to look around a bit more.

  • Anony88

    I understand that this is an opinion piece and that you are not trying to remain objective. I just have issues with your opinion. If censorship is the real problem, then what is this business about “Zionism” and “illegal settlements” and “human rights”? I absolutely agree that the exhibit should not have been censored. However, I also believe that Jweekly is right in saying that there should be drawings from Israeli children as well. Why, exactly, do you disagree with this?  Israel *is* the victim of Palestinian terrorism (but I am now saying this means that everything Israel does is justified), which makes me wonder why you put the word “terrorism” in quotes, as if to dismiss its legitimacy. I visited the West Bank last summer, and written on the wall was “Warning: Bombs today, Gas Chambers Tomorrow”. I stayed in a house in Ashdod where the pavement had to be redone due to a rocket shot from Hamas from Gaza.

    You make it seem as if the censoring of the exhibit is some sort of Jewish conspiracy, when you say “The occupation and continued ability of Jewish (read, pro-Zionist)
    groups to silence so many voices that try to speak out is hardly