STATEMENT FROM THE HANDS UP UNITED TEAM ON THE MISSOURI HISTORY MUSEUM CENSORSHIP OF PALESTINE
Ferguson is everywhere. From St. Louis to Ayotzinapa to Palestine, millions are rising together to resist discrimination and State terrorism. Apartheid is being emulated as Palestinians are brutalized in parallel to the military style occupation of black communities in Ferguson.
The fact is that Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Batya Abramson-Goldstein and Missouri History Museum President Frances Levine conspired to exclude Palestine from a public discussion that intended to show the relationship between oppression faced by communities of color across the world.
Is it because they don’t want the world to know Israel’s influence on American law enforcement? Like the fact that the heads of nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement and suppression of protest?
Or that St. Louis County Police Department Chief Timothy Fitch attended the Anti-Defamation League’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where Fitch studied first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies directly from senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces?
Or that the tear gas weapons deployed by Fitch’s occupying army on protesters in Ferguson is the same that’s deployed by the Israeli military against Palestinians as part of the Combined Tactical Systems product line made by a US company, Combined Systems Inc.?
The Missouri History Museum and Jewish Community Relations Council colluded to silence these truths and we condemn this act of censorship in the strongest possible terms. By censoring this event, the museum, its donors, and board have shown how quickly a public institution becomes corrupted by private interests. This is absurd and will not be tolerated.
We stand by our Palestinian comrades and will remain relentless in showing the world that we share a common State enemy.
Sunshine request reveals JCRC board member demanded Missouri History Museum exclude Palestine from Public Event
Through a Sunshine request with the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace revealed that pressure from a Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Batya Abramson-Goldstein lead to the museum’s last minute demand to exclude Palestine from a public dialogue on activism including Ferguson and Ayotzinapa.
Facing criticism for the censorship of Palestinian voices, the Missouri History Museum attributed the panel’s cancellation to miscommunication between Museum staff and event organizers. Panelists and partner organizations refused to break their coalition ties between people of color by removing Palestine from the event. Organizers and community members rallied on the museum’s front steps in support of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee.
“I had absolutely no intent to silence you,” said Missouri History Museum President Frances Levine to St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee member Sandra Tamari before the rally in front of the museum.
The following day, the St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace officially submitted a Sunshine request under the Freedom of Information Act to the Missouri History Museum, requesting access to museum emails containing specific terms such as “JCRC”.
In a series of emails obtained, Abramson-Goldstein calls for the removal of Palestine from the panel; she wrote to Levine “ "I am writing because I have been receiving emails and phone calls expressing dismay at the upcoming History Museum Program: Ferguson to Ayotzinapa to Palestine: Solidarity and Collaborative Action. I can understand the dismay.”
After the event’s cancellation, Abramson-Goldstein wrote to Levine “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."
Regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Karen Aroesty also expressed concern over the event when she wrote to Levine “[I] wonder if you have contacted Metro PD to let them know you may need additional personnel.”
In a post from their website, The St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee states “in [our] work to promote freedom, equality and justice in Palestine and Israel, we reaffirm our commitment to principles of anti-racism and anti-oppression... We stand opposed to Islamophobia, anti-
Semitism, all forms of racism, and any other expressions of bigotry directed at any person or group.”
"Our organization affirms that support of black struggle in Ferguson while at the same time supporting Jewish privilege in Israel are incompatible stances and must be rejected,” St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace member Maya Harris
“When Ferguson started, I found it very interesting that the Jewish organization, the Anti-
Defamation League put out no fewer than three statements saying ‘don’t compare Ferguson and Palestine,’” Tamari says. “Our solidarity is obviously very powerful and people are scared of us joining forces. The event at the museum is just one example of how we are challenging the status quo.”
Emails obtained from the Sunshine Request are available from the JVP upon request.