A strike by workers protesting a pro-Zionist exhibition erupted at the Wing Luke Asian American Museum in Seattle on May 22. Twenty-six museum staffers walked out in opposition to a large walled text conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism in the exhibition “Contesting Hate Together.” 

The staff walkout closed the museum, and it has remained closed for at least 10 days as the strike continues. The struggle has gained national and international attention.

The museum staffers have pointed out and protested many of the exhibition’s problems: It criticizes pro-Palestinian groups who have characterized the Palestinian state as “stretching from the River to the Sea.” The exhibit calls Hamas a terrorist organization without calling out U.S.-backed genocide against Hamas and Gaza. (ARTFORUM, May 29)

In a May 19 letter before the strike, the workers said the exhibit “attempts to justify colonialist and white-supremacist ideas under the guise of ‘local storytelling’ and that it aligns the museum with Zionism.” (ARTFORUM) 

The staffers’ letter says: “Our solidarity with Palestine should be reflected in our Asian American/Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AA/NHPI) institutions. It sets a dangerous precedent of platforming colonial, white supremacist perspectives and goes against the museum’s mission as a community-based museum advocating racial and social equity.” 

The strikers want the museum to commit to “platforming community stories with an anti-colonialist, anti-white-supremacist framework.” (South Seattle Emerald, May 29)

The workers are withholding their labor until their demands are met. The Wing Luke Museum calls itself the only AA/NHPI cultural and historical museum in the United States. It has a reputation as a very progressive museum, but it has become beholden to its Zionist partner organization in exhibiting “Contesting Hate Together.”

The workers’ collective has received tremendous support from the community and pro-Palestinian forces nationally. Hundreds of messages of support have been sent in as part of a mass letter-writing campaign. The Wing Luke Collective asks people to send letters of support for the workers and of protest to the Wing Luke Museum’s Executive Leadership at bit.ly/wlmwalkout.

Jim McMahan

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Jim McMahan

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