Palestinian Resistance: Graffiti on the West Bank Wall


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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.

Map showing the wall dividing the West Bank from Israeli land
Map showing the wall dividing the West Bank from Israeli land

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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.

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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.

Banksy
Famous Banksy works above and the other notable below

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Banksy Unwelcome Interventionleg

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.

images (2)Graffiti

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”.

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http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/11/palestinian-graffiti-tagging-resistance-2013112015849368961.html

http://www.thecrimson.com/column/the-art-of-protest/article/2014/3/26/the-art-of-protest-banksy/

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11 thoughts on “Palestinian Resistance: Graffiti on the West Bank Wall

  1. According to international law, this wall is illegal and Israel is an occupying force.

    http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48236#.VFDgBvldWSo

    http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=7849

    http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1677.pdf

    https://www.globalpolicy.org/international-justice/the-international-court-of-justice/48068-five-years-after-icj-ruling-israel-expands-its-illegal-wall-onto-more-palestinian-land.html

    Regarding the English Graffiti, this is not intended only for Palestinians, Israeli’s, or the Arab world. I think the English really highlights a rally for a global or American recognition. The Economist says that English “IS everywhere. Some 380m people speak it as their first language and perhaps two-thirds as many again as their second. A billion are learning it, about a third of the world’s population are in some sense exposed to it and by 2050, it is predicted, half the world will be more or less proficient in it. It is the language of globalisation—of international business, politics and diplomacy.” Really crazy numbers, so it would be intelligent to use the “globalized” language to send a message to the world.
    (http://www.economist.com/node/883997)

  2. Alena, I am really glad you wrote about this and I think you wrote a great blog. At first, I saw this graffiti strictly as an art form and a way for the Palestinians to beautify such a plain wall. However, I failed to open my eyes at the fact that this form of beautification could in fact cause Palestinians to be bothered, since the wall is a type of imprisonment and people are visiting it as if it were a tourist attraction. All in all, people express their feelings towards situations in their own way, and I believe those who want to express this feeling of resistance against the wall should be able to do it in an artistic and peaceful manner.

  3. Alena, your blog gave me a lot to think about. I love the information of art and history you presented about graffiti on the West Bank Wall. In the United States graffiti is often seen as a sign of disrespect. While I can understand this in many cases, I do think that in some aspects graffiti can bring beauty. When I first started thinking about graffiti on the West Bank Wall, I thought, “wow, what a great way for Palestinians to express themselves and make something painful into something beautiful.” However, like Halle, I never even considered that this type of “beautification” can be seen as disrespectful to Palestinians. I did not consider how turning this wall into a form of art could be hurtful especially since it could be seen as glorifying something that is seen as imprisonment by many.

  4. I truly enjoyed reading this blog. Graffiti is a growing art form and as is all art it is meant to send a message. In this case a message of peace and a right to land that is lawfully theirs. Love this!

  5. I remember you showing me some of these pictures in class and I was truely amazed by them! I think that the fact that some of the writing is in English is interesting. If they are trying to get the attention of English speaking countries, why isn’t the media covering the artwork on these walls more? When I went to the Newseum in DC a few weeks ago, I was able to see a portion of the Berlin wall. This wall reminds me so much of it! On one side there was lots of graffiti and the other side was completely blank. However in this case there is graffiti on both sides. However, like in the case of Berlin, the wall will come down eventually, it is just a matter of when.

  6. While I understand how it could be offensive in some ways, I find the art to be genuinely intriguing and raw. I look at it as the beauty that could be, if conflicts began to be resolved, and suffering came to an end. Beautiful article.

    1. I also believe that the art is beautiful, raw, and moving. It is an amazing way to spread a message of hope and possible change. Thank you!

  7. I thought this article was really interesting to read, because I never really took in consideration of what the art meant on the wall. It’s amazing how these works of art can be so beautiful and leave people in awe, but the messages are so much deeper. It is a creative and I bet stress relieving way to vent with out harming others, people notice and can hear the oppression through the stories the graffiti shows and I think that is really important.

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