Children’s book on Palestine ‘bombarded’ with hate messages

Exclusive Books in South Africa has remained mum over reports that it pulled a children’s colouring book that tells the story of Palestine off its shelves.

The book, ‘From the River to the Sea: A Colouring Book’ for children aged 6 to 10 years old is illustrated by Soweto-based writer Nathi Ngubane, and published by Social Bandit Media.

A number of people took to social media about their experience trying to buy the book from Exclusive Books, with some saying their orders had been cancelled.

Ngubane says he illustrated the book with the aim of educating children in South Africa and worldwide about the history of Palestine, the culture of Palestinian people, and their flora and fauna.

“I am hoping that by the end of this book, children will be more informed about the devastating situation children their age are facing in Gaza,” he says.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) says it is aware of the publication of the book and the support from Social Bandit and Penny Appeal South Africa.

“It is repugnant that this publication, promoting the obliteration of Jews from our historical and rightful homeland-Israel, can be published and targeted at young minds. We reject attempts to indoctrinate children.

“While we are saddened by the ongoing conflict, campaigns like this only perpetuate animosity and prolong the cycle of hatred. We urgently call for the immediate cessation of this extremely irresponsible publication,” the SAJBD says.

Social Bandit Media says all proceeds from the book would be donated to Penny Appeal South Africa’s Palestine Projects.

According to Social Bandit Media, following the statement by the SAJBD, Ngubane has been bombarded with messages of hate.

“We understand that this is a coordinated attempt to intimidate and harass us into submission as the tide turns against Israel. We also noted that this panic came as mainstream bookstores in South Africa had started to stock the book.

“We see the statement as an attempt to smear Palestinians and place more pressure on these mainstream bookstores to remove the books from their shelves. We urge bookstores to stand on the right side of history and use this opportunity to feature more books on Palestine in their stores,” they say.

PEN SA, a non-governmental organisation of writers, say they are gravely concerned over the public call from SAJBD to stop circulating the educational colouring book.

“Through a series of stunning illustrations, Ngubane tackles the injustice of the Nakba, delves into the history and culture of the land, and introduces young readers to the key concepts driving and sustaining the Palestinian resistance.

“South Africa is a democracy in which citizens exercise freedom of expression and are protected from censorship: This is a freedom we should all seek to uphold and protect, not diminish.

“While the SAJBD is free to take issue with the book’s positionality and contents, it is not acceptable for a civic body to call for the withdrawal of the book from the public sphere,” the organisation says.

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