Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestineby William Parry
Featuring the work of acclaimed artists such as Banksy, Ron English, and Blu, as well as Palestinian artists and activists, the photographs in this collection express outrage, compassion, and touching humor while illustrating the lives and livelihoods of the tens of thousands of people affected by Israel's wall. This stunning book of photographs
Featuring the work of acclaimed artists such as Banksy, Ron English, and Blu, as well as Palestinian artists and activists, the photographs in this collection express outrage, compassion, and touching humor while illustrating the lives and livelihoods of the tens of thousands of people affected by Israel's wall. This stunning book of photographs details the graffiti and art that have transformed Israel's Wall of Separation into a canvas of symbolic resistance and solidarity. The compelling images are interspersed with vignettes of the people whose lives are affected by the wall and who suffer due to a lack of work, education, and vital medical care.
“The wall stands as a dreadful symbol of oppression. The spirit of resistance may be strong but Palestinians need international support. I hope this book makes that more likely.” Ken Loach, filmmaker
“This book will help eventually pull down the wall.” Damon Albarn, musician
“A singular achievementboth a stunning photographic essay of how Israel’s concrete wall has cut into Palestinian land and strangled whole communities and a powerful visual record of how local and international graffiti artists have battered it with their only weapons, paint and spray cans.” Joe Sacco, author of Palestine and Footnotes in Gaza
“A remarkable book documenting a vast and ultimately self-defeating act of injustice. It records a growing series of creative and flexible responses to that injustice. . . . It is an angry, funny, determined reminder that nothing lasts forever.” A.L. Kennedy, writer and comedian
“[The wall] is the largest protest banner the world has ever known. . . . By engaging with it practically and imaginatively William Parry has produced an outstanding example of cultural resistance.” Ahdaf Soueif, author of The Map of Love
“A marvellous exposition of Palestinian wall art, evocative and compelling.” Ghada Karmi, author of Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine
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Against the Wall
The Art of Resistance in Palestine
By William Parry
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2010 William Parry
All rights reserved.
O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
The road to Bethlehem was painted with best intentions in December 2007. While US President George Bush Jr, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were busy in Annapolis looking at the 'Road Map to Peace' the wrong way round, Banksy, a London-based organisation called Pictures on Walls, and 14 artists from the UK, US and Europe, pulled off a phenomenal publicity stunt that put Bethlehem and Palestine back on the world map. Carried by media organisations all over the world, their Santa's Ghetto shop, transported from London to Manger Square, drew international attention to the impact of Israel's illegal Wall on Palestinians and forced interested art buyers and collectors to see in person how miserably Bethlehem was faring under Israeli occupation. The art collective's provocative, challenging and witty images on the Wall and throughout the city reminded Christmas shoppers worldwide that this is where it all started and that Christ's hometown, imprisoned by the Wall, was suffering immeasurably under Israel's illegal and oppressive occupation.
Some of the images were lost on the local population, and a few unintentionally 'culturally insensitive' images lost the support of many locals; but today, as visitors to Bethlehem of a certain age walk through the Wall, a dozen taxi drivers will vie for their dollars, offering a 'Banksy Tour'. John Lennon controversially said in the 60s that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus; in Bethlehem, what remains of Santa's Ghetto competes with what remains of Mary and Joseph's grotto for the top tourist attraction.
Most of the artwork and graffiti – and there is scarcely a blank bit of concrete now – is by internationals wishing to voice their solidarity with Palestinians, and to make others visiting Bethlehem think about what is being done to this culturally important little city. It's a simple act of defiance, a gesture of solidarity, and one way to channel their frustration and sense of relative powerlessness. Most locals don't mind, especially if it brings money and attention to the city. Many appreciate the intention. For others, the medium is the message: a plain, oppressive concrete Wall eight metres high that imprisons a city while stealing their land mutely communicates all that needs to be said.
Apart from Armaggedon-leaning born-again Christians, it's difficult to understand how hundreds of millions of Christians around the world tolerate what is happening to Bethlehem under Israeli occupation. Muslim and Christian heritage sites here and elsewhere are under threat as Israel rewrites the region's history in an attempt to emphasise Jewish heritage to 'legitimise' its colonisation. The Palestinian Christian community that remains in Bethlehem (and which is shrinking rapidly) is bewildered by the international Christian community's silence and inaction.
It's not an issue of faith, however, but one of grave breaches of humanitarian and international law. Bethlehem is already home to three refugee camps, overcrowded with several generations of Palestinians who were originally forced to flee from their homes in mandatory Palestine in 1948 by Jewish militias, and whose right to return to their homes has been disregarded by Israel for over six decades. These Palestinian refugees, with their rights in limbo, are now having their displaced communities threatened again by Israel's illegal occupation, colonisation and the Wall.
Banksy's dove with flak jacket and cross hairs, Bethlehem.
Israel is pursuing its colonisation of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem governorate with vigour. There are 35 illegal Israeli colonies and outposts, home to 86,000 Israelis, with plans for considerable growth. The Palestinian Authority (ie government) controls just 13 per cent of the entire governorate, and much of that is fragmented – the rest is under Israeli control. The Wall cuts 10 km into Bethlehem and will annex 12 per cent of Bethlehem's land when it is completed – much of that is important agricultural land, vital for livelihoods, and areas required for residential growth. The Wall is also separating communities from one another and cutting villages off from key services such as schools, clinics, as well as families and cultural/religious centres. The city's access to East Jerusalem has been drastically restricted, causing major economic hardship and severely restricting access to families and places of cultural and religious importance – and East Jerusalem's specialist hospitals. A recent UN report, entitled Five Years after the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion: A Summary of the Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier, concludes that 'Bethlehem's potential for residential and industrial expansion and development has been reduced [by the Wall, settlements and closures], as well as its access to natural resources. The traditional mainstays of the Bethlehem governorate economy, such as work in Israel, tourism, agriculture, herding and the private sector have been undermined. Continuation of these Israeli measures compromises the future economic and social development of the Bethlehem governorate.'
Without consolidated international pressure on Israel to force it to comply with international law, Bethlehem will have to produce another messiah soon if it is to retain any of the historical character that has come to shape it over the past two millennia. The phenomenal street art gallery that it is home to is not enough to save it.
Liberty by Paul Insect
If you can't beat it, advertise on it
Joseph Hasboun had the menu for his Bahamas Seafood restaurant painted on the Wall in July 2008, between Erica il Cane's Donkey and Sam3's Camel. Hasboun's Wall Lounge, next door, also advertises on the Wall. Locals and tourists can choose between seafood that includes Canadian lobster and sea bream, a 'Wall Chicken Sandwich', local cuisine, or sip a cocktail or espresso and savour the ambience. Originally opened in 1997, Bahamas Seafood closed in 2000, when tourists avoided Bethlehem due to clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinians, during the second Intifada. Hasboun and family are creatively capitalising on, rather than capitulating to, Israel's oppressive Wall.
MIDDLE IMAGE, ABOVE reads 'Freedom attack'.
Clair and Johnny Anastas built their home a decade ago opposite Rachel's Tomb, on the Hebron-Jerusalem Road, in one of Bethlehem's most affluent neighbourhoods. Today, the road that for generations was travelled by pilgrims and patriarchs comes to a dead end outside their front door, and the neighbourhood is a ghost town. (The economic, cultural, social and historical significance and importance of this road cannot be underestimated: it linked Hebron and the south West Bank with Bethlehem and Jerusalem and the north West Bank. Israel's severing of this artery had deliberate, strategic purposes.) The Anastas house, which is home to nine children and five adults, is surrounded on three sides by walls eight metres high. Peer from any window and you see nothing but concrete.
The claustrophobia is overbearing. The Wall has cost them their life savings, their family businesses, their lifestyle, and their will to stay. The last time I spoke to Clair, months after taking these photos, she said the family was trying to emigrate to Canada.
An assortment of graffiti and street art near the Anastas home. Banksy's 'living room' scene with its view of a lake and mountains, put up in 2005, has undergone some 'debeautifying'. The Arabic writing scribbled over it reads: 'Park your car here for 3 NIS' (50 pence).
'November 9, 1989, will always be remembered and cherished in the United States. Like so many Americans, I'll never forget the images of people tearing down the [Berlin] wall. There could be no clearer rebuke of tyranny, there could be no stronger affirmation of freedom' – US President Barack Obama in a message to the German people, November 9, 2009.
OPPOSITE, BOTTOM RIGHT
Five Fingers of the Same Hand by Nash.
Ali, from the Aida refugee camp, next to Banky's image of a girl frisking an Israeli soldier.
'Hanthala', the famous creation of the late, great Palestinian political cartoonist, Naji al Ali, looks out towards a free Palestine, beyond the Wall. Aida refugee camp.
ICAHD is the Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions. It is a non-violent, direct-action group originally established to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. All of its work in the Occupied Territories is closely coordinated with local Palestinian organisations. Since its founding, ICAHD's activities have extended to three interrelated spheres: resistance and protest actions in the Occupied Territories; efforts to bring the reality of the Occupation to the attention of Israeli society; and mobilising the international community for a just peace.
Israel executes two types of house demolition orders: those pertaining to planning laws and those pertaining to military penal codes. ICAHD estimates that over 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. Under the 4th Geneva Convention, Occupying Powers such as Israel are prohibited from destroying property or inflicting collective punishment (unless for 'imperative military purposes'). Israel will argue that homes are demolished because they were built without a permit. What they won't add is that permits are virtually impossible to obtain by Palestinians living under Occupation.
Beyond this gate lies Rachel's Tomb. The area, with shops and several beautiful traditional homes with gardens of fragrant jasmine and olive trees, is now a wasteland, the buildings and businesses largely abandoned – over 90 per cent of the shops and commercial establishments in this area have closed or relocated, UN OCHA reports. Artwork by Blu (detail and drawing), Who's paying for this? by Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillips, and With love and kisses by the New York collective, Faile. (Drawing reproduced with the permission of Blu.)
Walking around the Khoury home is like strolling through a faded photo album. The furniture is covered with sheets, curtains are drawn, there are plates of rat poison on the floor. It's eerie. Neighbours who were once a minute's walk away are now several kilometres away, given the Wall's disruptively circuitous route. It's a snapshot of the past, of former, happier, securer lives. Since the Wall was erected, the family have rented a home just outside of Bethlehem for the sake of their sanity.
The ground floor of this beautiful home is used as the office of the family business, Bassem Khoury Architectural Bureau. Bassem and his daughter, Dima (pictured), are both architects. Business has been reduced to a trickle – once employing 50 staff, they are down to five, given the Wall's economic impact on Bethlehem and the surrounding area.
This house is also on the Hebron-Jerusalem Road. Bassem says that their home is worth a quarter of what it was before the Wall was erected. As he leaves the office, I am photographing in the front garden, which they keep bright and cheerful with flowers. 'You see what we plant?' he asks. 'And what they plant?' he adds, nodding towards the Wall.
This walled in, barren space has been placed in the heart of Bethlehem's former artery with Jerusalem. It has stood barren like this since 2006. Like a toxin, it is blighting the life around it. Jewish-imposed access to Rachel's Tomb comes at a high cost to the Jewish and Muslim communities and their heritages here in the occupied West Bank.
A Jewish woman who volunteers for Machsomwatch, an organisation of Jewish Israeli women that monitors the conduct of Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, describes the irony whereby Israeli
Jews, many of whom endured Europe's ghettoes decades ago, today ghettoise the indigenous Palestinian population. 'We Jews have locked ourselves in a "mental ghetto,"' she claims.
View from the rooftop of the Nasser Towel Factory (NTF), run by Alberto and his brother, Hanna (a previous mayor of Bethlehem). The company opened in the 1920s, and operated from this location from 1962. The Nasser family lost five elegant buildings in Jerusalem in 1948 as Israel waged its war against the indigenous population to create the State of Israel. Although the family was sheltering in Bethlehem just a few kilometres away, they were declared absentees by the new State and their properties were confiscated, says Hanna, who is 62. 'Of course I'll stay here,' he says. 'In my life I've not seen one happy day. We're not going to stay here because peace is coming – peace is doomed. Israel doesn't want it. We're here to stay because we've no other choice. It's our home.' Adjacent to the factory, the family owns a large, elegant home, though in need of maintenance, with dozens of olive trees and fragrant bushes in that were in bloom. It and a nearby beautiful Ottoman building were the only buildings that existed on this road in the 30s, Alberto says, established well before the State of Israel came into existence.
At its peak the Nasser Towel Factory employed 170 staff – as I took photographs, it was preparing to close its doors for good, laying off the remaining 45 staff. Pictured: Sabir, father of 6, employed by the factory for 30 years; Yousef, father of 5, who has worked with NTF for 21 years; and Abu George, who has 4 children and has been with the company for 50 years. Thick layers of oily dust coated much of the machinery and indicated the passing years of declining business.
Graffiti in a Jerusalem suburb reads: Mirror, mirror on the wall, when will this senseless object fall?
Antoinette Knesevich, a former music teacher at the neighbouring Aida refugee camp, shows me through her brother's home, which is shared by three generations of the family. Opposite this mirror is a baby's crib.
The family had 80 dunams confiscated by the Israelis when the Wall was built. Antoinette is patient and philosophical about their predicament. 'They can build Walls and surround us like animals or prisoners, but the Wall will not bring them security – only justice will bring them that. They have taken our land. They have taken our water. They have taken our rights. But written on every forehead of our people is "I am Palestine". In our veins runs Palestinian blood. The Israelis cannot take this from us.'
Swoon, a street artist from New York, joined Banksy and co. in Bethlehem in 2007 as part of Santa's Ghetto. Two of her pieces in Bethlehem – elaborate, painted cut-outs – were pasted onto sentry towers. The first (pictured opposite) is near the Bahamas Seafood restaurant. '[This] was inspired by a woman Eduardo Galeano described in The Book of Embraces,' says Swoon. 'She wore a huge patchwork skirt filled with a million and one pockets, which were in turn filled with a million and one scraps of paper, each of which contained a few words that would remind her of a story. Wanting to embody that in some way, I glued all kinds of pockets all over the Wall, into the figure of this woman, and in the pockets I placed little strips of paper containing quotes by Arundhati Roy, Asatta Shakur, Martin Luther King, and anyone else I could find saying inspiring things on the subject of the struggle for basic human rights and freedom.'
The second large image [pictured here and located opposite the Aida refugee camp] was pasted onto a spot that had been stained by fire. The fire was started in protest because it was there that a 17 year old boy had climbed a ladder to place a Palestinian flag at the top of the Wall: he was imprisoned for 8 years for this simple act. The image of a woman contains a quote about how, by matching the resonant frequency of any structure, it is possible to bring that structure down without using so much force. That quote struck me because it seems that when a people are under constant pressure from a power with much greater force than they have, it becomes necessary to find paths through that force which can destabilize it using only the modest means available to them.'
Excerpted from Against the Wall by William Parry. Copyright © 2010 William Parry. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
William Parry is a London-based freelance journalist and photographer whose work has been featured in the Guardian and the Independent. He has worked and traveled extensively in the Middle East.
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