The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is a museum with a history of supporting Zionism and censoring Palestinian voices. As Umayyah Cable has written, in 1991 Palestinian director Elias Suleiman withdrew a film series he had curated, titled "Uprising: Film and Video on the Palestinian Resistance," from the ICA because of the ICA's censorship. ICA decided to pursue the "two-sides" Zionist framework and attempted to get Suleiman to debate Alan Dershowitz, a notorious right-wing Zionist professor at Harvard Law School. As Cable writes:
Citing a lack of “balance” and a need to “contextualize” the films, the ICA ventured to place Suleiman in political debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor and staunch Zionist. Such a move suggested that when it came to the question of Palestine, art could not in fact speak for itself. The ICA's treatment of Uprising exemplifies how support for the state of Israel permeates US society and institutions in ways that mediate or proscribe the discourse on Palestine in the US.
The ICA has continued to normalize Israeli settler-colonial violence through its exhibits. In 2021, Marilyn Frankenstein, a Boston-area activist, wrote a letter to the museum in response to its exhibition of photographs of IDF soldiers. Frankenstein wrote:
I am writing as a Jewish American who is extremely disturbed to see an image of an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldier, a sweet looking young woman, staring innocently out at the viewer, an image that normalizes the vicious, depraved actions of the IDF, "an instrument of racialized population elimination, expulsion, transfer, concentration and management" against the Palestinians. The IDF "is an authoritarian power that controls the lives of millions of Palestinians who don’t have democratic access to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. What it ‘defends’ is Jewish-Israeli supremacy over non-Jewish Palestinians, an ethnonationalist system that seizes executive authority over Palestinian bodies, lives, and land. It ‘defends’ colonization and, ultimately, ‘defends’ Israeli fear of Palestinians—fears rooted in racist stereotypes that paint Palestinians as violent monsters."
The ICA theme in which this image occurs asks what is the role of art and museums? I think that an important role of museums is not to “neutrally” present what should, at the very least, be a highly controversial statement.
In 2018, the ICA opened its "Watershed" wing in an old warehouse in East Boston, a predominantly Latinx and immigrant area that is suffering from organized abandonment, criminalization, and displacement. The ICA's posh new wing adds fuel to this fire of ethnic cleansing.
Umayyah Cable. "An Uprising At The Perfect Moment: Palestine in the 1990s Culture Wars" (2020)