Worcester Palestine mural under threat from UK Lawyers for Israel

  • Post last modified:June 4, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Local community leaders, artists, and Green Party councillors united to defend a pro-Palestine mural in Worcester, which is at risk of being torn down by Worcester City Council – under pressure from notorious UK Lawyers for Israel.

Heroes of Palestine not allowed to be honoured in Worcester

The ‘Heroes of Palestine’ mural, located in Lowesmoor, was created by artist Auberi Chen after Sam Iqbal, a local campaigner, successfully launched a fundraiser for the project on behalf of the Worcester Palestine Solidarity Campaign and art platform Creative Debuts.

The mural aims to honour Palestinian journalists who have risked their lives to show the reality of life in Gaza and Palestine to the world. It is in honour of two people in particular: one, a journalist and mother of two who was separated from her children for months during the conflict, and another, a nine-year-old budding journalist showing the perspective of Gaza’s children to the world.

Worcester City Council officers have deemed the mural an ‘advertisement’ and suggested that the landowners – Munchies, a fast food establishment – must seek retrospective planning consent to accommodate the artwork.

Campaigner Sam Iqbal and landowners believe that the council’s recent actions resulted from lobbying by UK Lawyers for Israel.

The council has given a 14 June deadline for responding to a letter it sent to the landowners about the mural and planning consent. More recently, it issued the following warning:

You should not assume that it will be possible to make changes to the mural so that it is no longer an advertisement without substantially changing the mural to the extent that it may be completely unrecognisable without meaning and not serving its original purpose.

‘Peaceful political art’

So, on Saturday 1 June people came together to oppose Worcester City Council’s plans and UK Lawyers for Israel’s pressuring:

Auberi Chen, mural artist, said of Heroes of Palestine:

The ‘Heroes of Palestine’ collection of murals has always been intended to raise awareness and are peaceful political art statements. Calum Hall from Creative Debuts (whose concept this project was) only wanted to spread positivity and awareness, which is why we are painting Palestinian heroes who are putting their safety at risk to document and share news of what is happening in Palestine.

It seems a shame that the council has been put under so much pressure to remove this mural from the UK Lawyers for Israel who are clearly trying to censor freedom of expression and speech.

The beauty about painting art in public spaces is that it is subjective and some people might not like a certain subject matter or (as in this case) when it is political they might have a different view, but everyone is allowed an opinion and a voice.

This mural is clearly trying to spread a positive message and the efforts the UK lawyers are going to — to have this mural removed — seem quite extreme and negative.

UK Lawyers for Israel: childrens’ art is ‘victimising’

UK Lawyers for Israel appear to be behind the lobbying of the council. This is a national trend as the group has identified Worcester, along with Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, and Lambeth, as locations where murals “promote divisiveness” – or rather, show the reality of the Zionist occupation. The prime example of this was kids’ artwork at Chelsea and Westminster hospital.

As the Guardian reported:

A display of artwork by Palestinian children at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London has been removed after a complaint by a pro-Israel organisation [UK Lawyers for Israel], which said it made Jewish patients feel “vulnerable, harassed and victimised”.

Artist Sam Iqbal said of Worcester’s artwork:

UK Lawyers for Israel have made it clear on their website that they are behind pressuring the council about this artwork, stating it is classed as an advertisement of a cause. This is not an advert but artistic expression and a celebration of the strength of humanity.

There are multiple artworks across the city that actually do advertise products or services that have not had enforcement actions served on them – the double standard is very sad to see.

On 28 November 2023, Green councillors successfully passed a motion calling for the government to call a ceasefire.

All Greens voted in favour of the motion, but it only passed with the Mayor of Worcester’s additional casting vote. The Mayor was councillor Louis Stephen (the Green Party). Labour councillors tried to water down the motion, and Labour and Lib Dem councillors disputed that a genocide was happening.

Earlier this year, Stephen received a group of Palestinian children at the Guildhall.

Featured image via councillor Karen Lewing

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