There’s nothing like a picture to convey with graphic, instinctive intensity a political message. Images also can link historical events or eras or political causes in ways that reams of words may fail to do. Two sets of images have moved me in different ways over the past few weeks. The first and most recent is a new Banksy poster designed to promote his Walled-Off Hotel which abuts the Separation Wall in Bethlehem. The British artist very cleverly took advantage of one of the world’s largest travel exhibitions to promote both the cause of Palestine and his hotel project, which is designed to parody the Occupation and the oppression enshrined in it.
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Our reply to you @banksy. You may criticise Israel for the current situation and I’m totally for a two state solution and fight for justice on both sides! BUT insinuating we don’t have a right to exist (which is exactly what your poster does using the term “historic Palestine”) suggesting Israel has no right to ANY land is disgraceful. In addition- military service in Israel is mandatory! So your poster is denouncing all Israelis! Your posters resemble Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and spread antisemitism @banksy #antisemitism
Today, Haaretz published a puerile report on the Banksy art work, which it lamely called “a stunt.” That makes it appear that the reporter actually has some artistic chops to be able to tell the difference between a piece of art and a stunt. Much of the world finds Banksy’s art quite significant and it commands huge figures when it comes up for sale. I suppose one reporter’s stunt is another person’s serious artistic expression.
The pro-Israel hook for the reporter was an attack against the artist by the wife of billionaire Israeli oligarch, Idan Ofer. The couple have their primary residence in England in order to avoid the Israeli tax regime. They are included among the 18 Israeli oligarchal families which own 60% of the corporate capital in Israel. They earned their fortune in Israel but refuse to pay their fair share, leaving the average Israeli who can’t afford to live such an extravagant lifestyle abroad, to foot their share of the tax bill.
The Haaretz “journalist” also repeated not once, but twice that Ofer was “known for her left-wing views.” When you hear an Israeli who you know is not left-wing boast about themselves being left-wing or some other Israeli figure being left-wing, you know he or she is revealing far more about their own views than those they’re describing. The first thing to consider about this odd claim is: how can an Israeli billionaire oligarch be “left-wing?’ If the Ofers are indeed left-wing then either they’re deluded or the Israeli left exists in some alternate universe in which what’s left has lost all meaning.
Indeed, how does Ofer defend her claim that she is left-wing? She writes:
…I’m totally for a two state solution and fight for justice on both sides…
Oh and let’s not forget that she’s a champion of Palestinian rights because she funds a scholarship for four graduate students (two Israeli Jewish and two Palestinian) to attend the Kennedy School of Government. My, that’s mighty white of her. That’s the extent of her leftism. She’s for two-state and “justice.” In the context of dominance by the extreme right of Israeli national politics I suppose someone who in any other country would be a milquetoast liberal at best, can claim to be a flaming radical.
But her subsequent claims about the nature of Banksy’s posture are ludicrous:
…Insinuating we don’t have a right to exist (which is exactly what your poster does using the term “historic Palestine”) suggesting Israel has no right to ANY land is disgraceful. In addition- military service in Israel is mandatory! So your poster is denouncing all Israelis! Your posters resemble Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and spread antisemitism
Though Ofer owns a substantial modern art collection, she apparently hasn’t grasped the artistic tradition of graphic art in the service of political satire. The poster doesn’t resemble Nazi propaganda in the least. Nor were Nazi graphic images especially known for use of irony or satire, as Banksy’s are. As for her claim about Israeli military service, it’s a complete non-sequitur. Banksy refers to Israel’s military Occupation of Palestine, while Ofer claims that he’s referring to all of Israel as being occupied Palestinian land.
You can see the crudely reworked image which Ofer appears to have hired a pro-Israel artist to create. It offers an entirely fictional image of Israel in which the many minorities in Israeli society exist in the midst of a gay carnival atmosphere. Druze, Muslim, “Israeli,” Christian, Palestinian, and LGBT all live together in bliss. All one need do is ask representatives of any of these groups whether they feel as welcome and respected as this image makes them out to be. How Ofer would know that these groups live in such bliss given that she’s fled Israel for tax purposes is another good question. Her poster adds the tagline, “Israel: the only democracy in the Middle East.” One only hopes that her financial and artistic acumen are better than her political sloganeering.
Last week, in the run-up to the midterm elections, the U.S. Border Patrol organized a preparedness drill for the Central American refugee caravan winding its way slowly through Mexico to the U.S. border. As soon as people discovered the event was scheduled for Election Day and likely to intimidate Hispanic voters from going to the polls, it was quickly cancelled. But not before a photographer captured this image of Border Patrol mounted-horsemen presumably planning to herd the refugees like cattle back away from our sacred border. Not to mention our very own president who intimated that any rock-throwing by such deplorables would be “a firearm.” In Trumpese, that amounts to a shoot to kill order from the commander in chief.
This image reminded me of similar ones I’ve seen of mounted Israeli Border Police charging into crowds of protesting Palestinians. The massive bulk of these ominously-hooded horses as they face down the puny human protesters is genuinely frightening. Just as Israeli Border Police exploit the power of horses to maintain Occupation and subjugate Palestinians, so Trump’s militarized border presence is meant not only to teach a lesson to foreigners seeking safe haven on our shores; it’s meant to rub salt in the wounds of those Americans who continue to believe this country is meant to offer comfort to the poor, starving and oppressed from around the world; just as we’ve done since the first Dutch and English settlers, many of them fleeing religious tyranny, set down roots on these shores.