|Written by Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan|
|Thursday, 14 April 2011 14:51|
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan reviews Against the Wall by William Parry
The stunning artwork and graffiti on the illegal separation wall that Israel is building in the West Bank – also referred to as “the world’s largest protest banner” -- are the subject of a new book by photo-journalist William Parry.
Featuring the work of street artists such as Banksy, Ron English, Blu and others, as well as Palestinian artists and activists, Mr. Parry’s remarkable photo essay photos expresses outrage, compassion and touching humour.
The wall constructed by the Israeli government surrounds the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin Wall and will eventually run for over 700km – the distance from London to Zurich.
“The wall is illegal under international law and essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison,” says British street artist Bansky.
In solidarity with the Palestinian cause for justice, Bansky and a London-based organization, Pictures on Walls, moved their art store Santa’s Ghetto from London to Bethlehem and invited 14 street artists to work with Palestinian artists to produce murals on the wall. This raised a million dollars to assist Palestinians. It also secured some media attention.
Mr. Parry, who was in town recently to promote his book says, “Although Bansky and the Santa’s Ghetto collective account for a modicum of the artwork on the wall and generate the most attention, interest and influence, there are thousands of other anonymous people from around the world who have travelled to Palestine to mark their individual protest against Israel’s Wall and their own government’s complicity, and to lend their idiosyncratic support, through words and images, to a people penned in by the wall. The wall has become an enormous visual petition, an ephemeral forum, a pictorial rant and reprimand, calling for resistance, justice, freedom and solidarity, and a plea for understanding and humanity.”
Not all Palestinians welcomed the artists. Some said that the art beautified an ugly, oppressive wall. But the art work attracted tourists and artists who aided the struggling Palestinians and also helped raise awareness abroad about their plight.
The book reproduces stunning, if depressing, art as well as graffiti. It includes a photo of the dove with flak jacket and cross-hairs painted by Bansky. One photo shows an image of a leg of a boy trapped by the wall. Another image shows a sign that says of the wall, “Made in USA.” Another asks: “Ye who have been killed + know the suffering ... Why do you KILLl???”
One painting is that of the late political cartoonist, Naji al Ali, and looks out towards a free Palestine beyond the wall. One shows Mickey Mouse, but adds: “Palestine. You are not in Disneyland anymore.” Another states: “American Money. Israeli Apartheid.” Another asks: “EU, UN where are you?”
In addition to photos, the book carries the stories of ordinary people who have been traumatized by the wall, hemming them in, surrounding their houses, cutting them off from schools, their backyards, trees and farms and livelihood and isolating them from their friends, relatives and communities. It describes in some detail what the wall and the harsh occupation is doing to the Palestinian people.
“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,” Antoinette Knesevich, a former music teacher says in the book.
The publication of the book coincided with the anniversary of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice: that the route of the wall in the occupied territories is illegal under international law, that Israel must stop building it and demolish what it has built and that that it must make reparations for the damages caused by the construction. This opinion was backed by the United Nations General Assembly. However, Israel has ignored both.
Mr. Parry said the Green Line, the internationally recognized Palestine-Israel border, is 315 km long. The Wall will be 709 km long and about 85 per cent will be on West Bank. The route will annex 10 per cent of the West Bank to the Israeli-controlled side.
He explains: “Since 1967, successive Israeli government have encouraged the establishment of illegally built Jewish-only colonies, euphemistically called ‘settlements’, on Palestinian land that Israel has illegally occupied for over 40 years. Every one of Israel’s 220 colonies and outposts (fledgling colonies) in the West Bank is deemed illegal under international law: they contravene the Hague Convention, the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Security Council resolution 465.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice reiterated that ‘Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to (Palestinian) economic and social development … (and) have been established in breach of international law.’ The colonies themselves occupy just 3 per cent of the West Bank; however, the complex ‘security’ apparatus and infrastructure that serve these illegal colonies and their 500,000 Jewish settlers, and connect them to Israel, require Israeli control over a staggering 45 per cent of the Palestinian West Bank. The wall’s route is cutting deep into the West Bank to ensure that 80 of the most sizeable and significant colonies (385,000 settlers) will be on the west side of the wall.”
Mr. Parry states that the wall is “designed to isolate the West Bank’s communities economically, socially and culturally – and thereby strangle them.” He said that the wall “is about separating families from their communities, their schools, their places of worship, from their clinics, hospitals and specialist facilities. It makes accessing them via military checkpoints, difficult, time-consuming and humiliating. It makes Palestinians, as they say, refugees in their own land.”
Responding to a question at the Ottawa function Mr. Parry said most Israelis he talked to did not want to know what is happening to the Palestinians, but some are working to promote justice. He lists them, especially the Israeli human rights group B’tselem, in his acknowledgements. For people who believe in justice for other humans, the book is a must read.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.