Apparently, being a child in Gaza is offensive – and an NHS hospital agrees

Written by PalArt Director Ala Owaineh.

A UK charity and group of schoolchildren from London get in touch with a similar group in two schools in a war-stricken and troubled part of the world. The two groups collaborate to decorate some plates with scenes that express their experience and problems. The plates get printed onto an art work that is displayed in a London hospital. 

You would think that nothing could be less controversial. Most people would feel it’s a cute and touching piece. Even someone cynical and jaded would (at worst) think it’s a bit naïve, if harmless. 

Except, those children were Palestinian, and that war-stricken place was the Gaza strip. And so the mere suggestion that those children exist, and want to innocently express something about their experience of violence and loss of rights, is apparently intimidating and offensive according to UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), which filed a complaint against the art work that was displayed at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

According to UKLFI, the display, pictured below, made Jewish patients “feel vulnerable, harassed and victimised by this display”!

UKLFI, despite purporting to support the Jewish community and providing legal support to victims of antisemitism, seems to be obsessed with petty and vexation complaints against everything and anything Palestinian, and its primary activity seems to be to silence any criticism of the State of Israel.

On top of successfully removing this artwork by Gazan children, their other proud “achievements” listed on their website include an attempt to ban a children’s book about women in the middle east, blocking twinning initiatives between UK and Palestinian cities, getting local councils to remove Palestinian flags (which apparently incite violence), and harassing acclaimed activist arts collective Forensic Architecture and the Whitworth Gallery that held an exhibition by them on Israel’s bombing of Gaza. 

Of course, the fact that a politically motivated group like UKLFI exists is normal in any open society, what is not normal is that otherwise reasonable people and organisations suspend their judgement and capitulate to their complaints so easily – in effect banning pretty innocuous art by children. Essentially, just because those children are Palestinian and have lived a Palestinian experience. 

As an organisation set up to support artists, we are really worried about these attempts to wipe out representations of the Palestinian experience and legal civil activism for Palestinian rights.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case, and things have been getting worse. Being an iconic musician doesn’t protect you, and even Pink Floyd lead singer has come under a sustained campaign for his concerts in Germany to be cancelled due to his stance on Palestinian rights

Even being Jewish or Israeli doesn’t protect you.  It seems that increasingly, the simple act of using your art to reflect the Palestinian experience or believing that Palestinians have rights can get you banned or cost you your job.