'Anti-Israel' map exhibit in Chicago Jewish institute forced to close

"Imaginary Coordinates" has been a point of contention since its inauguration in May 2008.

israel map (photo credit: )
israel map
(photo credit: )
The Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago recently removed a controversial exhibit from its gallery in response to accusations of housing an anti-Israel display. "Imaginary Coordinates," a collaboration of artwork and cartography, has been a point of contention since its inauguration in May of 2008. The collection was designed to portray the Middle Eastern struggle through artifacts, videos, historical Holy Land maps and contemporary artwork. The display also included postcards depicting everyday Palestinian life in an effort to humanize territorial disputes. As the city's lone Jewish museum, Spertus exhibitions are central to Chicago Jewry and many expressed great outrage in response to this one's depiction of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The critics charged the presentation portrayed Israel in a negative light, and were especially disturbed by pieces that challenged Israeli borders. Championed by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, patrons have applied intense pressure on the Spertus Institute and "Imaginary Coordinates" has since been shut down. However, critics of the move maintain that withdrawing the exhibit is a reflection of a desire to repress meaningful discourse about the Middle East. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Spertus President Howard Sulkin explained his rationale in launching the presentation. "A willingness to experiment is incorporated right into our core principles, and we see one of our roles as being a place that inspires dialogue on the critical issues of our time," he said. "Imaginary Coordinates" was designed as an exploration of Israeli and Palestinian understandings of Israel as a homeland throughout history. A dramatic conclusion to Chicago's yearlong Festival of Maps, the exhibit was accused of echoing global anti-Israel sentiments. "Aspects of it were clearly anti-Israel," Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune. "I was surprised that a Jewish institution would put forward this exhibition. I was surprised and saddened by it."