Vandals deface Melbourne mural calling for return of hostages

The display was covered with ‘Free Palestine’ graffiti just two days after it had been completed


The wall after it was defaced (Photo: Keren Zelwer)

A mural in Melbourne calling for the return of the hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 has been vandalised with “Free Palestine” graffiti.

Just two days after the “Bring Them Home Now” poster was unveiled – on April 14 – it was painted over in black, white and red by anti-Israel activists.

At 27m wide and 2.2m high, the display is Australia’s largest Bring Them Home Now mural and located in the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community in the suburb of St Kilda.

Melbourne is home to nearly 50,000 Jews, many of whom are descendants of Holocaust survivors.

The mural was designed and assembled by Mottel Gestetner – who has been putting up posters around Melbourne since October 7 – with the help of local Jews and Israelis.

The giant poster wall called for the immediate return of hostages still held in captivity by Hamas, including 26-year-old Noa Argamani and 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin, both abducted during the Re'im music festival massacre.

On discovering the huge poster had been defaced, the Jewish community of St Kilda gathered to reclaim the vandalised wall. They painted over the Palestinian graffiti, re-plastered their posters and spray-painted phrases like “bring them home now” and “hope is mandatory”.

In response to the vandalism, the Deputy Leader of the Victorian Liberals, David Southwick, said: “With antisemitism nearing its worst levels in our country’s history, the defacement of the Bring Them Home poster is yet another attempt to silence, harass, and intimidate our Jewish community.

“With this act, the anti-Israel movement have again outed themselves as bigots.”

In February, anti-Israel activists in Australia circulated the names and personal details of 600 Jews from the creative industries who had joined a private WhatsApp group.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned the “Jew list” as antisemitic and said doxxing would be criminalised.

Keren Zelwer, a disability inclusion advocate in Melbourne, was one of the many Jews who had come together to assemble the now-defaced poster wall. She said: “Working with community members to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel has been an important task for us.”

For Zelwer, to wake up two days later and to see that the faces of our hostages had been taken down, including babies, was like a “kick in the gut”.

She added: “I truly had a visceral reaction wondering how anyone could be opposed to the safe return of innocent civilians. However, within a few hours an amazing team of Melbournian Zionists who barely know each other were able to turn it all around.”

She said it was a “moment of pride” to see the community come together at such short notice to regain and amplify their message. “Our global humanitarian call to ‘let my people go’ cannot be silenced.”

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