From murals on the walls of destroyed family homes in Gaza to a hotel in Bethlehem, giant stencilled pieces on the Segregation Wall and an ironic travel campaign, elusive British street artist Banksy is no stranger to creating work in and about Palestine.
Since the mid-2000s, identifiable pieces by the artist have been spotted in Gaza and the West Bank, with collections of his paintings dubbed ‘West Banksy’.
The street artist rarely makes spoken statements, choosing instead to speak through his work.
He is behind The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, located metres away from the West Bank barrier. Through the website’s FAQ section and gift shop, you get a clear sense of the artist’s political and ethical stance.
“Just in case you weren’t sure what Banksy thinks about the wall (not a fan) his latest range of ‘souvenir collectables’ anticipate the day the concrete menace has been defeated and feral youth scribble on its skeletal remains,” the gift shop’s description reads. In the physical shop, you can buy a collection of ‘Defeated’ wall replicas.
“For those of you concerned that making glorified tourist tat from military oppression is ethically dubious – there is at least the solace that each wall is lovingly hand-painted by craftspeople in the local area,” the website continues.
His work often spotlights military oppression, with an Israeli solder asking a donkey for its ID in one piece, and a small Palestinian girl frisking a solider in another.
In 2015, he released a tourism video about Gaza. “Make this the year you discover a new destination,” the caption sarcastically reads. “Welcome to Gaza.”
“The locals like it so much they never leave,” the video goes on to say, showing footage of young children on a street, “because they’re not allowed to,” cutting to scenes of Israeli military.
The tourism campaign is interspersed with facts about the occupation, and it shows the back of Banksy painting on a destroyed door.
It also includes quotes from a Palestinian man, who draws attention to one of the paintings, a cat wearing a pink bow, saying: “This cat tells the whole world that she is missing joy in her life. The cat found something to play with. What about our children?”
The sub-two-minute film ends with a quote, spray-painted on a wall, which reads: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral.”
(Source: The National)