On 25 February, the anonymous street artist, Banksy, released a lampoon of a tourism ad documenting his trip to Gaza. Set to instrumental music by the East Flatbush Project, the video encourages viewers to “discover a new destination.” It depicts the aftermath of Israel’s summer 2014 assault and unveils a series of murals he painted throughout the Strip. The video opens with the artist entering Gaza through a network of illegal tunnels and emerging to find children playing in the rubble, with the text overlay reading, “The locals like it so much they never leave (because they’re not allowed to).” On the destruction and the lack of rebuilding materials, the satirical ad comments: “Development opportunities are everywhere. (No cement has been allowed into Gaza since the bombing.)”
The video then pans to the fourmurals Banksy painted. One of them is of a cat playing with a ball of metal debris. On his website, the artist explains, “A local man came up and said, ‘Please—what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website—but on the Internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”
Another painting, on the door of a destroyed home, depicts the sorrowful mother Niobe seated and weeping. (In Greek mythology, Niobe is the prototypical grieving mother: after she boasts pridefully about her fourteen children, they all are killed to punish her for her hubris.)
The artist’s mural in the neighborhood of Bayt Hanun portrays children on swings circling an Israeli watchtower like the ones that line Gaza’s border with Israel. Banksy’s video closes with the message: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful—we don’t remain neutral.”
Banksy depicts a kitten on the wall of a destroyed building playing with a ball of metal debris. (banksy.co.uk)
In Banksy’s mural, Bomb Damage, the archetypal bereaved mother from Greek mythology, Niobe, weeps amid the rubble in Gaza City. (banksy.co.uk)
Gazans stand in front of Banksy’s Israeli watchtower mural in Bayt Hanun. (banksy.co.uk)
This was not Banksy’s first Palestine solidarity project. His 2005 series of murals on the separation wall in theWest Bank have become iconic images of the occupation. His most recent visit to the region inspired Gaza’s parkour and free running group to create a similarly satirical video. Featured on the Guardian’s website, the video begins with Gaza Parkour Team member Abdallah al-Qassab inviting Banksy and others to “come and discover us,” informing viewers that “nearly 50% of us are unemployed, so we are very available to show you around.” Flipping and leaping around the Strip, the team provides a view of daily life in Gaza and also plays up Banksy’s murals. Al-Qassab goes on to clarify, “there are around 12,000 people here in Gaza needing homes . . . but with no construction materials coming in, here in Gaza we can’t rebuild.” The video closes at the seaport with him saying, “We want to do a lot of things and we dream a lot,” as the text overlay reads, “(Seeing the world will remain a dream until the borders open.)”
A traceur from the Gaza Parkour Team wall-flips off Banksy’s watchtower mural. (10 March, http://www.theguardian.com)
A group from the Gaza Parkour Team watch as one of their teammates dives off a wall into the remnants of a destroyed home. (10 March, http://www.theguardian.com)
Welcome to Gaza is published in the Palestine Unbound section of Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. 44 No. 4.
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