Thursday, April 16, 2015

Historians circulate petition against censorship at MO History Museum, Anthropologists should sign too, Museum director is an Anthropologist

By way of the collective (SLSProject did not initiate this petition):

On March 19th , the panel discussion “Ferguson to Ayotzinapa to Palestine: Solidarity and Collaborative Action” was scheduled to take place at the Missouri History Museum. The panel discussion was intended to illuminate histories of state violence and to be a platform for connecting community activists fighting against oppression. Two days before the event, the museum contacted event organizers and demanded that the subject of Palestine be removed, or that organizers reschedule the event at a different location. This entailed not merely the removal of the mention of Palestine in the name of the event, but the removal of a representative of the local Palestinian community from the panel. As a result of the museum’s demands, all panelists and organizations involved agreed to cancel the event, stage a protest on the steps of the museum, and rescheduled the panel discussion at a different location.

In a public statement on their website, the museum shifted the blame to event organizers stating that “significant” changes had been made to the original proposed event. While the original proposal included only Ayotzinapa and Ferguson, a revision occurring shortly after added the subject of Palestine to the event.  Museum staff agreed to the addition and publicized the event online. Museum staff rationalized their last minute demands to event organizers in email correspondence stating, “The conflict we are running into is the comparison between the events in Ferguson and the actions of the Palestinians. Some people see these events as comparing apples to oranges [emphasis added].” The community activist groups who were a part of the panel see commonalities across their struggles—economic injustice, state violence, and unequal access to resources. 

Contrary to the museum’s statements, a Freedom of Information Act Sunshine request revealed that the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) emailed the museum president two days before the panel discussion expressing dismay at the event’s content. Within 90 minutes the museum president responded, thanking the JCRC director for bringing the issue to her attention and stated that the museum was contacting event organizers to deliver an ultimatum. The museum, in an effort to placate its critics, is now proposing to organize a moderated panel on Israel and Palestine. They have contacted the JCRC and Anti-Defamation League to assist in planning; they have not contacted the Palestine Solidarity Committee, which was a part of the original panel.

This petition will be delivered to the Missouri History Museum and released to the press during the Organization of American Historians annual meeting, which will be held in St. Louis from April 16th-19th. Please sign the petition to protest the Missouri History Museum’s actions and distribute to your colleagues.

Resources for more information:
Cancellation of panel: