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 United Nations General Assembly vote on November 29, 1947, establishing Israel as an independent state. According to Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), the re-enactment was being organized by the Israeli government, which reserved the space for November 2017.
Lancman said that, according to a Jerusalem Post article, the museum decided against hosting the event after plans for were made public, citing opposition from “Palestinian friends of the museum.”
Lancman and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) blasted the “anti-Semitic” decision by the museum Wednesday 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.”
Lancman and Simanowitz had demanded that the Board of the Queens Museum immediately remove Raicovich from her position. They also called on the NYC HRC to investigate this decision as a violation of Title 8 of the NYC Administrative Code, also known as the City Human Rights Law.
According to Lancman, the decision by the museum, a public accommodation, had 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.”
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.
Congresswoman 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 reenactment of the U.N. vote, and planning for it was well underway before the museum backtracked. The museum should reverse its decision and allow the event to take place as scheduled.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart