For immediate release: March 26, 2015
CONTACT: JVP: Maya Harris & Arielle Klagsbrun; firstname.lastname@example.org
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, 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,” said 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 JVP upon request.
Wicentowski, Danny. 27 March 2015. "MO History Museum Contacted Jewish Group Before Nixing Ferguson-Palestine Event." Riverfront Times.
Weiss, Philip. 27 March 2015. "Emails show Missouri museum canceled 'Ferguson to Palestine' event under pressure from Jewish Group" Mondweiss.
Story in StudLife, spins the Museum PR version: http://www.studlife.com/news/region/2015/03/26/emails-reveal-communication-between-jewish-group-and-museum-leadership/
Ayah Abo-basha, StudLife. MO History Museum should change its mission statement to "erasing the narratives of people of color"
Alex Leichenger, StudLife. "Whose History do we select?"
Statement of thanks for solidarity support: http://stlouisschoolsproject.blogspot.com/2015/03/message-of-thanks-to-our-allies-in.html
Censorship and more background on history of corruption at MO History Museum.