Gazan children’s artwork

An open letter to the Chief Executive of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
Dear Ms Watts
I’m writing to you as the director of a charity that works for human rights in Palestine. We know a lot about the bad and worsening situation there.

I read in some shock (initially disbelief) the report that your hospital has taken down some artwork by children in Gaza that you had had on display.

I admire the initial decision to include pictures by children from Gaza in your displays, giving a voice to the vulnerable and powerless.

 An article in the Jewish Chronicle reports that UK Lawyers for Israel made arguments against having the artwork up. It is extraordinary to me that in this case the voice of a group of lawyers is put against the self-expression of children, but I would like you to know that the pressure on your hospital over these artworks is part of an organised onslaught against the public voicing of what Palestinians have to say although their feelings of hurt, dispossession and oppression are real.

From our point of view, the issue of Israel/Palestine should be seen as a human rights issue. Human rights are for all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion (etc). In Israel/Palestine, the rights of the Palestinians are violated systematically and in a terrible way. This is well-documented by international bodies. Palestinians are under military occupation, not allowed to vote for the government that has controlled them for generations, confined to small areas of their country and treated so badly and systematically unequally that respected human rights organisations (B’tselem, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) consistently talk of apartheid.

Even though the situation of Palestinians gets worse all the time – now they are controlled by an extremely right-wing Israeli government which is backing up the expansion of illegal settlements and violent actions against the Palestinians – there is a real move by supporters of the Israeli status quo to silence critics of the current situation with smears and threats of various kinds. Sadly we have recently seen a lot of examples in this country of the closing down of Palestinian means of expression whether writings or artworks or talks.

I am very sorry that this pressure has reached your hospital. You will not want to be drawn into political arguments and you will not want to upset any patients. I am sure you do not want to spend time discussing a particular wall display. But I would like you to know that the arguments I read against these artworks (in the Jewish Chronicle article) are wrong and inconsistent on a number of points.

Equality and respect for human rights extends to everyone – including the Palestinians whose rights are so badly violated – and they (including the young artists) are abused by a rejection of their humanity incuding their children’s art.

We hope that the artwork can go up again and we would like to see it. If not, we would be happy to help find other venues that would show it, as we believe it should be seen!

Yours sincerely
Dr Nandita Dowson

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