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Exclusively Zionist?

The decision of Exclusive books to ban the book

From the River to the Sea: A Colouring Book  from being sold in their stores is plain censorship and must be challenged by readers, writers and those who cherish the constitutional dispensation.

I have written elsewhere that the slogan From the River to the Sea, is not against any group or persons but a call for hope and an inclusive democracy.

We first heard murmurings when we heard from the author of the book, From the River to the Sea, that EXCLUSIVE Books refused to host an event around the book, because of the topic of Palestine and Israel, saying that it’s too sensitive. I wonder if they meant that it was too sensitive that close to 60 000 Palestinians have been killed (records are not properly kept because Israel has bombed almost all the hospitals in the Gaza strip).

In addition, we learnt from the South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP) that the author and illustrator Nathi Ngubane and Social Bandit Media, the independent publisher of the book, have been the subject of a Zionist intimidation campaign.

As a human rights activist and a member of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance, affiliated to the BDS, we believe that books that seek to creatively inform South Africans about the ongoing Nakba in Palestine must be welcomed and not censored.  The SAJFP is correct when they argue that Jews – amongst other citizens – must not get into the closing down of freedom of speech and the rights to organise as these are fundamental principles of our constitution and international human rights law.

The SAJFP wrote that: “It is the tragic but certainly not novel irony of Zionist propaganda that the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies called for the fascistic censorship of the colouring book and justified their demand for the “immediate cessation of this extremely irresponsible publication” by rejecting “attempts to indoctrinate children.” The double standards of this demand are almost incomprehensible. How dare a Zionist organisation voice concerns about children just days after Palestinian children were burnt alive with their parents, as families tried to shelter somewhere in between the unlivable and overcrowded places whilst all supposed ‘safe zones’ are bombed to the ground by the Israeli army? Does the SAJBD not recognise the hypocrisy of accusing a genuine educational project of indoctrination when, in fact, many of our own members were ourselves indoctrinated by Zionist propaganda from a young age, as are so many children to this day in Jewish schools and youth organisations in South Africa and around the world?”

The PSA calls on all writers of conscience to reach out to the corporation Exclusive Books to make their views known. As activists, we must go to the nearest bookstores on an agreed upon day and time to occupy and read the book to our audiences who will be with us.

All these must be organised as we plan a joint complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission for the violation of the rights and dignities of the author and artist as well as those of us who believe that their failure to stock the book violates our rights to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is both about the availability of diverse ideas and the right to disseminate and enjoy these. Their stopping the publication from being sold because it is controversial means that the books on our anti colonial and anti imperialist struggles will be next? Will Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom be available next week? We do not know, but we reiterate that freedom of expression involves the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas. Taken together with communication rights, I believe it is a fundamental human right. This demands a challenge.

 Over 3,000 books have been already sold since the book came out in February. Another 1300 were donated to Penny Appeal SA to be distributed to under-privileged schools. All proceeds from the book sales go to Penny Appeal South Africa’s projects in Gaza. Penny Appeal is a relief charity working alongside and for those in need. We have autonomous power to buy more and not only through Exclusive Books.

We oppose apartheid censorship and violent intimidation and we urge you to buy the book From the River to the Sea: A Colouring Book. All proceeds benefit Palestine through Penny Appeal South Africa.

I believe that when Philip and Pamela Joseph founded the very first Exclusive Books in a tiny second-hand bookshop three years after the founding of the apartheid state in downtown Jozi, they would feel betrayed by the decision of today’s owners to side with apartheid and censorship. When will the elites of our society heed the advice of Rosa Luxembourg, the Polish-German when she famously  said:”Freedom only for the supporters of one party is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for those who think differently.”

We have no option but to fight so that these fundamental rights are not closed down by those who hate freedom.

Hassen Lorgat
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