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    Banksy & Palestine

    Banksy, the anonymous English graffiti artist may be the most mysterious and celebrated urban artist in the world today. Born out of the Bristol underground scene, Banksy has crossed the world leaving his/her mark on walls. Her/his 2010 film Exit Through the Gift Shop was nominated for an Oscar and this week HBO premiered a documentary on the artist, Banksy Does New York. Recently, an internet hoax spread that Banksy had been arrested and the identity revealed. The artist remains as mysterious as ever. Although popular around the globe, one place where Banksy has won a special place in the heart of many is Palestine. The artist took his/her trademark style to the Israeli separation barrier.

    Balloon debate


    Upon embarking on this travel, as it were, along the barrier Banksy declared it “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers.”

    Israel’s separation barrier was first considered in the ‘90s, but got traction in 2001 as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak called for a “unilateral separation” from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (West Bank) and construction started in 2002. The physical barrier consists of high walls (roughly twice the height of the Berlin Wall), electric fences, and a series of gates and trenches, and will run 425-miles once completed.

    “How illegal is it to vandalize a wall if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice? The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km - the distance from London to Zurich. The International Court of Justice last year ruled the wall and its associated regime is illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.”


    Read "The 'Wall Museum' - Palestinian Stories on the Wall in Bethlehem."

    Unwelcome intervention


    Israel justifies the barrier as a security measure to keep out Palestinian aggressors from entering Israel. The barrier, however, does not run along the 1967 Green Line that divides Israel from the West Bank – territory recognized by most of the world as “Palestine.” Only 20% of the barrier is built along the Green Line, most of it cuts into the West Bank and as a consequence expropriates 9.5% of the territory of a would-be Palestinian state. Palestinian land has been confiscated and property demolished to make way for the barrier. The notion of “unilateral separation” is also undermined by the fact that Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, are built on both sides of the barrier.

    Visualizing Palestine: "Where Law Stands on the Wall."


    Crucially, the barrier appears to settle by perforce the status of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem – what Israel calls part of its united capital, the rest of the world calls occupied, and the Palestinians call the capital of their future state – is divided from its hinterland in the West Bank, thus territorially divorced from any future Palestinian state. Israel annexed the mostly Arab eastern half after the 1967 war, but the international community, include the U.S., has maintained that the final status of Jerusalem as a shared city will be determined in a peace agreement between both sides. The barrier fully incorporates the entire city on the Israeli side as a “fact on the ground.”

    "The Israeli security forces did shoot in the air threateningly and there were quite a few guns pointed at him."

    -Banky spokeswoman Jo Brooks

    Read "Fencing the Last Sky: Excavating Palestine after Israel's 'Separation Wall.'"


    Between the barrier’s route and the 1967 Green Line, a “no man’s zone” of sorts has arisen for Palestinians. While Israel has annexed East Jerusalem, even Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, in the West Bank (under Israeli civil law as opposed to nearby Palestinian villages and cities, which remain under Israeli military rule) are not officially part of Israel. Thus between the barrier and Israel’s de facto Green Line border (Israel has no officially declared border) lie roughly two dozen Palestinian villages home to 30,000 persons (an additionally 200,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli identity cards and live in East Jerusalem are separated from West Bank Palestinians). These Palestinian villagers are neglected by both the Palestinian Authority, which cannot easily reach them, and Israel. As a result, such communities often lack basic services. Due to its zigzagging route, the barrier severally restricts 50 additional Palestinian villages (home to 244,000 people) on the West Bank side, surrounding them by the barrier on three side of the village.

    Soldier: What the f*** are you doing?

    Banksy: You'll have to wait until it's finished.

    Soldier (to colleagues): Safety's off

    -Banksy’s interaction with an Israeli solider

    Read “Breathing Life into a Dead Horse: Jerusalem identity card holders ponder a future behind or in front of the wall.”

    Window on the West Bank


    Beyond the de facto annexation and unilateral steps that prejudge the final status of Jerusalem (in direct contravention of the signed Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization), the wall serves another benefit: demographic transformation. The wall bisects parts of East Jerusalem and places 60,000 to 100,000 Palestinian residents of the city on the other side of the wall, who must now pass a checkpoint to travel to the city’s downtown. These Palestinians are officially apart of Israel and thus beyond the remit of the Palestinian Authority, but they are physically divided from the rest of Israel and Jerusalem. Jerusalem municipal authorities have failed to provide many services, such as medical care and garbage collection, despite promises that residents on the other side of the wall would still be serviced by the city’s council. In July 2012, Jerusalem’s municipality director-general Yossi Heiman asked the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) Civil Administration (the military office that administers the occupation of the West Bank) to take responsibilities for these East Jerusalem neighborhoods. To change municipal borders in Israel requires a two-thirds vote by the Knesset, and thus these neighborhoods are unlikely to be drawn out of Jerusalem any time soon. Nonetheless, the physical separation means de facto adjustment of borders and the eventual possibility of IDF supervision reinforces such a reality. Effectively, these neighborhoods and their Arab inhabitants have been walled-out of Jerusalem and many residents expect it will only be a matter of time before Israel starts revoking Jerusalem ID cards. All of this serves the purpose of expelling Arab residents to serve the demographic goal of an overwhelming Jewish majority in the city (Israeli Jews currently make up 62% and Palestinians 38%) – a policy supplemented through the ongoing revoking of residency permits for Palestinians (over 10,000 revocations since 1995) if Israel unilaterally determines that Jerusalem is not the "center of life" for the resident in question (i.e. live abroad or in a suburb), a practice never applied to Jewish residents even if they are absent from the city for years; severe restrictions on Arab housing construction and the corollary of demolition of Arab houses as Arabs are forced to build illegally (Jewish illegal building is more often than retroactively legalized), and the ongoing settlements both ringing Jerusalem and within Arab neighborhoods as well. Palestinians communities are either physically craved out of Jerusalem or treated as guests in their own home.

    Read more about Israeli policies in Jerusalem toward the Arab minority and Arab villages walled-out of the city: "Pockets of Lawlessness in the 'Oasis of Justice.'"

    Stable conditions



    'We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.'

    -Palestinian elder man to Banksy

    In July 2004, the International Court of Justice at The Hague declared the barrier illegal under international law and called for its dismantling and the return of confiscated land along with compensation for damages to Palestinian property. Israel’s own High Court has sanctioned building the barrier on Palestinian land, but has ordered modest re-routing at certain points of the planned route where the barrier separates Palestinian farmers from their lands.

    Read “Routes: Journeys from Behind the Wall. Abu Dis and Ras al-Amud Checkpoint.”

    Art attack

    To learn more about Palestinian history and culture, and current affairs, visit the Institute for Palestine Studies.

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