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Controversial mural to be altered in S.F.

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An emotional battle over a new mural in San Francisco’s Mission district that depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been squelched after the supporting organization had its funding stalled and agreed to alter the controversial image.

At issue is a large mural in a parking lot on the corner of 24th and Capp streets, designed by local artist Eric Norberg and painted during the summer by more than 200 Mission district community members with an overall theme of breaking down physical and social walls.

One panel of the 117-foot wide and 10-foot tall mural, depicting Palestinians breaking through a crack in the Israeli security barrier, angered members of San Francisco’s Jewish community who said the image only portrays one side of the centuries-old conflict. The crack in the barrier is also shaped like Israel, and one Palestinian busting through wears a headscarf covering her face.

“The imagery took a radical position on a complex geopolitical issue that was out of touch with theinternational community, San Francisco and the overwhelming majority of Jews,” said Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which raised the issue.

The controversy ended up pitting some members of The City’s Jewish community against each other, with some saying the images were appropriate. HOMEY, the organization that received a city grant to create two murals, said the mural was meant to unite the Mission district. Members of the Art Commission simply said the work did what it was supposed to — start a dialogue.

HOMEY, or Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth, was given a $34,400 neighborhood-beautification grant for the mural project, but it was stalled because of the controversy.

HOMEY and Norberg, however, have agreed to alter the images that some called divisive and hostile. The group has agreed to change the shape of the crack so it does not resemble a silhouette of Israel, add blue sky where the wall towered to reflect a brighter future, add an olive tree to symbolize peace, and remove the headscarf from the woman’s face. The Arts Commission approved the revisions Wednesday.

“Our intention was to draw parallels between the issues at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Israeli-Palestinian security barrier,” said Nancy Hernandez, youth program coordinator at HOMEY. “We consider this section … to be a statement of solidarity between the residents of the San Francisco Mission district and global movements for oppressed peoples to gain self-determination.”

Some, however, remain enraged that the panel is not being removed.

“This does not show why the barrier was brought on — to stop the suicide bombings,” said Gina Bublil Waldman, co-founder of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, a San Francisco-based educational and advocacy organization. “To show only one side is biased, unfair and unjust.”

arocha@examiner.com

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