Museum was right to cancel Gaza kids art exhibit

Imagine explaining to a 5-year-old the meaning of a dismembered corpse, of a Jewish bomb dropping on a bloody town square, of an armed Jewish soldier menacing a mother and child.

That would have been the repugnant task required had parents taken their kids to see “A Child’s View from Gaza,” an exhibit of drawings by Palestinian children reacting to Israel’s 2008-2009 Gaza incursion. The exhibit was to have opened Sept. 24 at the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland.

Wisely and mercifully, the museum decided last week to cancel it.

It did so only after pressure from local Jewish agencies, including the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Jewish Federation of the East Bay and the Anti-Defamation League.

Their opposition made sense. For one, the exhibit pushed the divisive political agenda of sponsoring organizations, such as the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

In addition, many of the drawings depict murder and mayhem, subjects wholly inappropriate for young children. And because they use overtly Jewish symbols, such as Stars of David on soldiers and tanks attacking Palestinian villages, young Jewish visitors to the museum could easily have felt belittled, even threatened.

This is not in any way to dismiss the suffering these Palestinian children experienced. But if an exhibit is intended 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?

Even then, we would argue, young children should not be exposed to scenes of bloody violence. Were a children’s museum to stage such a joint exhibit, we would oppose it.

Protesting the Oakland exhibit is not prejudice. When people protest the building of a mosque because they don’t like Arabs or Muslims, that’s prejudice. But opposition to an art exhibit designed to generate anger against Israel and, by extension, against Jews, particularly one placed in a children’s museum, is well founded. 

The real losers in this case are the Palestinian children whose expression of pain and suffering has been hijacked by an insidious political agenda.

We applaud the JCRC and the others involved for doing the right thing.