An art gallery housing a pro-Palestinian exhibition in Tauranga has been told to remove any public facing art from its front windows by a real estate agent. This is in spite of other politically motivated exhibitions it has hosted in the past attracting no such prohibition. This is the type of unjustified limitation on the gallery’s freedom of expression that we must not tolerate in New Zealand, says Dr David Cumin, Council member of the Free Speech Union.
“The Israel/Palestine conflict is one of the most vexed political issues of our time. However, while individuals may be offended by the art displayed on the window, we must continue to uphold the artists’ rights to freedom of expression.
“The conflict carries with it centuries of strong, even violent emotion. As a result, it is essential people are allowed to publicly express their feelings through art. It allows those who hold these opinions to have an outlet for their political expression in a non-violent way. It also allows the general public to develop a more nuanced understanding of the personal toll of this conflict.
“What prompted the real estate agency to call for the removal of the artwork was a single complaint by an individual member of the public. A single individual’s hurt feelings should never be the reason political expression is removed from the public discourse.
“As New Zealanders, we must ensure that we uphold the rights of freedom of expression for everyone in our community – whether they are on the pro-Israeli or the pro-Palestine side of this present conflict is not relevant.”