Protesters at Manhattan’s Urban Plaza across from MoMA on May 14, 2020 (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)
Over 250 artists, critics, and scholars signed a letter addressing the ties between board members at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Israel’s violent attacks against Palestinians.
The letter, released by the Strike MoMA campaign, was signed by prominent scholars like Angela Y. Davis, Gayatri Spivak, Fred Moten, and Lisa Lowe. Other signatories include the well-known writers, critics, and artists Ariella Azoulay, Claire Bishop, Laura Poitras, Phill Collins, Michael Rakowitz, Haig Aivazian, Chloe Bass, and Mahogany L. Browne.
“This letter aims to build decolonial solidarity across borders by drawing attention to MoMA’s entanglement with the mutually reinforcing projects of settler-colonialism, imperialism, and racial capitalism in Palestine, the US, and around the world,” the missive reads.
The letter was also signed by several Palestinian artists and curators including Yazan Khalili, Lara Khaldi, Jumanna Manna, and Nora Akawi.
The letter, titled “Free Palestine/Strike MoMA: A Call to Action,” follows 11 days of Israeli attacks on Gaza that killed more than 230 people, including dozens of children. Thousands of others were wounded and tens of thousands were displaced.
A cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Egypt, was signed last week. While scrutinizing MoMA’s billionaire board members, the signatories, called on the artistic community to stand in solidarity with Palestinians.
“We call upon our friends, colleagues and communities to join the struggle for a free Palestine,” they wrote.
The letter goes on to charge MoMA trustees like Steven Tananbaum, Daniel S. Och, Leon Black, Paula Crown, and Ronald Lauder with being “directly involved with support for Israel’s apartheid rule.”
Och, CEO of Och-Ziff Capital, is a current member and former chairman of the Birthright Foundation, an organization that sends Jewish youth on trips to Israel to strengthen their Zionist beliefs. Black, MoMA’s disgraced former chairman who stepped down from his position due to his financial ties to convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein, has donated over $1 million dollars to the same foundation. Black also donated $100,000 to the nonprofit Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, according to the website Mondoweiss.
Tananbaum, CEO of the hedge fund GoldenTree, has donated $1.8 million to “support Israel by sending young adults to Israel” via the Art Institute of Chicago, the letter says. Tananbaum has also been accused of profiting from the Puerto Rico debt crisis. Crown and her husband James have stakes in the weapons conglomerate General Dynamics, manufacturer of the MK-84 bombs that the Israeli army dropped on Gaza in the past 11 days. And Lauder, MoMA’s Honorary Chair and president of the World Jewish Congress, has pushed world leaders to adopt a new definition of anti-Semitism that would curtail criticism of Israel.
“With figures like Lauder, Crown, and Tananbaum on its board, MoMA cannot pretend to stand apart from the attack on Gaza or the Occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem more broadly,” the letter added.
It continued: “Given these entanglements, we must understand the museum for what it is: not only a multi-purpose economic asset for billionaires, but also an expanded ideological battlefield through which those who fund apartheid and profit from war polish their reputations and normalize their violence.
“For those who love Palestine, we have waited too long for this moment to not say what needs to be said, despite the fear, the risk, the cost, of speaking out and naming things for what they are,” the signatories wrote. “We stand with Palestine, or we stand with silence, aiding and abetting the disaster.”