Graffiti on the West Bank Barrier 1 Favorite 



Jan 1 2004



In June 2002, the Israeli Government decided to construct a physical barrier separating Israel and the West Bank. The declared purpose of this (as yet unfinished) 709 kilometers long barrier—which came to be known as Gader Ha’hafrada (The Separation Wall)—was to prevent the entry of Palestinian terrorists from the occupied territories into Israel in order to protect Israeli citizens.

The Separation Wall, however, is not only a physical barrier but a visual one as well. Comprised (in certain sections) out of concrete slabs as high as 8 meters, the Wall does much more than preventing Palestinians (and Israelis) from stepping over the Green Line. By completely blocking the view of whoever stands on either side of it, the Wall turns ‘the other side’ (whether the Israeli or the Palestinian) into an invisible one; Palestinian farmers who dwell in proximity to the border are denied not only their right to farm their fields but also the right to look at the lands that were bequeathed to them by their ancestors; Jewish settlers who live in the occupied territories and Israeli soldiers who patrol the circumference of the Wall lose sight of how the occupation effects the lives of oppressed Palestinians. The visual function of the Wall, then, has obvious political consequences; it allows Israelis to ignore the impact of their actions and to keep their conscience unblemished at the same time as it drives Palestinians even further away from their former homes, leaving them no other way to visualize their historical lands than through their imaginations.

Interestingly, however, it soon became clear that the same thing that turns the Wall into an instrument of concealment and visual oppression simultaneously makes it a unique site for visual resistance; for, as leftwing critics of the Wall and peace activists quickly realized, huge concrete slabs are not only good for obstructing the view but are also the perfect location for graffiti painting. Shortly after this concrete barrier was in place, both sides of the Wall were filled with numerous paintings and inscriptions calling for peace, the end of the occupation and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, the release of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel, and the tearing down of the Wall itself. Instead of being a site of concealment, then, the Wall ended up being the site where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is most visible.

Posted by Yoav Halperin on