By Gina Martinez
After elected officials expressed outrage, the Queens Museum has decided not to cancel a re-enactment of the 1947 United Nations vote on Israel independence scheduled for November.
The main gallery of the Queens Museum was the site of the original U.N. General Assembly vote on Nov. 29, 1947, establishing Israel as an independent state. According to City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), the re-enactment was being organized by the Israeli government, which reserved the space for November 2017.
On Monday, the Queens Jewish Link organized a rally addressing anti-Semitism and the Queens Museum’s previous decision to cancel the re-enactment. State Assembly members Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) and David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) attended the rally. The issue was important to Rozic, who is the first and only state legislator born in Israel.
“I am pleased that the Queens Museum reversed their decision so that the Jewish community in Queens and across NYC could be given the opportunity to commemorate this historic occasion that is deeply woven into the celebration of our heritage,” she said.
Lancman cited a Jerusalem Post article that said the museum decided against hosting the event after plans were made public, citing opposition from “Palestinian friends of the museum.”
He and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) blasted the “anti-Semitic” decision by the museum Aug. 22 and called for a NYC Human Rights Commission investigation to have the re-enactment reinstated.
A few hours later Queens Museum said the event was back on.
“After a productive conversation with Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, the Queens Museum will work with the Israeli mission on the proposed commemoration of the 1947 vote,” the museum said in a statement. “We are deeply committed to all the communities we serve through our meaningful arts programming and we are looking forward to making this a successful event.”
Despite the museum’s reversal, Lancman and Simanowitz are still demanding the board of the Queens Museum immediately remove the institution’s executive director from her position. They are also calling on the city’s Human Rights Commission to investigate the decision as a violation of Title 8 of the city Administrative Code, also known as the city Human Rights Law.
According to Lancman, the decision by the museum, a public accommodation, represented a discriminatory refusal to provide full and equal enjoyment of its services based on religion and national origin, both protected classes under the law, as well as an unlawful boycott.
“We are deeply troubled that the museum’s executive director and president, Laura Raicovich, let her own personal support for the The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement infect her decision making in this matter,” Lancman and Simanowitz said in a joint statement. “The celebration of the vote establishing the state of Israel is a recognition of a historic turning point at the site of the Queens Museum, and is profoundly meaningful to New York’s Jewish community. She has abused the trust placed in her by the people of the City of New York, who fund the museum as a cultural representation of Queens, the most diverse county in the United States.”
BDS is a Palestinian-led movement that believes that Israel is occupying and colonizing Palestinian land and discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The movement is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, according to the group’s website.
The museum statement did not address the accusations surrounding Raicovich.
Lancman also claimed that Raicovich previously edited a book of essays, “Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency and Cultural Production,” which included an essay praising a movement to boycott Israel.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) also chimed in, calling the decision by the museum bizarre and said that the project is a celebration of a key piece of Queens history.
“Personally I do not see how this project is ‘political,’ ” Meng said. “How is commemorating a major world event that took place in Queens and the U.N.’s establishment of one of America’s closest allies political? The museum and Israeli Mission already agreed to this re-enactment of the U.N. vote, and planning for it was well underway before the museum backtracked.”
Lancman said he plans on continuing to press for the Human Rights Commission investigation, he tweeted “Glad to see Queens Museum came to its senses. Next up: getting to the bottom of how this terrible decision was made in the first place.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart