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

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.