Always thinking of new ways to promote peaceful dialogue about Israel at York University, Hasbara at York brought graffiti artists to paint pro-Israel murals in the school’s central square, much to students’ delight.
“Students reacted really positively and were excited to see graffiti artists on campus,” said Ariella Daniels, president of Hasbara at York.
“Students from all backgrounds, very diverse, came up and signed the murals and had conversations with us, and it was a beautiful atmosphere to have on campus.”
The artists – who go by the monikers Vinny, Pesu and SeeOne – were invited to York for their involvement with Artists 4 Israel. Founded in 2009 as a non-profit initiative to promote artists’ rights and the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, the New York-based organization presents the work of non-Jewish artists who create pro-Israel work that’s “credible and adaptable to the widest possible audience.”
Daniels said despite the recent controversy involving the pro-Palestinian mural hanging in York’s student centre – which spurred media mogul Paul Bronfman to pull his support from the university – this event was not organized as a response to it.
“We’ve wanted to do this for the past two years. Most students and faculty thought that we were challenging the [earlier] mural, but that is not the case. We just want a different way of producing dialogue on campus,” she said.
“The idea was that people would walk by and see these graffiti artists in action and it would catch their attention and hopefully start a conversation with students walking around.”
Daniels said the program, co-sponsored by StandWithUs Canada, Masa Israel Journey Canada, Size Doesn’t Matter, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, was something she wanted to bring to York since she learned about Artists 4 Israel about two years ago.
She said she heard about the group when she was on a Hasbara Fellowships trip in Israel.
“A couple of my friends from New York mentioned an organization called Artists 4 Israel… that tries to show a different medium for dialogue, and they brought it to university campuses. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to bring this to York because it uses art to bring about dialogue and it’s more of a cool way to appeal to students,’” she recalled.
She explained that the organization’s artists come from all over the world. Most of them have travelled to Israel, and produced artwork there.
“The idea is that they don’t just produce beautiful art, but they also get a chance to engage verbally with other students and talk about how they’ve been to Israel,” Daniels said.
“When I spoke to them on campus, they mentioned that they try to produce artwork that’s as unbiased as possible. It’s just pro-dialogue and pro-peace. That way, students can participate and engage in more dialogue on campus.”
“One of the canvases says: ‘Peace for Israel’ along with the logo of York University. A bunch of students signed it and wrote messages for peace and dialogue.”
Another depicts a lion, which is York’s mascot, with the words “peace, unity and love” adorning it.
She said Hasbara at York hasn’t made a decision about whether to seek permission to have the murals displayed elsewhere on campus, but in the meantime, the group plans to display them at its own events.