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Brandeis Censors Palestinian Kids' Art Exhibit

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    Brandeis pulls artwork by Palestinian youths School says show was one-sided By Michael Levenson Boston Globe May 3, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2006
      Brandeis pulls artwork by Palestinian youths
      School says show was one-sided

      By Michael Levenson
      Boston Globe
      May 3, 2006

      Samah al-Azza, 13, created this painting for an exhibit at Brandeis
      that was later removed. (Globe Photo)


      [you can view some of the art online at
      http://rule19.org/brandeis-0604.htm ]


      A bulldozer menaces a girl with ebony pigtails, who lies in a pool of
      blood. A boy with an amputated leg balances on a crutch, in a tent
      city with a Palestinian flag. A dove, dripping blood, perches against
      blue barbed wire.

      Palestinian teenagers painted those images at the request of an
      Israeli Jewish student at Brandeis University, who said she wanted to
      use the art to bring the Palestinian viewpoint to campus. But
      university officials removed the paintings four days into a two-week
      exhibition in the Brandeis library.

      University officials said the paintings depicted only one side of the
      Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lior Halperin, the student who
      organized the exhibit, said the university censored an alternative

      Now, Brandeis is embroiled in a debate about how to portray
      Palestinian perspectives on a campus where 50 percent of the students
      are Jewish and where passions about the Middle East run deep. Six to
      a dozen students at the Waltham university complained about the
      paintings, which were hung on Wednesday and removed Saturday.

      The controversy occurs at a sensitive time for the campus, which has
      angered some students and Jewish groups with the appointment of a
      prominent Palestinian scholar and with a partnership with Al-Quds
      University, an Arab institution.

      ''This is outrageous," Halperin said yesterday. ''This an educational
      institution that is supposed to promote debate and dialogue. Let's
      talk about what it is: 12-year-olds from a Palestinian refugee camp.
      Obviously it's not going to be about flowers and balloons."

      Halperin said she is working with an Arab student organization at MIT
      to display the 17 paintings there, as early as tomorrow.

      Brandeis officials said they wanted to make sure the Israeli-
      Palestinian conflict is presented in a balanced manner.

      ''It was completely from one side in the Israeli-Palestinian
      conflict, and we can only go based on the complaints we received,"
      said Dennis Nealon, a Brandeis spokesman. ''People were saying: (a)
      what is this; (b) what is it trying to say; and (c) should there be
      some sort of balancing perspective here?" Nealon said that the
      university would consider displaying the artwork again in the fall,
      alongside pieces showing the Israeli point of view.

      Brandeis, a nonsectarian institution, was founded in 1948, by
      American Jews seeking to establish a university free from the quotas
      that Jews faced at elite colleges.

      Halperin created the exhibit as her final project for a class
      called ''The Arts of Building Peace," which explores how music,
      painting, and poetry can help resolve conflicts. She contacted a
      friend who works in a refugee camp in Bethlehem and asked her to
      invite teenagers there to paint images of Palestinian life.

      Halperin, 27, an Israeli Army veteran, received images of planes
      dropping bombs, snakes, and a famous scene of a father and child
      cowering from gunfire near Gaza City in September 2000. In
      her ''Voices from Palestine" exhibit, she hung the paintings near the
      names and photos of the young artists and synopses of their hopes and
      dreams. A Palestinian psychologist and a child-care worker spoke at
      an opening reception.

      ''This was, for me, an opportunity to bring to Brandeis the
      Palestinian voice that is not spoken or heard through an Israeli or
      an American Jew, but directly delivered from Palestinians," Halperin
      said. ''Obviously, that was just too much for Brandeis."

      Within days, students complained to the university that the exhibit
      was jarring and lacked context and reference to the Israeli point of

      Dmitry B. Vilner, 19, a sophomore, said he found it ''utterly
      ludicrous to find these hung up with no explanation." Vilner
      said, ''I was very surprised that it would appear at Brandeis,
      because Brandeis is a traditionally Jewish, pro-Israel campus."

      Vilner and his roommate, Alan D. Meyerson, 19, e-mailed an
      administrator to ask why the exhibit was on display. ''There's a
      certain line that's crossed when it no longer becomes a fair debate,
      but it becomes a one-sided attack against a nation and a people,"
      Meyerson said, ''and that was very much the case with these images."

      Last weekend, administrators in charge of student affairs decided
      that the paintings should come down, with the support of Daniel
      Terris, director of the university's International Center for Ethics,
      Justice, and Public Life. The center sponsored Halperin's class. ''If
      students are reacting in a strong and negative way, with no context
      and no structure to have a meaningful conversation . . . you can do
      more harm than good," said Terris, who said he asked Halperin to
      voluntarily take the paintings down. ''I advised her that I thought
      it was undermining the long-term goal of making more space for
      Palestinian voices on campus."

      On Saturday evening, after Halperin refused to stop the exhibit,
      administrators removed the artwork, provoking an immediate response.
      Students said they circulated e-mails debating whether the decision
      was about censorship, sensitivity, fairness, or cowardice.

      ''I would like to think of my university as a place that is open to
      discussion, and I see art as one of the purest forms of discussion we
      can have," said Aaron Voldman, 19, a freshman who is Jewish and
      active in a student peace group. ''As we are members of a Jewish
      institution, where the Israeli support is very strong, the
      conversation is not quite as open as it possibly could be."

      Ralph Ranalli of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael
      Levenson can be reached at mlevenson @ globe.com.


      MIT Hosts Exhibit after it was censored by Brandeis University

      Voices from Palestine Art Exhibit
      The MIT Muslim Students Organization and
      The MIT Arab Students Organization
      In Conjunction with MIT Palestine Awareness Week 2006
      Proudly present:

      Voices from Palestine
      Aida Refugee Camp Children Speak Out

      Exhibit open to the public May 4th thru May 11th

      Stata Center, Building No. 32, first floor TSMC lobby
      For directions, see map at:


      "I hope that you like my drawing, because it means a lot for the
      Palestinian people. And I would like to thank you for giving us the
      opportunity to express ourselves as Palestinian children. Thank you
      very much and hope to see you all." ~Ola Allan, 13, Aida refugee camp

      "I want to tell the world about Palestine, and I ask them to search
      the reality about our case, and I am full of hope." ~Hussam Al-Azza,
      16, Beit Jibrin refugee camp

      [you can view some of the art online at
      http://rule19.org/brandeis-0604.htm ]



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