Councillor, students clash over ‘offensive’ anti-israel graffiti

Councillor, students clash over ‘offensive’ anti-israel graffiti

HLENGIWE KWEYAMA hlengiwe.kweyama@inl.co.za

Daily News

11 March 2013

A HEATED argument erupted between a group of University of KwaZulu-Natal students and Durban councillor Avrille Coen over graffiti drawn as part of the Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) awareness activities at the Durban Snake Park Beach.

The students, part of the Durban IAW Committee, said the graffiti was part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign aimed at drumming up support for the international community to take a stand against what they termed Israel’s discriminatory policies.

But Coen, a councillor in the area and also Jewish, said the graffiti was offensive.

“What proof do they have that Israel is an apartheid state?

“This painting is telling half of the story of what is happening in the Middle East.”

She said last year, the same illustration created similar controversy and had to be removed by the municipality

“We can’t have a painting in a public space like a beach that is so offensive to people of Jewish background.

Painting

“This is hate speech, calling a democratic country like Israel, which has people of Palestinian descent in parliament, an apartheid state.

“The painting must be removed,”she said.

Khaddeja Manjra, one of the co-ordinators of the campaign, said there was nothing offensive about it.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council declared that Israel is guilty of apartheid based on international law.

“What we are doing here is raising awareness and pleading with the international community to get involved in eradicating apartheid in Israel through the BDS campaign.”

Mbuyiseni Ndlonzi, the national spokesman of the IAW South Africa, said the confrontation was unfortunate and called for calm.

Mary Kluk, the chairwoman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said the Israeli Apartheid Week campaigners were polarising the issues in the Middle East.

“We need to work together in peaceful conversations and talk to the people on the ground so as to how achieve peace in the Middle East.”

The Israeli Apartheid Week runs from today to March 17 and both UKZN and the Durban University of Technology will be hosting various events as part of the campaign.

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