A Navajo artist who claimed he produced the pro-Palestinian graffiti that appeared Sunday on an east-side wall said his intention was to create a comparison between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the plight of Native Americans during periods of colonialism and conquest.
The artist, who identified himself only as “Remy,” said in an interview Monday that the images of armed Israeli soldiers and tanks confronting Palestinian women and children show “the similarities when you look at the indigenous struggle of this continent and the indigenous struggle there.”
Guthrie Miller, who owns the wall surrounding his Santa Fe property at the intersection of Old Pecos Trail and Camino Lejo, said he discovered the series of detailed digital images shortly before dusk Sunday.
“It was a surprise, but actually I think it’s very political art, so it’s not an unpleasant surprise,” said Miller, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist.
Over the past few years, his wall has held other pro-Palestinian images and signs, added Miller, who intends to allow Remy’s work to stay.
Members of the city’s Jewish community were sharply divided on the artwork, with some supporting Remy’s efforts and others decrying his images as anti-Semitic.
“It’s racist, inflammatory and anti-Semitic to equate the European occupation of the Americas to Israel, which is reestablishing governance in its native land,” said Rabbi Berel Levertov of the Santa Fe Jewish Center-Chabad, who saw the artwork Monday afternoon.
Levertov said the images depict only a “fraction of the real story,” rather than a balanced view of the situation in Israel.
Halley Faust, chairman of Santa Fe Middle East Watch, a pro-Israeli advocacy group, also criticized the images, calling them “inflammatory hyperbole ... almost fake news.
“It’s incorrect in the way it depicts the conflict and totally out of context,” Faust said. “It’s the kind of thing that is pure anti-Semitism because of the way that it depicts the conflict.”
Remy defended his work. “It’s not anti-Semitic to be sympathetic to a humanitarian crisis,” he said, adding some of his supporters in Santa Fe are Jewish, including Jeff Haas, one of the organizers of Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine.
Haas said he believes Remy’s artwork “attempts to humanize these Palestinian kids and say they should have rights like kids around the world have. It confronts people with something that they may or may not have wanted to see. But there it is.”
The images include one of a kneeling Israeli soldier aiming an automatic weapon at a woman shielding two children and a boy throwing rocks at an encroaching tank.
Included in the series of images is a sign saying, “End Military Aid to Israel.”
Remy created the digital images using videos and photos, including one of Muhammad al-Durrah, a 12-year-old boy killed in the crossfire between Israeli and Palestinian forces in 2000.
The artist used wheat paste to apply the images to the wall, a process that took between an hour and 90 minutes, he said, adding several passersby stopped to offer their help.
Remy, who left his social media tag, @F1RSTSE7EN, on the wall, said the work speaks to conflicts that go beyond the Middle East.
“It’s anti-oppression, it’s anti-genocide,” said Remy, of Black Mesa, Ariz., who has had his artwork exhibited in several Southwestern venues in recent years.
Miller, the property owner, said he became politically active in 2003, following the start of the Iraq War, and has sometimes allowed pro-Palestinian advocates, including members of Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine, to post signs on the wall drawing attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Such signs often have been defaced, torn down or destroyed, including a poster hanging on the wall in mid-December that showed five young girls with the caption, “These Palestinian Children Are Just Like Yours.”
Miller said he supports Remy’s effort to get people to “wake up” to the effects the conflict is having on civilian people.
The former Los Alamos scientist, who retired in 2006, first worked on magnetic fusion research at the lab and later began studying the health effects of radiation.
“I had a secure job for all these years and a secure retirement,” he said, “and I never paid attention politically to what was going on. It’s time for me to put myself out there.”
Miller’s home falls within one of the city of Santa Fe’s historic districts. In the past, he has had to get city permits to post pro-Palestinian images on his wall.
“I may get some pushback from the city, but let’s see what happens,” he said.
City spokeswoman Lilia Chacon confirmed in an email Monday evening that Miller will have to apply for a permit to keep Remy’s art on the wall.