newsOctober 7

Israeli hostage artwork defaced in Mexico

The Brumberg family of Newton, Mass., commissioned the pro-Israel street art in Oaxaca.

"Free Israel's hostages," the street art read in Oaxaca, Mexico, before it was defaced. Credit: Courtesy.
"Free Israel's hostages," the street art read in Oaxaca, Mexico, before it was defaced. Credit: Courtesy.

When an American Jewish family vacationing in Mexico this winter saw a plethora of street art championing the Palestinian cause at a popular tourist quarter, they were determined to act and balance the message.

What they did not expect was that the street art they commissioned on behalf of the Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza would be vandalized and ripped down.

It had been placed among the pro-Palestinian art this spring in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca, known for its indigenous peoples and culture and a world away from the conflict whose ricochets have spread to the U.S. and Europe.

“It really is disturbing,” Bruce Brumberg of Newton, Mass., told JNS in an interview. “We respected their opportunity to have a voice and they aren’t doing the same for us.

“It feels quite unfair,” added his son Gregory.

The one reading “Freedom for the Israeli hostages” was soon torn down in Oaxaca, Mexico. Credit: Courtesy.

‘We will continue with our activism’

The American family first alerted the Jewish community in the Mexican city of the artwork calling to “free Palestine” when they visited the Latin American country this winter. Still, the local residents were not particularly troubled by it as it was not in the residential area.

Yet the images simmered in the Americans’ minds as they returned to their hometown just west of Boston.

In Newton, hostage signs were soon being ripped down and a series of other antisemitic hate crimes gained national and international attention. Then came the encampments at college campuses across the U.S., including at nearby Harvard and MIT, and a sermon by their rabbi. She had visited Israel and impressed on them the intense trauma the hostage issue was causing.

All this prompted the family to commission the series of artwork to be put up in the Mexican city.

“The clearest messaging for Israel is the hostages, and that too is being drowned out,” Bruce Brumberg said.

About 120 of the hostages abducted by Hamas during the Oct. 7 massacre are still being held in Gaza, with more than a third of them believed to be dead. Six months of on-again off-again talks to bring about their release as part of a ceasefire have failed to date, most recently this week when Hamas added new demands to a proposal announced two weeks ago by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Last month, pro-Hamas rioters clashed with Mexican police trying to reach the Israeli embassy in Mexico City.

Masked protesters threw stones at security personnel who had created a barricade preventing access to the diplomatic mission in the Mexican capital’s Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood.

Around 200 people participated in the “Urgent action for Rafah” demonstration, dozens of whom attempted to break down the barriers. A building near the embassy caught fire after protesters hurled a firebomb at it.

Although they have not been to Israel since the war broke out, the Brumbergs are determined to do their part across the ocean and are intensifying their art campaign in Mexico.

“We will continue with our Mexican street-art activism until all the kidnapped Israel hostages are home,” stated Bruce Brumberg.

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