Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Gaza Kiddies' Roadshow - turning Britons against Israel, one whistlestop at a time
You won't see the picture shown here in an exhibition of children's art that opened at Manchester Cathedral over the weekend. This picture, which we might entitle "Red Alert", is by a little Israeli girl; it depicts her frightening experiences in her home town of Sderot, the target of escalated Qassam rocket attacks by Hamas following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. And you won't find any attempts to explain Israel's rationale for "Operation Cast Lead" either. For the exhibition, which has the backing of UNESCO and of official Gazan agencies, is unashamedly one-sided. Called "Loss of Innocence", it shows only the artwork of children from Gaza, portraying (or purporting to portray) scenes of distress and barbarity from - you've guessed it! - during Cast Lead, and is in many ways the Hamas Propaganda Ministry's dream. It consists of about 50 pictures, brought back from Gaza last year by Rod Cox, a Cheshire property developer who went there with the Viva Palestina convoy in which George Galloway also participated. Due to help Cox to launch the exhibition at the cathedral - I missed that event myself - was Mona Baker, the Egyptian-born Manchester professor who caused widespread outrage in 2002 when, in accordance with her belief that Israeli academic institutions must be boycotted, she removed two Israel-based scholars from the editorial boards of two journals she edits.
Cox has been prominently involved with an initiative called Chester and Palestine Exchanges, and in 2007 the members of a teenage Palestinian soccer team he was due to bring to the UK for a series of matches in the north-west had their visas cancelled owing to fears they would defect (despite the earlier blessing of the Foreign Office's "Engaging with Islam" scheme). In 2008, in consequence of a letter he had written to The Independent newspaper, he was accused of antisemitism by the Community Security Trust's Mark Gardner.
On his blog http://www.rodcoxandgaza.blogspot.com/ there are many of the pictures in the exhibition. There are also some revealing statements. On the Armenian massacres: "Up to now it [Israel] has supported Turkey's cover up of the Pogrom, because it wants the Holocaust of Jews to be unique. That way Jews are uniquely privileged to do things others are not." On the slain Mavi Marmara activists: "I believe that they have not died in vain ... for I believe that this marks the beginning of the end - albeit a long slow end - for Israel. Too often have they killed from a wanton lust to kill, to exterminate those inferior and in their way, but, really, the future belongs to those dead." And this: "How is it that Israel can commit such vile acts of murder ... when they have stolen the land in the first place and have killed everyone who gets in their way to keep this stolen land. None of Israel or the land it occupies has any legitimacy .... It is truly a pariah state, and the only state except the USA to threaten another with Nuclear attack."
The exhibition, as Cox explained when it was first amassed, is "designed for children - but for adults as well"
That's why there are simple captions for children, at their approximate eye level, and, higher up, captions aimed at adults. All these captions present a very biased view of the conflict, unabashedly demonising Israel, justifying "resistance", and depicting Hamas terrorists as freedom fighters; there's even a drawing of an apparent would-be suicide bomber.
This is not the first time the exhibition has been to Manchester. Since its inception last year it's been to many localities up and down the UK, remaining in each for about a week. It arrived in Manchester this time from Bangor Cathedral in Wales, and soon it's on its way to Scotland, and then it makes its way to eastern England. It's been shown in many schools, including primary schools - for it seems to be deliberately targetting the youngest and most impressionable of children.
Clearly, it's making enemies for Israel of Britons young and old - one whistlestop at a time.