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Thursday, October 2, 2014

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Gaza children’s exhibit draws criticism

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MONTREAL — A controversial exhibit of art said to be done by children in Gaza expressing hardships due to the conflict with Israel is scheduled to continue at Cinéma du Parc until May 3.

A Child’s View from Gaza is sponsored by the pro-Palestinian Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). The exhibition’s planned eastern Canadian tour opened in March at the Pierre-Georges Roy Public Library in Lévis, near Quebec City.

A poster publicizing the month-long exhibition shows a drawing of a kneeling child with his arms raised as a soldier points a rifle at him.

CJPME plans to take the exhibition to Ottawa, Toronto, London, Hamilton and other Ontario cities between May and November, and then to the Maritimes next winter. The organization is soliciting donations during the tour.

CJPME describes the 26 works, plus accompanying photos, as “depicting the daily life of Gaza under siege.” The art is said to have been done by children aged five to 14 as part of art therapy classes.

“A Child’s View from Gaza tells a story about children who are forced to witness horrors and how they are able to make sense of their experiences through art,” said CJPME president Thomas Woodley.

Cinema-goer Harold Toulch objected to the exhibition, seeing it as “deeply offensive antisemitic propaganda.” He said he won’t consider going back to the cinema until the exhibition is down.

“[It] did not just describe the plight of Arab children but placed the blame for their condition solely on the shoulders of the Jewish state of Israel,” he e-mailed The CJN.

Cinéma du Parc owner Roland Smith responded: “It is clear the exhibition… is a powerful one [and]… contains many riveting images.”

He believes the CJPME has been “careful to contextualize the drawings and photos and to provide footnotes where appropriate. “Viewers of the exhibition are reminded that the hand-drawn works are indeed children’s drawings – with all this may imply – and that the photos in the exhibition are those of eyewitness photographers, including Palestinian, Israeli and international photographers. Viewers with comments are encouraged to contact CJPME directly with those comments.”

Toulch wonders why the exhibition makes no mention of the fact the children of Gaza are living under a Hamas regime, an organization designated as terrorist by the Canadian government.

It also doesn’t mention that this regime is “dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state” and regularly fires rockets towards Israeli civilian populations, “often from launchers placed in or near Gaza schoolyards,” Toulch said.

He added that there’s no indication of Hamas’ repression of women and homosexuals, either.

Cinéma du Parc was the Montreal venue for another CJPME-sponsored exhibition in early 2010 titled Human Drama in Gaza. It consisted of 44 photos taken in Gaza mainly in the aftermath of Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009. Most showed devastation and human suffering.

On the other hand, the independent cinema is the venue for the annual Festival du Cinéma Israélien de Montréal, sponsored by the Communauté Sépharade Unifiée du Québec. The seventh edition was held in March.

This article appears in the April 19 print issue of The CJN

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