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Banksy artwork leaves indelible mark on Gaza

The elusive British street artist Banksy published his art work graffiti in Gaza on his website with a short video clip titled 'Welcome to Gaza'
One of the four art images made by graffiti artist Banksy in Gaza (Banksy.co.uk)

Graffiti street artist Banksy released four images of his latest art in Gaza on his website.

In a two-minute clip, the video shows a man - alleged to be Banksy - making his way to Gaza through underground tunnels.

“Make this the year YOU discover new destinations,” the video begins, on a mock take of a tourist guide of Gaza, which references the nearly eight-year blockade on the tiny coastal strip.

Captions in the video such as “The locals like it so much they never leave (because they are not allowed to)” and “Nestled in an exclusive setting (surrounded by a wall on three sides with a line of gun boats on the other)” are superimposed on footage of destruction and children playing in unpaved sandy streets.

The video pans out to show a demolished neighbourhood that was destroyed by Israel during the summer offensive in 2014. The video also includes a statistic on the number of houses demolished in the same offensive, codenamed Operation Protective Edge.

Banksy's publicist Jo Brooks confirmed that the video was authentic, as well as the new works by Banksy, although did not mention when the artist had gone to Gaza.

“Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons - they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day,” Banksy wrote on his website.

The caption read: A local man came up and said ‘Please-what does this mean?’ I explained 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 video ends with a graffiti message in red letters 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.”

This isn’t the first time Banksy has visited the occupied territories. He left his mark on the Separation Barrier in the West Bank twice in 2005 and in 2012. One of his famous images was of the dove wearing a bullet-proof vest, and of a girl in a pink dress frisking a soldier.

In 2007, Banksy moved the annual Santa’s Ghetto exhibition from its usual spot on Oxford Street in central London to Bethlehem, in order to encourage street artists to visit the town and boost up its tourism activity. The exhibition was an initiative of his that was started back in 2001 in order to recapture the spirit of Christmas.

“It was becoming increasingly uncommercialized and more and more to do with religion, so we decided to open our own shop and sell pointless stuff you didn’t need,” was Banksy’s tongue in cheek description of the initiative.

The Bethlehem exhibition aimed to encourage people to visit the West Bank to see the reality of the Israeli occupation for themselves.

 “It would do good if more people came to see the situation here for themselves,” Banksy had said through his website.

“If it is safe enough for a bunch of sissy artists then it’s safe enough for anyone.”

The proceeds from the sold works of art went to local charities for children’s arts.