Resistance can be expressed through many outlets, whether that be violence, protest, music, or other forms of art. The wall dividing the occupied Palestinian West Bank and the Israeli territory, illegally constructed and maintained by the Israeli government, is a point of frustration for Palestinians. In recent years, the wall has turned into a place for activist and political graffiti regarding the illegal West Bank wall. This activist brand of graffiti has historical roots and created some tension among Palestinian resistance groups.
Historically, graffiti became popular during the ‘First Intifada’ but not in an art sense. The graffiti was a necessity after the Israeli crackdown in Palestinian refugee camps. In 1987, the start of the ‘First Intifada’, the communication between Palestinians was essentially shut down. Phone systems, public announcements, and newspapers were stopped for a brief period. Because of this, Palestinian resistance scribbled or wrote in graffiti messages-warnings or announcements usually- to one another on walls. It was risky business as some people were jailed and beaten if caught. After the Intifada and crackdowns were lessened, graffiti became more detailed and more artistic in the region.
Once the West Bank wall was established, it became a center for artistic Palestinian resistance. The wall became a place where activism meets art. Huge murals, with symbolic and powerful deeper meanings, were put up. These murals reflect some acts of Israeli aggression and opposition to the occupation of Palestinian lands. After the Oslo accords, graffiti was institutionalized and funded by NGO’s and political factions.
However, some people are concerned about what it actually means to beautify a wall that is condemned by the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian population. The famous, Banksy, has made stops in the West Bank and commenting “The wall is illegal under international law and essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison. It also makes it the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers.” Other members of Palestinian resistance disapprove of the graffiti on the wall. Coming from this perspective, Arafah says “I won’t touch the wall with colors, it’s an act of normalisation or beautification. People come here now as though they are visiting the pyramids in Egypt, like they are visiting a tourist attraction. They see the beauty of graffiti now instead of the suffering.” So the graffiti on the wall can be a point of contention among Palestinian resistance.
In all aspects, I found this topic extremely interesting. It is amazing to me that this political graffiti has such historical roots. Graffiti, just like other forms of Palestinian resistance, keep on evolving with the time. It reminds me much of the graffiti on the Berlin wall and just like then Palestinians are calling for the Israeli government to “tear the wall down”.