Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oakland Gaza Children’s Art Exhibit Opens on Time – In Front of Museum That Banned It

Right on schedule, an exhibit of kid's art from the besieged enclave of Gaza opened in Oakland, California this past week.  Not in the once-renowned Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA) there. It opened out in the plaza in front of the museum, with over 500 attending the event:
Two weeks ago, an art exhibit scheduled to be shown at the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland was cancelled due to pressure from local and national pro-Israeli lobby groups.


The museum had apparently caved to pressure by local and national pro-Israeli lobby groups to cancel the show, according to The Electronic Infitada blog.


Undaunted, the show still went on, as announced by The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).


In a press release, MECA stated:


"As promised, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) presented “A Child’s View From Gaza” on the scheduled opening date, September 24, 2011. The art exhibit opened in the courtyard outside of the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) in Oakland to a tremendous crowd of supporters.


"'A Child’s View from Gaza' features the work of young Palestinian children who lived through Israel’s attacks in the winter of 2008-09 — which killed approximately 1,400 people, including several hundred children — and have used art therapy to process their trauma and grief."
I wrote earlier here about the censorship of the kids' art, in an article titled Crayons or Mass Destruction.  In the time since I wrote that article, which noted that some pro-Zionist expansion organizations had openly bragged about being part of the censorship effort,  other organizations supporting the rapidly expanding dispossession of Palestinians from their homes, farms, schools, businesses and from under the very sky they adore, have joined in a strange, triumphalist strut reminiscent of Afrikaaners, bragging about dispossessing Bantus or Zulus:
The Tweet from the Jewish Federation of the East Bay was unabashed: The Jewish establishment had succeeded in shutting down an art exhibit aimed at children that portrayed Israel scathingly.


“Great news!“ the federation proclaimed. “The ‘Child’s View From Gaza’ exhibit at MOCHA has been canceled thanks to some great East Bay Jewish community organizing.”


Sent on September 2, the message celebrated the cancellation of an exhibit of 45 drawings by Palestinian children that had been scheduled to open on September 24 at Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art. The museum’s decision was announced immediately following a meeting between Jewish groups and the museum‘s directors. And that has set off a debate still roiling the cultural quarters of the San Francisco Bay area, where the Jewish establishment has already drawn lines on artistic criticism of Israel from within the community.
In contrast to praise garnered toward the censorship by groups supporting or actually sponsoring growth of Zionist settler colonies on Palestinian land, has been the pushback from elements of the Bay Area community not usually involved in disputes of this sort.  Here's the conclusion of a letter to the MOCHA board, unanimously signed by the board of the Oakland Education Association:
MOCHA has long been a place where the art of all children is valued and shared, not a place where some is censored. We urge you to abide by your own core values and mission. As stated in your Open Letter to the MOCHA Community of September 12, 2011, “The Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) was founded as a place where children from all backgrounds could come together to make and celebrate art. MOCHA provides a safe place for children to express themselves through art, and produces programs that are intended to foster insight and understanding.” That you have chosen not to allow a safe place for the often-ignored children of Gaza to share their art is a decision that will unfortunately scar your reputation and remain a deep disappointment to the many teachers who have supported you throughout your existence.


Sincerely and with deep regret,


Betty Olson-Jones


President, Oakland Education Association
The letter was read at the opening outside the discredited museum.  Yesterday, the Oakland Tribune published an op-ed by board members of the Middle East Children's Alliance, which had sponsored the exhibit of Gaza children's art.  Here's a part that recounts past censorship efforts by groups and individuals supporting future colonization expansion on Palestinian land:
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. [emphasis added]
One of the claims made by MOCHA, in censoring the kids' work, was that the museum did not show violent images, as policy.  Earlier in September, San Francisco Chronicle writer, Jill Tucker, listed past exhibits which clearly indicate the museum's defense was a lie:
Yet it wouldn't have been the first time the museum has featured wartime art by children.


In 2007, it exhibited paintings made during World War II by American children in the Kaiser shipyard child care center. The art featured images of Hitler, burning airplanes, sinking battleships, empty houses and a sad girl next to a Star of David.


In 2004, art by Iraqi children hung on the museum's walls. The pictures, made shortly after the U.S. invasion, included a picture of a helicopter shooting into a field of flowers.
Henry Norr, begins his excellent article on the opening of the exhibit in its new venue with:
If I were one of the Zionist operatives who pressured the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland to cancel the exhibit of Gaza children's drawings, I'd be kicking myself right now.


If they'd simply ignored the whole thing and let its scheduled two-month run proceed, probably no more than a few hundred people, most of them school children, would have seen the show. It's not as if MOCHA is a major attraction.


But thanks to the ham-handed censorship engineered by the Jewish establishment - and the determined fight-back of the Middle East Children's Alliance and others opposed to such bullying - thousands of people around the world have seen the kids' pictures.


Last Saturday 500 or so crowded into a makeshift storefront gallery and spilled over into the street outside at an upbeat grand opening of the show around the corner from MOCHA - see Annie's description here, video here (including the music of the Brass Liberation Orchestra, featuring my daughter Sarah on snare drum), more video and photos herehere, and a frustrated Zionist take on the event here. Thousands more have seen at least some of the images online - here at Mondoweiss, onFacebook, on YouTube, even in a slideshow posted on the online editorial pages of the two largest newspapers in the East Bay. and


Lots more Bay Area residents and visitors will get a chance to see the pictures in person this fall, as they will remain on display at MECA's new gallery for the next two months at 917 Washington Street in Oakland, a block from Broadway between 9th St. and 10th St. (MECA is still trying to work out hours and staffing, so before you head for the show, check at www.mecaforpeace.org, email meca@mecaforpeace.org, or call (510) 548-0542.)
Here's a Youtube video of the opening:

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

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