London hospital removes Gazan artwork after patients complain

Images featured in the exhibition included one of Palestine covering the entirety of Israel


A London hospital has been forced to remove an art exhibition by Palestinian schoolchildren that showed the Palestinian flag flying above a holy Jewish site, following complaints from patients.

The display in a Chelsea and Westminster Hospital foyer left several Jewish patients feeling “vulnerable, offended and harassed”.

Crossing Borders - A Festival of Plates was designed by pupils at two United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools in Gaza and placed at the entrance to the children’s outpatients department.

IMPACT-se, an NGO dedicated to the prevention of radicalisation of children, produced a report last year that was critical of UNRWA, which runs 370 schools for 320,000 Palestinian pupils across the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

It concluded that textbooks within the curriculum, set by the Hamas-led Palestinian National Authority (PA) have “consistently shown a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom, overt antisemitism, and jihad across all grades and subjects, with the proliferation of extreme nationalism and Islamist ideologies throughout”.

The damning study said the curriculum promoted “rejection of the possibility of peace with Israel and the complete omission of any historical Jewish presence in the modern-day territories of Israel and the PA”.

UK Lawyers For Israel (UKLFI), which complained to the hospital about the exhibition, has raised concerns that the children from the schools involved - Beit Lahia Girls’ School and Jabalia Prep Boys’ A School - have been “indoctrinated” by Hamas ideology. Hamas, which is committed to the obliteration of Israel, has been designated a terrorist group by countries around the world. 

UKLFI director Caroline Turner, who wrote to the hospital demanding that the display be taken down, told the JC: “It seems incredible that Chelsea and Westminster Hospital would choose to link up with schools from Gaza, where anti-Israel propaganda is rife, with the inevitable effect that such anti-Israel propaganda would be spread to its own hospital school, and to patients and others passing by the display on the wall.

“The effect of the exhibition on Jewish people is to make them feel vulnerable and offended, harassed and victimised. Such an exhibition certainly does not promote unity and is very divisive.”

Images featured in the exhibition included one of Palestine covering the entirety of Israel and another with a huge Palestinian flag flying above the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

A note beneath one of the plates read: “Fishing with nets is one of the oldest industries in Palestine. The shoreline stretches for 224 km from Rafah in the south to Ra’as al Naqoura in the North.”

The explanation was slammed by Ms Turner, who said: “Ra’as al Naqoura is the Arabic name for Rosh HaNikra, an international border crossing between Israel and Lebanon in the North.  Rafah is the border town with Egypt, in the South of Gaza.  Thus the existence of Israel is totally denied and “Palestine” is regarded as covering the entirety of Israel.”

Another description on a plate read: “The olive branch is the symbol of peace and is used to express the wish for an independent Palestinian state”. However, the picture on the plate accompanying the text shows the Dome of the Rock with a large Palestinian flag, implying that Jerusalem and in particular the site of what had been the Jewish Temple, would be part of a Palestinian state.

Ms Turner said: “The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism and it is offensive for Jewish people to see a Palestinian flag over their holiest site.

Jewish patients have approached UKLFI for help, saying that they feel vulnerable, harassed and victimised by this display.”

A spokesperson for the Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust confirmed the exhibition has now been taken down, following an approach for an explanation from the JC.

The spokesperson said: “Many thanks for contacting us about the pictures that some of our patients found offensive. I understand these images were placed next to the children's outpatients department.

“I can confirm that these pictures have been removed. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.”

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