').insertAfter('.article-content p:nth-child(2) '); $('
').insertAfter('.article-content p:nth-child(6) ');
Thursday, August 6, 2020

Art as a tool of Palestinian Resistance

This article is by

Share this article

Graffiti of former PFLP militant, Leila Khaled | Source: Edgardo W. Olivera via Flickr

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.

Graffiti of  Marouane Barghouti, imprisoned Palestinian activist | Source: thierry ehrmann via Flickr

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.

Another important theme in Palestinian art surrounds the Nakba, which refers to the exodus of a large number of Palestinians after the formation of the state of Israel.

Palestinian refugees leaving the Galilee in October–November 1948 | Source:  Fred Csasznik via Wikimedia

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.

Street Art by Banksy | Source: Dan Meyers via Unsplash

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.

A card marking the tenth anniversary of the launching of the Palestinian revolution in 1965 | Source: Nawal Abboud via The Palestinian Poster Archives

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.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 18, 2020 6:46 PM

Bhagat Singh: The Man, The Life, And The Beliefs

Bhagat Singh is one of the ‘big names’ immortalised in the history of India’s freedom struggle and eternally cherished even after almost ninety years of his martyrdom. What makes him stand out is his popularity among the masses being almost on par with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his beliefs and actions being diametrically opposite to theirs.

Of the freedom fighters who remain mainstream in today’s India— a crowd predominantly made up of politicians with center or right of centre leanings, Bhagat Singh occupies a relatively lonely spot as a young, staunchly left-wing revolutionary who outrightly rejected Gandhi’s philosophy, and preferred direct action over politics.

Newspaper headline after Central Legislative Assembly non-lethal bombing

Bhagat Singh is most commonly and widely remembered in association with an incident where he, along with his friend and comrade B.K. Dutt dropped non-lethal smoke bombs into the Central Legislative Assembly from its balcony in 1929. They also scattered leaflets by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), which he was a major part of and was aided by in orchestrating the bombings. He is said to have been inspired by French anarchist Auguste Vaillant, who had bombed the Chamber of Deputies in Paris in 1893.

The bombing gathered widespread negative reaction due to the use of violence, especially from those who supported the Gandhian method. While Bhagat Singh and the HSRA wanted to protest exploitative legislatures such as the Public Safety Act and the Trades Disputes Bill, it is also widely accepted that they additionally intended to use the drama and public attention of the ensuing trial to garner attention to socialist and communist causes. Bhagat Singh and Dutt did not escape under the cover of panic and smoke despite the former carrying a pistol, and waited for the police to find and arrest them. During the trial Bhagat Singh frequently chanted a variety of slogans, such as ‘Inquilab Zindabad,’ which is even today often raised in protests across India.  

March 25th Newspaper carrying the news about execution of Bhagat Singh | Source: Tribune India

However, this was not the trial that ended in Bhagat Singh receiving his execution sentence. Before the Assembly bombings, Bhagat Singh had been involved in the shooting of police officer John Saunders, in connection to the death of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. At that time he and his associates had escaped, but after Bhagat Singh was awarded a life sentence for the Assembly bombing, a series of investigations led to his rearrest as part of the Saunders murder case. It was this trial— generally regarded as unjust— that led to his much protested execution sentence.

Bhagat Singh was hanged to death on the eve of March 23rd, 1931 and he was just twenty-three years old.

Despite the criticism he received for his actions, his execution sentence was widely opposed and many attempts were made to challenge it. In fact, his execution came on the eve of the Congress party’s annual convention, as protests against it worsened. He was memorialised nationwide as a martyr, and is often addressed with the honorific Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh.

Apart from being a socialist, Bhagat Singh was attracted to communist and anarchist causes as well. In ‘To Young Political Workers,’ his last testament before his death, he called for a “socialist order” and a reconstruction of society on a “new, i.e, Marxist basis.” He considered the government “a weapon in the hand of the ruling class”, which is reflected in his belief that Gandhian philosophy only meant the “replacement of one set of exploiters for another.” Additionally, he wrote a series of articles on anarchism, wanting to fight against mainstream miscontrusions of the word and explain his interest in anarchist ideology.

Bipin Chandra, who wrote the introduction to Why I am an Atheist by Bhagat Singh | Source: Wikimedia

While writing the introduction to Bhagat Singh’s remarkable essay Why I am an Atheist in 1979, Late Bipan Chandra described the Marxist leaning of Bhagat Singh and his associates in the following way;

Bhagat Singh was not only one of India’s greatest freedom fighters and revolutionary socialists, but also one of its early Marxist thinkers and ideologues. Unfortunately, this last aspect is relatively unknown with the result that all sorts of reactionaries, obscurantists and communalists have been wrongly and dishonestly trying to utilise for their own politics and ideologies the name and fame of Bhagat Singh and his comrades such as Chandra Shekhar Azad.”

Bhagat Singh is often admired and celebrated for his dedication to the cause of liberation. However his socialist, communist and anarchist beliefs were suppressed by the successive governments in Independent India. This in a way is the suppression of a revolutionary who has the potential to inspire, unite and motivate the growing population of a spectrum of activists all over India, in direct response to the fast-spreading divisiveness and intolerance in the country, often patronised by the groups and organizations professing the right-wing fascist ideology.

Bhagat Singh’s dreams of a new social order live on, not just in his writings, but also reflected in the hearts of every activist, protester, and dissenting citizen. The fight for freedom, revolution, Inquilab, may have changed in meaning, but it is far from over.

Read More