Book Review: ‘A Child’s View from Gaza: Palestinian Children’s Art and the Fight Against Censorship’

ActivismIsrael/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) book  A Child’s View from Gaza: Palestinian Children’s Art and the Fight Against Censorship offers a behind the scenes window into a continued struggle to give voice to a people whose cultural identity has been assaulted, ignored, hidden, repressed, attacked and stolen. However, the project behind the book began with a very different goal in mind.

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Since 1988 MECA has sent more than $17 million in aid to children in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, assisting local community organizations meeting children’s needs. The “Child’s View from Gaza” project began as another one of those efforts.  The drawings were created by participants of the Let the Children Play and Heal project, the Qattan Center for the Child in Gaza City and numerous children’s centers throughout Gaza.

Initiated and run by Afaq Jadeeda (New Horizons) Center with support from MECA, Let the Children Play and Heal is a psychological support program designed to address the needs of Gazan children traumatized by the assault on Gaza. No one, certainly not exhibit coordinator Susan Johnson, MECA, or Afaq Jadeeda Center ever expected this art project, initiated to address children’s needs, to explode into a worldwide phenomena exposing Palestinian children’s visions to a worldwide audience. In addition, the episode dramatically demonstrated the influence local American Jewish organizations can have over how we, as Americans, are exposed to Palestinian people, as they police the discourse over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

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We have been shielded from Palestinian culture, their witness, their narrative, their stories, their art and their voice. The cultural assault of Palestinians has taken place on many fronts, from olive oil to the rhetorical erasure of their existence, throughout the mainstream media.

The censorship of Palestinian people within American society has permeated our culture in such profound ways that most people simply do not recognize either what’s behind it or how it’s done. Nothing I have read documents how this occurs better than MECA’s startling new book,  “A Child’s View from Gaza: Palestinian Children’s Art and the Fight Against Censorship” which lays out in undeniable terms the kinds of mechanisms employed in the denial and erasure of Palestinian culture within American society.

Meca’s Founder and Executive Director Barbara Lubin:

When we first planned the exhibition at MOCHA, we expected that a few hundred people would see the show and attend the programs. Now, thanks to the efforts to make the show disappear and the power of those images to move people, they have been viewed by hundreds of thousands. Requests have come from people in countries around the globe saying they wanted to host the show. Crayons, pencils, and magic markers. Maybe they were right. Maybe the images are too dangerous to be seen.

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Dangerous for whom you might ask? Dangerous to a carefully nurtured image of who is, or more precisely who is not,  the victim in the eyes of outsiders.

Bay Area residents will not be forgetting the abrupt cancellation of the ”A Child’s View from Gaza” exhibit of art by Gazan children  at the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland California (Mocha). “The news spread like WILDFIRE! and the community rallied.

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Photo: SFnewsfeed

As a resident of the Bay Area I was looking forward to attending the opening at Mocha. The free exhibit, co-sponsored by nearly twenty local organizations,  featured special activities for children and families, including a cartooning workshop and poetry readings, and was sure to be attended at full capacity. Meca’s frequent events, as well as raising funds for the Maia project, Plant-a-Tree in Palestine, and Playgrounds  (to name a few) are always an opportunity for our local Palestinian solidarity activist community to unite and greet friends. I had already made plans with a couple of friends to commute. The news Mocha was under pressure to close the show right before the opening startled the community to the core and we rallied with letters to the museum expressing our support for the show. Then, as fast as you can say ‘censored’ we found out the exhibit was off…it was as if a lead hammer had descended and slammed the door shut once again. The overwhelming revulsion at the swift closure still sends chills down my spine, it reached the East Coast in a nanosecond and quickly spread to Europe and the Middle East.

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MECA’s Gallery, 9.24, 2011 Photo:Dave Indybay.com

A Child’s View From Gaza: Palestinian Children’s Art and the Fight Against Censorship presents a step by step, page by page account of the unfolding drama. Walking us through events, told through the voices of participants, citizens and activists, the book is a testament to the sheer will and determination of MECA and the global solidarity community that guaranteed the show must and will go on. Palestinians will be heard, we will be their witness because the truth is being exposed.

The amazing art of Palestinian children that documents the horrors they experience and know all too well is included in the book of course. This is the same art that terrifies the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, the art that screams out in raw unfiltered expression. Page after page after page….buy it and support for The Middle East Children’s Alliance, be a witness.

 My appreciation knows no bounds.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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23 Responses

  1. rensanceman
    February 16, 2012, 2:57 pm

    If this event was well publicized and shown in cities around the world, it would crystallize the feelings of anger and revulsion that any sentient being would have after seeing these images that have seared the conscioness of these young victims. The images cut right through the orchestrated hasbara that AIPAC uses so effectively.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 16, 2012, 3:10 pm

      it is being shown in cities around the world rensanceman. Lubin:Now, thanks to the efforts to make the show disappear and the power of those images to move people, they have been viewed by hundreds of thousands.

  2. tod
    February 16, 2012, 5:06 pm

    If you case so much about palestinian children how about some coverage on this.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 16, 2012, 6:10 pm

      have you checked our website for the other posts today tod?

      link to mondoweiss.net

    • Cliff
      February 16, 2012, 7:20 pm

      tod, read the front page more closely. MW has covered that story.

      • tod
        February 17, 2012, 3:21 am

        My bad, I was expecting it to be in the selected articles.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 17, 2012, 12:39 pm

        here’s another article today about the accident: link to mondoweiss.net

        there’s occasionally some good reading beyond the ‘selected’ articles. but i know what you mean, the new format does privilege certain article over others.

  3. Mayhem
    February 17, 2012, 10:59 pm

    I now get the message – propaganda that advances the Palestinian cause is more important than the truth.

    • Chaos4700
      February 17, 2012, 11:56 pm

      I get the message — you hate Palestinians so much you even want to ban their children’s artwork.

      • Mayhem
        February 18, 2012, 4:36 am

        This is entrapment. I had tried to post 5 times unsuccessfully about how this so-called children’s art is the handiwork of propagandists; the comment that got through was my epithet to the moderator,

      • Cliff
        February 18, 2012, 6:06 am

        This is entrapment. I had tried to post 5 times unsuccessfully about how this so-called children’s art is the handiwork of propagandists; the comment that got through was my epithet to the moderator.

        The children’s art was drawn by children on their own accord. Hence, it is children’s art and not propaganda.

        If you think it is propaganda, then you better substantiate the claim.

        If not, then as Chaos said, you hate those children for telling the world what they saw and felt during Israel’s massacre in Gaza.

        Your comment was not censored. Lots of times comments do not go through because of glitches. My comments are moderated as well and I have to wait a little while before they show up.

        Stop portraying yourself as being persecuted on MW. You are a Zionist ideologue to such a degree that you hate Palestinian children and characterize an expression of their experience as propaganda. How dare you? You’re sick.

      • Chaos4700
        February 18, 2012, 10:31 am

        We’re not interested in your disgusting pro-Israel propaganda and Nakba denial. I’m glad the moderators are FINALLY taking their jobs seriously.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 18, 2012, 10:50 am

        I’m glad the moderators are FINALLY taking their jobs seriously.

        or, they’ve been deleting those kinds of comments for months, we just don’t know about them.

      • Chu
        February 18, 2012, 11:37 am

        Mayhem, do you really think that these drawings are a conspiracy that is out to destroy the Jewish State? Think for a moment about the 1400 dead bodies, that the Gazans had to endure during and after Operation Cast Lead.

        If there were 1500 dead Israelis lying in pools of blood in the streets of Sderot (many being Israeli soldiers) would you say the surviving children of the region’s crayon sketches would be tools of propaganda? Think about what your suggesting.

      • Bumblebye
        February 18, 2012, 12:26 pm

        Mayhem – “the handiwork of propagandists”
        despite what is known of therapeutic art. Despite the fact that children can be fantastically talented.
        For instance, this child has been a professional painter for several years, yet he is now only 9 years old:
        link to kieronwilliamson.com
        Why shouldn’t the children of Gaza have the right to display their art, inspired by their dreadful experience, around the world? What else can they do to try to end the appalling situation they are forced to live under by your major propagandists – who tell a million lies to the world daily? When Israelis still bomb them at least once or twice a week, crush them with tanks, destroy their homes and schools, their parents workplaces? What’s their few square inches of ‘propaganda’ against Israels thousand square miles of it?

      • Annie Robbins
        February 18, 2012, 11:06 pm

        Mayhem, do you really think that these drawings are a conspiracy that is out to destroy the Jewish State?

        the drawings are dangerous, literally. that’s why many of them had to be brought out thru the tunnels.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 18, 2012, 11:17 pm

        Despite the fact that children can be fantastically talented.

        that reminds me, my sister was selling her art at a very early age. she is still massive talented.

        my son has a friend from the fifth grade, they’ve always been tight. her name is stacy and she started drawing amazing cartoon when she was very young. just fabulous stuff. my son has a fabulous drawing of kurt vonnegut (his favorite writer) she drew for him years ago, not from a photo or anything.

        anyway as soon as she graduated from high school her career took off. we all knew it would. she’s already designed magazine covers and album covers and had numerous shows. she’s only 25 now and she’s been massively talented all her life. you can see talent in kids like these at an early age. i have a fabulous painting hanging in my kitchen i bought a few months ago at an auction for a school arts program by a fifth grader. it’s fantastic, really. (and i know it is authentic)

        the idea in a population of 1.5 million there wouldn’t be a slew of talented kids is absurd. and where do you think these kids like to hang out? at the centers. i went to some of those centers. there was art all over the walls.

        most kids are talented, i believe they are. but some of these paintings do not reflect anything other than ordinary talent. it’s the images that are in their minds that are so crucially devastating.

        if people said anne frank couldn’t have written her diary we’d call it holocaust denial. but here we have people pretending gazan children couldn’t make that art. crazy. just crazy.

  4. MHughes976
    February 18, 2012, 10:57 am

    A friend of mine organised a showing of this or a similar exhibition in a respectable English cathedral city a couple of years ago. She had problems finding a venue or getting much publicity because some respectable people didn’t want to touch the subject with the proverbial English bargepole.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 18, 2012, 11:00 pm

      MHughes, i was talking to Susan Johnson recently, the Exhibit Coordinator of ‘A Child’s View from Gaza’. she was telling me a story of something that happened just recently..where the exhibit is currently running (i think it may be somewhere in chicago), some people complained and they had to remove one of the drawings. but there is so much interest in the show. some of her stories were amazing about responses she’s gotten. most of them really positive. i hope she writes about it for us. she’s contributed here before

      link to mondoweiss.net

      in fact check out her bio

      In May 2009 I visited Gaza with a delegation of 13 people, Philip Weiss being one of them. That brought me to mondoweiss. The trip raised my outrage and passion to tell anyone who will listen (and some who’d rather not) about what I saw…

      it was that same trip ‘A Child’s View from Gaza’ was born, literally.

  5. talknic
    February 18, 2012, 11:28 pm

    Say, where and when are the drawings and messages from Israeli children gonna be displayed?

  6. MHughes976
    February 19, 2012, 3:47 pm

    Thanks, annie – still not used to you in upper case. It would indeed be interesting to hear from Susan about this.

  7. Cliff
    February 25, 2012, 5:39 am

    Al Jazeera report from 2009.

    The Children of Gaza share their experiences of “Cast Lead” – 27 Dec 09

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