‘Ewok’ clashes with councillor

2013-03-12 00:00

A TIFF between a Democratic Alliance councillor and student protesters in Durban has put the spotlight on a mural depicting Israel as an apartheid state.

Iain “Ewok” Robinson, who is with the activists promoting Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), accused DA councillor Avrille Coen, who is Jewish, of having vowed to have the graffiti at North Beach removed.

She is alleged to have described it as tantamount to hate speech.

Coen yesterday denied Robinson’s claim and said she stood by the principle of freedom of speech for all.

She said that if she were to have a gripe it would not be the graffiti, but that the protesters had conducted inappropriate play-acting in front of the mural, depicting an Israeli soldier shooting dead blindfolded girls.

The graffiti shows a clenched fist with the words “Free Palestine” and a notice on the side giving dates for “Israel Apartheid Week 2013” at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Durban University of Technology.

Robinson works with various human rights organisations and is a graffiti and hip-hop artist in Durban.

Last year he released a song called Freedom for Us All, which rapped about the hardships Palestinians face in Gaza.

He is also a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Working Group, which is affiliated with the Cosatu-led Coalition for a Free Palestine.

The group works on furthering boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel in South Africa.

The pro-Palestinian gathering claimed that Coen had threatened at the weekend to have eThekwini Municipality remove the painting.

No comment was received from the municipality.

Coen denied the allegations, saying that she had not instructed anyone from the municipality to remove the painting.

“I haven’t asked anyone to remove it. I believe people are entitled to freedom of thought and expression. As a party we are not pro or against Israel.”

Robinson responded. “The councillor will not waste our time anymore because I cannot understand why we would make this up. If she wants to deny it then we will not waste our time. There are a lot more efficient ways to use our energy.”

The IAW has been drumming up support on campuses and in communities around the globe for the past nine years.

Canvassing started in South Africa this year and the issue of Robinson’s artwork is, according to the organisation, the first real constitutional challenge relating to freedom of expression the organisation has faced so far.

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