The Israel-Palestine conflict is one that has been fraught with violence and displacement, more so for the Palestinians. This is a complicated history of war and disagreement over the possible solutions. However in recent years, the actions of Israel’s right-wing coalition government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are making the path to peace even more difficult.
Many artists, especially those of Palestinian origin, across the creative mediums, have turned to art as a medium of expression against the Israeli government’s repressive policies and to show the suffering of the Palestinian people.
The heroes of Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation are a popular subject of resistance art by Palestinian artists. It is mainly expressed in the form of murals, graffities, and posters.
A popular street artist Banksy has left his unique mark in support of Palestinian resistance, and not just in the form of street art which lines the Israeli West Bank barrier and other areas of the West Bank.
Banksy also opened the Walled Off Hotel in 2014 where all the rooms overlook the barrier or apartheid wall, as it is known in Palestine, and each contains various artworks depicting life under occupation.
The most recent contribution from Banksy in this regard has been a small art piece that was displayed inside the hotel last Christmas, called ‘The Scar of Bethlehem.’ It depicts a nativity scene (the birth of Jesus) set to the backdrop of the concrete barrier, with a bullet hole in it resembling a star and has garnered praise from many western news outlets as a symbol of solidarity with Palestinian suffering.
Posters, and innovative methods of distributing the same, are another form of artistic protest. These range from the posters by various artists published in a leftist French newspaper, meant to be cut out and pasted on walls by the public; to the Turkish graphic design professors using public walkways to exhibit posters in solidarity with Gaza.
Posters have also sprung up in various places across the world, including Israel, calling for active demonstrations against Israel’s plans to annex the West Bank. All of the mentioned posters continue to be collected in the digital archives of the Palestine Poster Project.
Another popular collection dates back to 1970s Australia, circulated by Ali Kazak, a Palestinian ambassador, called “landscape posters” for their focus on Palestinian land. Many posters utilised symbols such as traditional Palestinian dresses, fruits such as olives and oranges, and keys, which refer to the refugees.
Some of the older art from around the 1970s focused on pre-war Palestinian life and culture, while the newer art takes a multi-media form through photographs, science fiction and films. Similarly, many murals can be found surrounding Land Day, which serves as a reminder of a massacre in 1976 in response to a protest.
Artistic symbolism also often uses the concept of Sumud, which means resilience in Arabic, and is used to refer to a “sense of rootedness” to Palestinian land.
Music also found its voice as a form of self-expression and resistance. In 2018, music platform Boiler Room hosted Boiler Room Palestine for the first time. The show featured a diversity of Palestinian artists from Palestinian and Israeli territories. The crew for the show had to enter Palestine through Israel, giving them a small taste of the limitation of movement for Palestinians.
Palestinian art continues to grow as a form of self-expression, as a form of resistance to Israeli policies, and as forms of cultural history in an endeavour to keep Palestinian spirits and identity alive as their lives get shrunk into smaller and smaller pieces of land.