Queens Museum Reverses Decision to Cancel Anniversary Celebration of UN Resolution Establishing State of Israel
The news of the abrupt reversal on Wednesday of the Queens Museum’s decision to renege on a deal to host an upcoming event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the passage of the General Assembly resolution establishing the State of Israel was warmly received by the Jewish state’s UN envoy.
“We welcome this step by the museum to rectify their earlier unfortunate decision,” Ambassador Danny Danon said. “Any attempt to discriminate against Israel is completely unacceptable and we will continue to fight against such injustices. We look forward to proudly celebrating this historic UN decision.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Danon had demanded the dismissal of the director of the museum after it backed out of an arrangement reached to host the event. The Israeli UN Mission explained in a statement that it had planned to hold the Nov. 29 event in the hall where the vote on Resolution 181 — which partitioned British Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab states — took place. The site, owned by New York City, now houses the Queens Museum, but served as the UN’s headquarters between 1946-50.
“In June, a museum official informed Israel’s Mission to the UN that they had reserved the appropriate hall and were looking ‘forward to a wonderful and meaningful event in its natural setting,’” the statement said. “Preparations for the event commenced with the senior UN officials, ambassadors and key dignitaries invited, and over a dozen pro-Israel organizations deciding to partner with the Israeli Mission.”
“Then, as word of the event became public, the same museum official expressed concern about feedback they received from ‘Palestinian friends of the museum,’” the statement continued. “After weeks of ceasing to communicate with the Israel Mission, the President and Executive Director Laura Raicovich notified Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon that she was reversing the decision and would no longer agree to host the event. Ms. Raicovich cited a board decision not to hold a ‘political event.’”
Raicovich, the statement noted, is one of the editors of a book titled Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency and Cultural Production — which includes a chapter that “justifies and endorses” the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
“We will not accept this blatant discrimination against the State of Israel and we will not let this decision stand,” Danon had said after learning that the museum would not host the event. “Celebrating the momentous decision of the UN recognizing the right to a Jewish state in our homeland is not a political event, but rather an expression of the historical and legal rights of our people.”
“It is unacceptable for BDS activists to single out Israel and ban our event,” Danon went on to say. “I call on the Board of Directors of the Queens Museum to dismiss Ms. Raicovich from her position immediately and honor their commitment to hold this important event.”
New York City Council Member Rory I. Lancman and New York State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz had issued a joint statement on Wednesday, saying, “The decision by the Queens Museum to cancel the Israel Independence Commemoration is a disgrace and a violation of law. It is a clear example of anti-semitism, and we will not stand for it. We demand the Queens Museum board reinstate this important ceremony.”
“We are deeply troubled that the museum’s executive director and president, Laura Raicovich, let her own personal support for the BDS movement infect her decision making in this matter,” they continued. “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.”
“We call on the NYC Human Rights Commission to fully investigate this decision and take appropriate action to ensure that such discriminatory and unlawful conduct never happens again,” Lancman and Simanowitz concluded.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin had expressed “dismay” over the cancellation.
“We urge the Board of Trustees of the Queens Museum to rectify this situation and reverse this discriminatory decision immediately,” they wrote in a letter on Wednesday to Mark J. Coleman, the chairman of the board.
Congresswoman Grace Meng — who represents Queens — had called the cancellation “puzzling” and “bizarre” and joined the calls, which were eventually answered, for the decision to be reversed.