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Community school mural censored over First Nations artist's identity with Palestinians

Written by: Nick G. on 21 December 2023


(Above: Mali Isabel's beautiful mural)

The intimidation that the Australian Zionist lobby exercises over Australian politicians and public servants was seen on December 19 in Adelaide.

Martin Westwell, the Education Department Chief Executive directed the staff of the Bowden-Brompton Community School to remove the words “From the River to the Sea” from a mural on one of the school’s buildings.

For many decades the school has served students from predominantly working class families who have become disengaged from mainstream schooling and who have complex emotional and social needs. The mural artist had been working as an artist-in-residence at the school. She is Mali Isabel, an Arabana and Kokatha artist.

According to an Advertiser article, Westwell was responding to a complaint from Australian Jewish Association chief executive, Robert Gregory, who was quoted as saying that ‘From the River to the Sea' is “widely recognised as a genocidal call for the elimination of the state of Israel” as well as being antisemitic.

Both sides proclaim From the River to the Sea sovereignty.

In fact, the phrase has been used by Zionists and Palestinians alike, but for very different purposes.

The 1977 original platform of Israeli Prime Minister Netaniyahu’s Likud Party began with the heading The Right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel) and continued with the two following points:

a. The right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable and is linked with the right to security and peace; therefore, Judea and Samaria will not be handed to any foreign administration; between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.

b. A plan which relinquishes parts of western Eretz Israel, undermines our right to the country, unavoidably leads to the establishment of a "Palestinian State," jeopardizes the security of the Jewish population, endangers the existence of the State of Israel. and frustrates any prospect of peace…

The term “Eretz Israel” originated in the Torah and was adopted by Zionists to refer to the Mandated Territory of Palestine, that is, to the entire area from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. Judea and Samaria specifically refer to the area designated today as the occupied West Bank.

In opposition to the Zionist claim to an exclusively Jewish/Israeli sovereignty over the area from the Sea to the River (Jordan), the Palestinians have promoted the slogan “From the River to the Sea” as a single secular state where Jews, Christians and Muslims will share equal rights of citizenship.

Does this mean, as Gregory alleges, that Palestinian use of From the River to the Sea is “widely recognised as a genocidal call for the elimination of the state of Israel” as well as being antisemitic? 

It does mean the elimination of the apartheid state of Zionist Israel, that is, of a state whose governing party the Likud, in its current Party Platform, states:

3. The Government of Israel will enable the Palestinians to manage their lives freely, within the framework of self-government.  However, foreign affairs and defense, and matters which require coordination, will remain the responsibility of the State of Israel.  The government will oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state…

5. Jewish settlement, security areas, water resources, state land and road intersections in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip shall remain under full Israeli control.

The so-called “two state solution” proposed by some is a dead duck. The Zionists have made it clear that they will never accept an independent Palestinian state. 

The choice is either a continued genocidal repression of Palestinians by a state that is exclusively permitting rights for people of one religion only, or the dismantling of that state and its replacement by a single secular state that grants equal rights to people of all religions and ethnicities .

Both sides believe in the slogan “From the River to the Sea”, but the Zionists dishonestly attribute this exclusively to Palestinians and smear them as anti-Semitic.

First Peoples first Australians to support Jews facing Nazi genocide

The mural expresses First Peoples identity with the oppressed Palestinians.  What right have they to do this?  

The first political action by Australians against the Nazis and in open support of the oppressed Jews of Europe was undertaken by Aboriginal Australians.

Reading press reports of the Nazi Kristallnacht in November 1938, Yorta Yorta man William Cooper organised Aboriginal community activists to approach the German consulate in Melbourne to deliver a letter of protest against the violence meted out to the Jews. It is considered by many to be the only protest of its kind in the world at the time, according to the National Museum of Australia.

The identity of First Nations activists with the Jews then facing the genocidal rampages of the Nazis gives contemporary First Nations activists every right to today stand with the Palestinians between the River and the Sea who are suffering the genocidal rampages of Netanyahu and his allies.

Responding to the Education Department’s political censorship, Mali Isobel said:

The fact that someone can attempt to censor Aboriginal art and call it a “hateful stunt” is extremely offensive, not only to myself, but to my practice as an Aboriginal artist. As someone whose people and family have been victims of genocide, displaced from their land, and torn from their families through colonisation, I find this situation and the article published by the Advertiser personally insulting. 

I have been in communication with the beautiful staff at the school who have been instructed by the Department for Education to remove the words. I appreciate that they have no choice in this matter and want to make this process as stress free as I could for them. However, I could not stay silent. My people have already been without a voice for too long.

The Education Department must reverse the decision taken to censor the work by Mali Isabel.

It must ensure a balanced and informed discussion of the issues arising from the Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza throughout the Department and its schools.  

Informed discussion seeks truth from facts. 



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