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“Zionism is Racism” Sparks a Conflict Between Art Groups and S.F. Library

Boycott ensues after a San Francisco Public Library rejects the public display of an exhibit due to a mural depicting the Israel/Palestine conflict


Nov. 19, 2022

By Aydin Levy

SAN FRANCISCO—On August 28th, two bay area organizations made the active decision to boycott the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) after a refusal to showcase an exhibit titled Wall +Response. The exhibit, organized by the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) and local poets, was canceled after being flagged for a phrase associated with the Arab Liberation Mural. This phrase is “Zionism is Racism.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) addressed a letter to the SFPL confronting the cancellation, stating it was a violation of the first amendment. Both sides remain loyal to their decisions.

In response to “Zionism is Racism,” the SFPL produced a statement saying that the phrase is “widely considered to be antisemitic,” and by having the phrase highlighted, it is exclusive and divisive. However, the Nomadic Press and the East Side Arts Alliance & Cultural Center argue that by censoring the phrase, the library is silencing the voices of the Palestinian people and neglecting the opportunity to educate the public on their struggles. Additionally, in a separate letter addressed to the library, organizers of the exhibit state that the mural was designed to “express the resilience and resistance of the Bay Area community to attacks on freedom and liberties of Arabs, Muslims, people of color, immigrants, and refugees.”

The censorship displays the complexity of these ongoing belief systems and in turn began a petition with over 1,700 signatures to demand the Arab Liberation Mural be displayed with “Zionism is Racism.”

Co-Deputy Director of Media Relations at Teens for Press Freedom, Luci Garza, added, “The active choice made by the SFPL to silence minority voices choosing to express their feelings towards the conjunction of zionism and racism is blatantly discriminatory. In fact, whatever differing opinions on the phrase may exist, there should always be a promise to uphold freedom of speech and to treat minority voices with care.”


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