Street artist Banksy interprets Gaza strife with irony

The anonymous but eminent British street artist known as Banksy has posted a mini-documentary on his website showing the squalid conditions left behind in Gaza six months after the end of the war between the enclave’s Islamist Hamas rulers and Israel.

Israel was criticised over the large number of Palestinian civilian deaths during the conflict, including by its main ally the United States. Over 2 100 Palestinians were killed during the fighting, most of them civilians and many of them children, while 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians were killed.

The two-minute documentary was posted on Thursday and, like many of Banksy’s murals and other art, is politically charged and whimsical at the same time. It starts off with a view of clouds from an airplane window while text on the screen says “Make this the year you discover a new destination”.

Street artist Banksy makes ironic comment on the destruction caused by conflict between the Hamas and Israel in Gaza. (YouTube)

That destination is Gaza, which the film, using mostly text rather than narration, says is hemmed in on four sides by its “friendly neighbours” the Israelis, and can only be entered through one of the tunnels shown.

It also shows Israeli soldiers on patrol, apparently during their invasion of Gaza, and the harsh conditions of life there – bombed-out buildings, rubble-strewn vacant lots and workmen trying to make repairs. A subtitle says no cement has been permitted into Gaza since the conflict ended.

“Development opportunities are everywhere” and there is “plenty of scope for refurbishment”, the subtitles say, noting that 18 000 homes were destroyed during the bombing.

Towards the end the camera focuses on a mural of a playful-looking kitten, presumably painted by Banksy, with a man looking at it and saying, in Arabic, that at least the cat found something to play with, because the children in Gaza have nothing.

Elsewhere on his website, Banksy says that during the filming a local man had asked him what the meaning was of the kitten. “I explained (that) 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.”

The film ends with a message painted on a wall: “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 is mostly known for his street art that often commands prices of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also has produced several films, including the feature-length Exit Through the Gift Shop in 2010. – Reuters

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