13 July 2024

By Al-Qalam Reporter 

A South African children’s colouring book about Palestine called From The River To The Sea is being censored and has been pulled from the shelves of Exclusive Books stores after the Jewish Board of Deputies called for the “immediate cessation” of the book.

They claim the book by author Nathi Nguabane is indoctrinating children. Ngubane has also been receiving threats over the book.

The book is an educational book aimed at children and provides a gateway into the story of Palestine. Through a series of stunning illustrations, Soweto-based 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.

“I’ve had one person ask how I am qualified to talk about the Middle East conflict. People are saying the book should be burned, and the book should be used as toilet paper. Overall, I have just been getting nasty comments and people asking why I’m not reporting on Hamas and the events of October 7th,” said Ngubane.

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He said some people have also been sending emails to his publisher that they are happy the book has been removed. 

“We understand that this is a coordinated attempt to intimidate and harass us into admission as the tides turn against Israel. We also noticed that this comes as mainstream bookstores in South Africa have started to stock the book. We see this attempt as an attempt to smear Palestinians and place more pressure on other bookstores to remove the books from their shelves,” said Ngubane. 

He has urged bookstores to stand on the right side of history and use this as an opportunity to feature more books about Palestine in their stores. 

“It is also extraordinary that these pressures have been exerted as South Africa fights Israel in the International Court of Justice on the charge of genocide. It is not enough that more than 36 000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th, and now Zionists want to burn South African children’s books too,” said Ngubane.

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Ngubane said he was also shocked that he received one-sided questions from a journalist.

“These questions were not drafted in good faith, and they asked me if I knew that I was calling for the genocide of Jewish people. They asked me if I knew that the American Senate had banned this title. I was receiving a lot of messages of hate but on the positive side, I have been receiving a lot of messages of support too,” said Ngubane. 

Ngubane said the “likes” and comments just came rushing in. 

“It just shows you that Palestine cannot be censored. The plight of the Palestinian people cannot be censored. Their voices will be heard. Coming from South Africa, we know too well our history of oppression and our freedom fighters. Those people influenced us as South Africans to stand up for those who are marginalised and those who are being oppressed,” said Ngubane. 

Ngubane said that despite the attempts to stop him from spreading the message of the plight of Palestinians, he will not give up. “I feel it’s my responsibility as an artist to continue with my political education of the youth. And since the youth are the future, we won’t stop. We need to continue teaching these stories about Palestine and we will not give up,” said Ngubane. 

Some international bookstores continue to sell his book, and he believes that more local publishers should also recognise the importance of the message he’s spreading with From The River To The Sea.

Over 3000 copies of the book have already been sold since the book was released in February. Another 1300 were donated to NGO Penny Appeal SA to be distributed to underprivileged schools. Proceeds from the book sales also go towards Penny Appeal South Africa’s projects in Gaza. 

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