Emails Show Museum Canceled Palestine Event Because of Pressure From Pro-Israel Group
Earlier this month, the St. Louis-based Missouri History Museum was set to host an event drawing parallels between the situation in nearby Ferguson, protests in Mexico and the civil rights crisis in the Palestinian occupied territories. The presentation was abruptly canceled after the museum protested the inclusion of Palestine in the discussion topics.
There was widespread confusion among activists as to why the museum didn't want to host an event discussing the Palestinian issue. This week, a trove of emails obtained by the local Jewish Voice for Peace chapter detailing communications between the museum and a local pro-Israel group, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), shed some light on why the cancellation took place.
Immediately after the event was scheduled, Batya Abramson-Goldstein, the executive director of the JCRC contacted the museum to ask them to remove Palestine from the panel.
The request seemed to have worked, as an email showed that the museum's director of community education, Melanie Adams, wrote in an internal email, “At this point I have given [the organizers of the event] two options. Remove the Palestine group from the program or find another location.”
The JCRC director thanked museum president Francine Levine for canceling the event in a followup email, writing, “When you and I eventually have our breakfast/lunch/coffee we can look back at this incident as an illustration of a potentially damaging incident defused.”
There was also an email from Adams to the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League hoping to set up an event on Israel and Palestine arranged by the ADL and JCRC, two Jewish pro-Israel groups, with no participation from any Palestinians:
In light of the current situation, we would like to plan a program that looks at the history of Palestine and Israel. We would like to work with the ADL and the JCRC to put something together. Is this something you are open to doing?
Anna Baltzer of Jewish Voice for Peace was dismayed at the content of the emails, writing in a statement:
As a Jewish St. Louisan, I was shocked to hear about the Missouri History Museum’s attempts to silence the St. Louis Palestinian community by shutting down the “Ferguson to Ayotzinapa to Palestine” event if it included Palestinians. This is disgraceful behavior by a public institution and cannot be ignored. I urge you to reverse your discriminatory decision and reinstate the panel, and to issue a formal apology to the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the event organizers. The Missouri History Museum was among my favorite places in St. Louis. I went there all the time, especially with guests and family from out of town. No longer.