On Saturday, a Brooklyn Museum exhibition of 11 photographers about the lives of Israelis and Arabs on either side of the “green line” was hijacked by a large group of local leftists, including several Arabs, to protest the museum’s chummy relationship with the real estate industry and to somehow push Arab refugees and displaced NYC tenants into the same metaphorical sack.
The exhibition, “This Place,” at the Brooklyn Museum, explores the complexity of Israel and Judea and Samaria, “as place and metaphor,” through the eyes of twelve internationally acclaimed photographers, none of whom are Israeli or PA Arab. The organizers have all but admitted that while they could have their pick out of hordes of Israeli photographers eager to participate, not one PA Arab photographer agreed to join the project, and so, it appears, the Israelis didn’t get to show their stuff either.
“The exhibition challenges viewers to go beyond the polarizing narratives and familiar images of the region found in mainstream media,” goes the Brooklyn Museum presentation. “The result is a deeply humanistic and nuanced examination that reminds us of the place of art, not as an illustration of conflict, but as a platform for raising questions and engaging viewers in a conversation.”
Settlement / Photograph by Nick Waplington at Brooklyn Museum
Can’t have that, right? And so, as Rebecca McCarthy reported in Hyperallergenic, a group calling itself the Decolonial Cultural Front and Movement to Protect the People, on Saturday crowded the exhibition space (which is a great way to make fewer than 100 people look like a Bernie Sanders-size crowd), led by one Amin Husain, a part-time lecturer at the New School, an Arab-American lawyer, artist and activist with a BA in Philosophy and Political Science, and a JD from Indiana University Law School – Bloomington. Husain, says his bio, practiced law for 5 years before leaving law for art, and is now an editor of Tidal Occupy Theory magazine and producer of Tidal on the Waves show on WBAI Radio.
Amin Husain enlisted his group of several dozen leftists to stage a protest “in response to displacement — both in Brooklyn and Palestine.”
The protesters say the exhibition is backed by funders who also support the Israeli military (which is code for Jews), and other pro-occupation elements in Israeli society, particularly those that preference Jewish identity over those of the country’s other cultural and ethnic groups. Can’t have that.
The group also targeted the museum’s role in gentrification and displacement of people of color in Brooklyn. And protested the fact that the museum stands on Native American land. The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape people, who mostly lived in New Jersey, also used to hunt in the forests of Flatbush Avenue. Bridge and Tunnel folks.
Isn’t it fascinating that the left recognizes the right of Native Americans to lands they were displaced from two centuries ago, but is deaf to the plight of the Jews who have returned to lands from which they had been displaced two millennia ago? One woman, standing in front of a banner that read “Decolonize This Place,” cried out: “We stand with our comrades to amass indigenous resurgence and fight for decolonization.” But wasn’t the Zionist endeavor, in essence, the decolonization and liberation from centuries of Arab and Ottoman occupation?
When white people decolonize their oppressors, does it count as liberation, or does it automatically constitute an occupation?
Jamila — Prepared to receive their released relatives outside, Ofra Prison Office of Social Affairs, eastern Jerusalem / Photograph by Wendy Ewald at Brooklyn Museum
The protesters also expressed their concerns with the “artwashing” with nice photographs what Israel is doing to the Arabs. The term is reminiscent of “pinkwashing,” which is what the gay left is accusing gays who praise Israel’s stellar record in the treatment of LGBT people. Sure, they’re nice to their homos, but that don’t mean they don’t drink the blood of Arab children, now, does it? Never mind that the life expectancy of an openly gay person in Arab society is until dinnertime.
The group also came prepared with stickers bearing the Arab names of locations covered in the photographs, which shouldn’t have been difficult to Google, and they posted those stickers over the labels for each photograph, because only one culture matters when it comes to Israel, the culture that invaded the area back in the seventh century.
Amin Husain used the “human microphone” shtick, the most annoying gimmick ever, to declare that “the days in which art and artists are instrumentalized to normalize oppression, displacement and dispossession of any people are over. We are watching you.”
Mob censorship is the most effective tool of repression, which enables relatively small groups to temporarily dictate to others what is proper and improper for them to do, say, or experience. It works with every kind of mob, on the left, with well-organized pro-Palestinian students drowning out Israeli speakers on campus; with Donald Trump supporters who drown out the opposition, including poor Senator Ted Cruz who couldn’t put in a word edgewise in such an encounter; in talkbacks, in Facebook conversations. We are in the era of the activist mob, and our civilization is a lot like the ocean that keeps absorbing billions of tons of poisonous human refuse, until, at some point, it will surely die.
Now, there’s a tortured analogy we could support.