Israeli-Palestinian Art Show Cancelled; BDS, Jewish Lobby Blamed

U.S. Exhibition curator says BDS-inspired threats against Palestinian artists led to show's cancellation, but Gaza-based artist says withdrawal of Israeli artists was a 'victory.'

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A woman hold a Palestinian flag during a protest to show solidarity with Palestinians.
A woman hold a Palestinian flag during a protest to show solidarity with Palestinians.Credit: Reuters / Haaretz Archive

A joint Palestinian-Israeli art show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was cancelled after the withdrawal of all the artists involved, with the show's curator laying the blame on BDS pressure and one Gaza-based artist accusing the Jewish lobby instead.

The "Sites of Passage: Borders, Walls & Citizenship” exhibition, the culmination of a year-long joint project featuring three Israelis, three Palestinians and three Americans, drew fire from BDS activists who accused it of an attempt to "normalize relations" with Israel, the Jewish Chronicle reported Saturday.

According to the exhibition's curator, the problem lay with the wording of the show's press releases, which used the terms "dialogue" and "collaboration."

“There’s language that was put up on the websites that are words used in the land of art all the time,” said Tavia La Follette. “In the art world, ‘collaboration’ and ‘dialogue’ are used all the time. But ‘collaboration’ means something completely different politically. That’s where the problem started.”

According to La Follette, after the Palestinian artists were threatened online the Israeli artists decided to pull out in order to enable them to present their work, but the Palestinian artists withdrew the following day, and the show was cancelled two days before its scheduled opening on June 1.

David Ainsman, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of AIPAC, said BDS pressure is to blame for the show's failure, and accused of "decreasing the possibility of a Palestinian state by increasing the divide between peoples,” the Chronicle reported.

But one of the Palestinian artists had a different take, claiming the pull of the Israeli artists as a "victory" and accusing the Jewish lobby of the show's cancellation instead.

“We have struggled long with the museum’s management, and for several days, and threatened to immediately withdraw if the Israeli artists stayed,” Gaza-based artist Mohammad Musallam posted on his Facebook page in Arabic, translated by the Chronicle.

“After that, serious events developed with enormous pressure towards us from the Jewish lobby, which has a strong presence in the city, and the newspapers began to follow us,” the Facebook post continued. “It became clear to us that what we considered victory, eliminating Israelis from the exhibit, will be harshly used by the media against Palestinian artists, creating accusations against them and fictional accounts. Because of these developments in the situation and concerned that the exhibit will continue with its Israeli and American participants, and feed additional lies and stories from the Zionist media in this state, we asked the museum’s management not only that we withdraw, which was easy, but strongly demanded the abolition of the entire exhibit, with the understanding that we are willing for future collaborations without any Israeli participation.”

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