In the past week since their board of directors made a decision to censor children’s artwork from Gaza, the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) in Oakland has been deluged with emails and phone calls urging them to reconsider and give Palestinian children’s expression a platform.
Legendary author and political activist Alice Walker — who had recently returned to visit Palestine earlier this year — wrote a beautiful piece on her website admonishing the decision to censor this exhibition.
Empathy is a wave that need never be stopped. If our children can catch this wave, from the ocean of tears shed by Palestinian children, they might have a future in a more stable and saner world.
However, it seems as if MOCHA’s board has prioritized giving into intimidation by the Israeli lobby over freedom of expression of children in Palestine who suffer under the effects of Israeli policy.
The Middle East Children’s Alliance sent a press release on Thursday night saying that “[d]espite the massive outcry against its censorship of a Palestinian children’s art exhibit, the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) in Oakland has refused to change its decision to cancel ‘A Child’s View From Gaza.’”
The press release continued:
The Museum’s Board of Directors, which voted to cancel the art exhibit one week ago following enormous pressure from pro-Israel groups, received a letter from the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), along with thousands more from supporters around the country, requesting that they reverse their decision by Thursday, September 15.
Regrettably, on Tuesday, September 12, MOCHA’s Board President Hilmon Sorey posted an open letter on the organization’s website defending the cancelation of the exhibit, citing community concerns about the “violent” nature of the images. However, the images depicted in the art exhibit drawn by Palestinian children in fact decry the use of violence against a defenseless civilian population.
The Museum itself has previously presented wartime artwork, including drawings by Iraqi children that show U.S. tanks and weaponry, as well as another exhibit of World War II imagery. One letter writer also reminded MOCHA that pro-Israel groups routinely sponsor student trips to Holocaust museums around the country that feature images of Nazi horror.
“We are very disappointed in MOCHA’s insistence to silence the voices of Palestinian children, despite its long history of presenting similar wartime art. MOCHA’s double standard when it comes to Palestinian children shows that its decision was political in nature,” said Barbara Lubin, Executive Director of MECA.
In fact, days after MOCHA announced the cancelation of the exhibit, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay boasted to several media outlets to pressuring the museum to make that decision.
Unfortunately, this disturbing incident is just one example of many across the nation in which certain groups have successfully silenced the Palestinian perspective, which includes artistic expression. Last year, the Jewish Federation of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative to effectively silence Palestinian voices even in “cultural institutions.”
“It is very sad that the children artists in Gaza have been forced to live under siege by Israel since 2006. By silencing these Palestinian children, the pro-Israel groups succeeded to stretch the siege from Gaza to Oakland,” said Ziad Abbas, Associate Director of MECA.
MECA will present “A Child’s View From Gaza” in the courtyard outside of MOCHA on the scheduled opening date, September 24. We promise you that the voices of these children will not be silenced, not in Gaza, and certainly not in the Bay Area.