Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier - The Middle East.
Local dynamics, regional actors, global challeges
February 2022
Mafalda Young obtained a Master’s degree in International Studies at ISCTE - Instituto
Universitário de Lisboa (Portugal) and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International
Relations from NOVA FCSH - Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Her main research interests are
Middle East and North Africa, nonviolent resistance, art and political graffiti.
Resistance can take many forms. In Palestine, to exist is to resist. For the last fifty-four years
Palestinians have found many inventive and innovative ways to resist the Israeli occupation,
and one of those ways, but certainly not the only, is art. Palestinian art and the Israeli
occupation walk hand in hand insomuch that and the historical and political encounters of the
conflict have influenced the Palestinian cultural scene and vice versa. This article aims to
explore how art, in its various forms, is part of the arsenal of everyday resistance techniques
employed by the Palestinian. It addresses not only how art has challenged the outcomes of
the conflict, but also how the conflict has impacted the Palestinian artistic scene. To this end,
it explores the case of contemporary Palestinian graffiti as a relevant tool of resistance that
provides an insight into the nature of Palestinian resistance but also into the evolution of the
conflict itself.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Political Art, Palestinian Art, Graffiti, Everyday Resistance.
How to cite this article
Young, Mafalda (2021). The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine. Janus.net, e-
journal of international relations. VOL12 N2, TD2 - Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local
dynamics, regional actors, global challenges, February 2022. Consulted [online] in date of the
last visit, https://doi.org/10.26619/1647-7251.DT0122.2
Article received on May 16, 2021 and accepted for publication on October 25, 2021
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges,
February 2022, pp. 18-36
The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
Art has always been a space where communities express their political-ideological beliefs
and advocate for change. In all its forms, artistic production has been used as a tool of
socio-political struggle and as a catalyst for mobilization and dissent, and in this Palestine
is no exception. Living under harsh conditions of violence, repression and censorship,
Palestinians have found in art one of their most important and empowering tools of
nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Through art, Palestinians have challenged the hegemony of the Zionist narrative and its
associated attempts to deny their existence. Furthermore, art has contributed to the
construction of the Palestinians sense of togetherness and national identity and has been
one of the driving forces behind many relevant moments in the history of Palestinian
resistance by mobilizing Palestinians to act.
This article, which is derived from my Master’s dissertation in International Studies at
ISCTE Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, offers an overview of the Palestinian resistance
art production under occupation, with a special focus in graffiti. The political role and
characteristics of Palestinian graffiti have evolved throughout the conflict with its most
expressive form being reached in two historic moments: The First Intifada and after the
construction of the Separation Wall.
As an object of study, graffiti can offer a great level of understanding about the artist’s
motivation, ideology and political aspirations, but also about community concerns and
issues. According to James Scott (1985), the intentionality behind an act of resistance is
often a better indicator of resistance than the outcome derived from the act itself (Scott,
1985: 290). With this in mind, and driven by a willingness to understand the meaning,
intentionality and personal experiences behind artistic creations in Palestine, an interview
of a young Palestinian graffiti artist was conducted. Through a phenomenological
approach, my goal was to understand the intentions behind the artist's creations as well
as the reasons that led him to represent certain symbolic elements instead of others.
Deriving from a post-positivist interpretive perspective, this article develops a
comparative analysis of three murals produced by Mohamd Alraee. It focuses on the
signs and symbols used by the artist, relates them to the Palestinian context and
resistance history and, finally, offers a semiotic interpretation of their meaning.
The analysis of Palestinian graffiti does not intend, by any means, to disregard the
political and activist art produced by countless Israeli artists or those from neighbouring
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges,
February 2022, pp. 18-36
The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
countries that might have strongly influenced the Palestinian cultural scene. It aims,
instead, to delve into the characteristics that are unique to Palestinian resistance efforts,
and hopefully offer a deeper understanding of the state of the Palestinian resistance
movement of today.
1. Everyday Resistance and the Palestinian Sumud
Because resistance is a socially constructed concept, in which different actors, observers
and dimensions contribute to its understanding, it has no broadly accepted definition
(Gordon, 1993: 142). However, social scientists seem to generally accept that resistance
is an oppositional act”, where an active behaviour (either verbal, cognitive or physical)
and a sense of opposing, questioning, and challenging the existing power structures are
expected (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004: 538).
According to Foucault, if there is power there is resistance and yet, or rather
consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority to power” (Foucault,
1978: 95), meaning that the relationship between power and resistance is not static but
rather cyclical and dynamic (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004: 548). This mutually
constitutive” relationship evolves over time and as the power dynamics change rulers
look for new and ingenious ways to control the oppressed who, in turn, adapt their
resistance strategies to the new context (Vinthagen & Johansson, 2013: 31).
Although power structures tend to be favourable to those in power, the power dynamics
are not always defined by power holders. According to the theory of consent, the
authority of any ruler is dependent on the voluntary obedience of the ruled, meaning that
by withdrawing this consent through resistance, opposers are limiting the degree of
support the governing can count on (Dudouet, 2008: 4; Hardt & Negri, 2004: 54).
This theory may explain the power dynamics in democratic systems. However, in
undemocratic and oppressive contexts, the tangible effects of resistance are limited and
opportunities to openly resist are scarce (McAdam & Tarrow, 2000: 151; Zunes, 1994:
420). Therefore, resistance may be overt and recognizable as such, but it may also be
covert and intended to go unnoticed. Depending on the socio-political circumstances,
resisters may be encouraged to strategically manipulate their behavior to avoid
recognition and escape retaliation from those in power (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004:
This is often the case with less obvious forms of opposition such as everyday forms of
resistance”. According to James Scott (1985), who first coined the term, everyday
resistance” encompasses a set of acts or resistance activities that are ordinary and
mundane in its nature (Scott, 1989: 33-34). They are often adopted by those who, due
to a lack of resources or opportunities, mask the rebellious nature of their acts while
continuing to resist (Scott, 1985: xvi).
This is often the case with humour, songs, or literature when used to covertly express
resistance within a context of censorship and punishment (Sanger, 1995: 179; Hollander
& Einwohner, 2004: 540). Without being politically articulated or formally organized’’,
everyday resistance can prepare the ground for more visible acts of resistance, such as
demonstrations, protests and insurrections as these events often find their roots in
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges,
February 2022, pp. 18-36
The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
stories, poems, songs, visual arts and other local acts of defiance and resistance, unseen
by authorities or by outside observers” (Tripp, 2013a: 5; Vinthagen & Johansson, 2013:
It is from a sense of sumud, i.e. an active form of willingness to sacrifice oneself in order
to achieve justice” that the Palestinian experience of everyday resistance emerges.
Sumud is an active form of popular resistance” that highlights steadfastness,
persistence and success in the face of adversity” and not mere passive tolerance
(Qumsiyeh, 2011: 11). Simply by going through the mundane acts of daily life - laughing,
crying, getting married, having children, going to school, tending their sheep in what
remains of Palestine - Palestinians are resisting Israeli occupation (Qumsiyeh, 2011:
2. Palestinian Art, Sumud and Everyday Resistance
It is often in culture that oppressed communities find the political space to express their
ideas, opinions and emotions (Scott,1990: xiii). Culture offers a safe alternative space
where, through hidden transcripts”, the weak can express themselves relatively freely
within the existing power structures (Scott, 1990: 164-65). These hidden transcripts”,
in the form of literature, music, paintings and folklore, often provide the oppressed with
the ideological underpinnings needed to rise up against their oppressor (Scott, 1990:
Particularly in contexts of censorship, violence and occupation, cultural production is not
only used to express political and ideological opposition, but also functions as memory
tools in which historical episodes are remembered and values are passed on between
generations (Salih & Richter-Devroe, 2014: 15; Assmann & Czaplicka, 1995: 127).
The ability to contribute to the collective memory is particularly relevant in the Palestinian
context since the Zionist foundational myth deliberately erased the Palestinian presence
from the land by framing it as a land without a people to a people without a land”
(Piterberg, 2001: 31).
Palestinian culture represents a challenge to this narrative. And if we agree with Hamdi’s
interpretation that everything that helps to keep the idea of Palestine alive is a type of
sumud, then artistic production certainly falls into this category (Hamdi, 2011: 40-41).
The potential of art as a form of everyday resistance rests on its ability to transform and
shape the political behavior among the Palestinians in their everyday resistance” (Ali,
2018: 148-9). By contributing to the embodiment of the Palestinian collective memory,
to the communal sense of belonging to the land and to the emergence of innovative
counter-narratives, artistic interventions may contribute to shaping the subaltern’s
attitudes not only towards power holders but to resistance itself (Hamdi, 2011: 40-41;
Tripp, 2013b: 16).
3. Palestinian resistance and the role of culture
From the beginning of the military occupation (1967), Israel has applied a range of
techniques designed to assert control over the Palestinians, their land and its narrative
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Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges,
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The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
(Ali, 2018: 148). What began as the destruction of entire Palestinian villages in 1948
grew into an elaborate scheme of domination based on the construction of borders,
checkpoints, and Israeli settlements along with house demolitions and land confiscations
over the years (Ehrenreich, 2016: 206), accompanied by the establishment of a complex
system of permits limiting movement across the Palestinian border that drastically curtail
the flow of people and culture (Stiline, 2018: 50).
Between 1967 and 1993
a complex system of military censorship designed to destroy
all social elements that could evoke the Palestinian collective memory, sense of
community and belonging to the land was established (Swedenburg, 1989: 268). Israeli
censorship of Palestinian self-expression went as far as prohibiting the raising of the
Palestinian flag, the public display of Palestinian national symbols, such as the kufiyya
(Palestinian head scarf), or the use of Palestinian national colors (red, white, and green)
in artistic productions (González, 2009:205; Tripp, 2013b: 118). These impositions,
however, made it easier for every Palestinian to engage in smaller acts of resistance.
Flags, stickers and graffiti appeared everywhere. And in failing to prevent these acts from
emerging, the image of control projected by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was
undermined (Tripp, 2013b: 118).
Because these gestures were smaller in nature they helped to engage a larger segment
of the population who would otherwise not have been drawn into acts of resistance and
were essential in preparing the ground for larger grassroots collective actions such as the
First Intifada (Tripp, 2013b: 119-20).
In the Palestinian context, the creation of culture assumes a multitude of political
functions, from mobilization, to evoking feelings of nationality, to bearing witness to the
Israeli occupation (Tawil-Souri, 2011b: 6; McDonald, 2013: 31).
If art is crucial to the construction of community, national sentiments and shared
narratives, the domination of artistic production is crucial to control the publics shared
imagination” (Tripp, 2013a: 187). To that end, the effort applied by the Israeli authorities
into censoring cultural expression is nothing but testimony to the tangible effects of
artistic resistance (Tripp, 2013b: 259-60).
The creation of the Palestinian League of Artists offers a good example. Ignoring the
impact the League would have on the general public, Israeli authorities allowed its
creation in 1973. This collective of artists organized group exhibitions which were
considered as insignificant by the occupying forces. To the Palestinians, however, every
piece of art made public in the presence of the Israelis became a source of national pride
and self-reassurance”. As these exhibitions came to be perceived as symbols of
resistance, artists became targets of harassment and were often imprisoned and their
works confiscated or subject to censorship (Boullata, 2004: 72).
As the possibilities of engaging in direct political activism are limited, Palestinian’s resort
to cultural activism which, according to Ilan Pappé, equips Palestinian society with a
This event also referred to as Al-Nakba, consisted on the destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages
and resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land (Masalha, 2014: 34).
Following the Six-day War in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, which lasted until the signing
of the Oslo Accords in 1993, after which the Palestinians were given limited governance and autonomy:
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The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
sense of internalized strength that the Israeli government cannot easily prevent nor
erase” (Pappé, 2011: 75).
4. The Palestinian artistic landscape under military occupation
For the Palestinians, art is an integral part of resistance. And just as the political and
historical events of the conflict have shaped the techniques of resistance, they have also
impacted the aesthetics and themes embraced by the Palestinian cultural movement
(Salih & Richter-Devroe, 2014: 9).
In 1948, following the Nakba many Palestinians were forced to flee and became
refugees scattered throughout the world. Those who stayed in Palestine, were now under
the sovereignty of Israel, Egypt or Jordan. This geographical distribution of Palestinian
society contributed to the weakening of its internal and political unity, and to the loss of
a common cultural center. By being geographically dispersed, Palestinians had different
experiences of the same conflict (Qumsiyeh, 2011: 236).
The first generation of Palestinian resistance artists emerged from this traumatic event,
and so their experiences of loss, dispersal and destruction were strongly echoed their
artistic output (Boulatta, 2004: 71). A new moment for Palestinian culture came with the
creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964. With the appearance of this
entity art became the primary space of political intervention. The 1960s were associated
with the emergence of prominent Palestinian artists such as Ghassan Kanafani, Mahmoud
Darwish and Suleiman Mansour (Salih & Richter-Devroe, 2014: 9; Desai, 2020).
Until the 1980s, however, most Palestinian resistance was armed and mainly
orchestrated by Palestinian organizations operating outside the occupied territories
(Tripp, 2013b: 117). From the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) in the early 1960s until the First Intifada (1987-1993), armed resistance and
martyrdom were celebrated and the fida’yi
was the most lionized figure of the Palestinian
resistance (Kahili, 2007: 142-6).
The First Intifada, however, brought new life to the Palestinian resistance and its
celebrated figures (Kahili, 2007: 142-6). During the first uprising Palestinians from all
walks of life engaged in acts of civil disobedience such as strikes, demonstrations and
stone throwing, which resulted in the figure of the fida’yi being replaced by that of the
(Kahili, 2007: 142-6). From this moment on armed resistance would be avoided
and instead be replaced by unarmed civil disobedience on a massive scale” (McDonald,
2013: 118; Ehrehreich, 2016: 83).
The disproportionate use of violence against Palestinian civilians by Israel during the First
Intifada provoked a wave of criticism of the Israeli Government worldwide and stimulated
the emergence and growth of boycott Israel campaigns and increased support for the
Palestinian people. As a result, Israel began to reassess its policies in Gaza and in the
West Bank. It was within this context that the Israeli Government, now led by Yitzhak
Fida’ya stands for the guerrilla fighter, the redeemer who sacrifices him/herself for the common cause
(Khalili, 2007: 145).
Shahid is a term used to refer to the Palestinians civilians who have been killed in the conflict (Shahid | Just
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The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
Rabin, and the PLO chairman Yasser Arafat started the peace negotiations that resulted
in the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 (McDonald, 2013: 131-132).
With the signing of the Peace Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority
(PA) in 1994 the cultural scene was infused with a new energy” and a new artistic period
was born. The new cultural paradigm broke with traditional Palestinian art very much
focused on the themes of nation, refugeehood and trauma’’ (Boullata, 2004: 72; Salih
& Richter-Devroe, 2014: 9). The time was now of peace and reconciliation and so the
culture of mourning, sacrifice, and revolution’’ felt no longer necessary (McDonald,
2013: 133-35).
The Accords were intended to end the Israeli occupation, however attempts to silence
and erase the Palestinian identity and culture did not stop” (Tawil-Souri, 2011b: 5). Less
than a decade later, the Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-2005) erupted as Palestinians gave vent
to their frustration at the broken promises and failure of the Oslo Accords” and widely
felt disenchantment with the recently established PA (Pappé, 2011: 229).
The second uprising, though initially peaceful, soon turned violent as both sides resorted
to deadly force (Mason & Falk, 2016: 171). The Palestinians, however, suffered
considerably more condemnation in the international media when compared to Israel
which allowed the Israelis to regain support and sympathy from the international
community (Ackerman, 2001: 64).
Another major outcome of the Second Intifada was the unilateral construction of the
700km Separation Wall
between Israel and the West Bank in 2002 (Tripp, 2013b: 122).
The Wall became a blank canvas’’ for Palestinian artists and resisters. Powerless to stop
its construction, Palestinians revealed their resilience and adaptability as the Wall became
the primary site where graffiti, and other forms of protest art, are exposed (Larkin, 2014:
5. Contemporary Graffiti in Palestine: a case worth studying
Graffiti has always been an important element of the Palestinian resistance movement.
Palestinians employ graffiti, as noted by Love and Mattern (2013), as the pervasive
commodification of art and culture” for political purposes (Love & Mattern, 2013: 298).
Graffiti has been, and still is, used by the Palestinian resistance movement as a form of
political activism, through which an intentional effort to challenge the political future and
community development is made (Love & Mattern, 2013: 339).
Furthermore, graffiti has many advantages for its creators. Firstly, the costs are low and
the necessary tools (e.g. spray cans) are easily available. Secondly, by being situated
outside mainstream media, it benefits from freedom of speech, and thirdly the anonymity
protects the author from potential retaliation (White, 2001: 257; Rodriguez & Clair, 1999:
The advantages of graffiti are not exhausted with the graffiter. As an object of study,
graffiti has the potential to offer relevant insights into the mind of those who create it,
Israel began the construction of the Separation Wall in 2002. The ‘’security fence’’ is 708 km long and
annexes 9,4% of Palestinian territory of the West Bank (Larkin, 2014: 134).
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Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges,
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The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
but also into social issues and community concerns (Ferrel, 1995: 75; Ley & Cybriwsky,
1974: 492), Thus, graffiti can provide a level of understanding of a community or group
that should not be underestimated (Klingman & Shalev, 2001: 405; Waldner & Dobratz,
2013: 378).
Essentially, graffiti allows ideas ignored by other media to enter the public discourse and
offers an avenue of political expression to anonymous individuals and marginalized
groups (Hanauer, 2004: 30). Within the relationships of power, graffiti represents a direct
challenge to authority and its attempts to assert control over the public space (Waldner
& Dobratz, 2013: 379).
Graffiti is what Bayat describes as street politics”. According to the author, street politics
represent the conflicts between the populace and authority that are formed and
expressed in the physical and social space of the streets. The streets offer those without
access to a formal political arena a stage where they can express their political ideals
and concerns (Bayat, 1997: 63).
As a form of communication, graffiti intentionally interacts with an audience to incite civic
engagement, political participation and resistance (Bruner & Kelso, 1980: 241; Rodriguez
& Clair, 1999: 2). By being visible in the public space, graffiti is a significant tool of
resistance as every passer-by is a potentially new challenger to the status quo (Rodriguez
& Clair, 1999: 3).
The “street” is the place where individuals mobilize or are mobilized by others with whom
they do not necessarily share an active network”. Instead, street mobilization” is
possible due to what have been defined as passive networks”, i.e. the unspoken
acknowledgement of a shared identity between individuals that permits the creation of a
web of communication between others that are unknown to the graffiti artist. The
possibility of spontaneous group action turns the streets into an important element of
any resistance effort, and it is for this reason that unpopular governments watch them
so closely. Even if authorities prohibit public demonstrations and gatherings, they cannot
forbid people from walking, working, driving and experiencing street life (Bayat, 1997:
In Palestine, graffiti found its most notable expression as a political act during the First
Intifada (1987-1993) and after the construction of the Security Wall’’ by Israel in 2002
(Peteet, 1996: 139; Hanauer, 2011: 301).
As explored previously, by the time of the First Intifada a complex system of media
censorship had been established which forced everyday political activity to move
underground and graffiti to become the major means of communication and mobilization
(Bishara, 2009: 5-7). During this period, the language most commonly used in graffiti
was Arabic which suggests that the content was directed at an internal audience (Peteet,
1996: 150).
In addition to encouraging resistance, inciting action (e.g. Monday is strike”), updating
the community on the progress of the uprising and celebrating martyrdom, graffiti was
in itself an act of civil disobedience. Deemed illegal under Israeli Military Regulations,
writing on walls was a clear act of defiance and a challenge to Israeli territorial claims
(Peteet, 1996: 140-6).
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The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the end of the First Intifada did not mean
an end to the production of graffiti. With the creation of the PA, Palestinians were given
a certain degree of self-governance and official Palestinian broadcast media, namely the
radio station Voice of Palestine and Palestine TV, were established in 1994 (Bishara,
2009: 8-9). Consequently, graffiti stopped being such a crucial communication tool, and
writing on walls was no longer as dangerous leading to graffiti losing some of its appeal
as a way of resisting the occupation. Nonetheless, graffiti continued to denounce the
Israeli occupation but was also focused on criticizing the PA government and expressing
the general disenchantment with the Oslo Accords (Tripp, 2013b: 275-6).
The outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 led to the construction of the Separation
Wall in 2002. The Wall brought a new depth to the role of graffiti as part of the Palestinian
resistance struggle (Larkin, 2014: 135-6).
In contrast to the First Intifada, the main language now present on the Wall is English
suggesting a change not only in the demographic of the artists, mostly foreign, but also
that the targeted audience is now the international community (Gould, 2014: 9).
As a blank canvas for political intervention, the Separation Wall attracts many
international artists who use it to express solidarity with Palestinians or to criticize Israel
and its political allies. Interventions on the Wall by internationally renowned artists, such
as Banksy
, receive much international attention and praise and have helped to generate
tourist, media and public interest in the Palestinian cause
(Larkin, 2014: 143-157).
Another indicator that Wall graffiti is meant for international consumption is the common
use of internationally recognized symbols of liberation and resistance, such as Nelson
Mandela, Ghandi or the Statue of Liberty in murals. If artists frame their message and
manipulate symbolic elements in ways that will resonate more with the target audience
(Toenjes, 2015: 57-9), then by using these internationally recognized symbols of
resistance and emancipation, artists are framing the Palestinian experience not as unique
to them, but rather as an integral part of the global struggle for freedom and liberation
(Alim, 2020: 74-5).
Despite attracting a lot of international attention, the local community has received the
work of foreign artists on the Wall with ambivalence as some consider that it not only
beautifies and legitimizes the most symbolic element of the occupation, but also receives
more scholarly and media attention than that created by local artists (Larkin, 2014: 144).
Others have also remarked that framing the Palestinian struggle in universalized terms
diminishes its message as it obscures its unique specificities and makes it harder for the
Palestinian perspective to be heard and risks diluting the power of graffiti as tool of
resistance (Gould, 2014: 13; Alim, 2020: 75). An example of this was an intervention on
In a 2011 study of the graffiti present on the Separation Wall, in the area surrounding the neighbourhood
Abu Dis (Jerusalem) it was found that 66.7% of the graffiti present were in English, and that only 3.8% was
in Arabic (Hanauer, 2011: 308).
Since 2005, several graffiti linked to Banksy can be seen in Palestine. Banksy’s interventions in Palestine
are not unique to the Separation Wall. They can also be found in the streets of Gaza, Bethlehem and
Jerusalem (Tapies, 2016).
Graffiti on the Separation Wall, particularly those signed by internationally acclaimed artists, such as Banksy
and JR, attract many political and conflict tourists to Palestine. The higher demand for ‘’conflict tourism’
encouraged various non-governmental organizations and tourist companies, both Palestinian and Israeli, to
organize ‘’Wall tours’’ and prompted locals to open souvenir shops and other tourist related businesses
(Larkin, 2014: 143-157).
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Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges,
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The Art of Resistance: Art and Resistance in Palestine
Mafalda Young
the Wall named Face 2 Face
by the French artists JR and Marco that, despite receiving
much international praise, was not as well received by the Palestinian community.
Consisting of the largest illegal photography exhibition ever’’, the project contained large
photographs of Palestinians and Israelis that shared the same profession, next to each
other, on both sides of the Separation Wall, as well as in several Palestinian and Israeli
cities. The objective was to highlight the similarities between the two people and, by
doing so, affirm that the dialogue between them and the achievement of peace was
. Yet, in an interview conducted by Larkin in 2010 of a Palestinian mechanic
named Hani, the feedback about the exhibition was not as hopeful: "Of course we are
similar, but we do not have the same rights or the same lives" (Hani in Larkin, 2014:
Substantial differences exist between graffiti on sections of the Wall that surround
popular tourist spots from that aimed at an internal audience and found in Palestinian
villages or refugee camps. When directed at the domestic audience, graffiti is used to
give visual support to the political struggle. The focus tends to be on supporting political
prisoners, celebrating martyrdom and drawing attention to historically important events.
Aesthetic considerations are perceived as secondary (Alim, 2020: 70; Larkin, 2014: 151-
Graffiti produced by Palestinian artists can offer a deeper understanding of the Palestinian
perspective on the occupation, of the struggles that are unique to them and on the nature
of the local resistance movement. However, far more media and scholarly attention is
given to the graffiti on the Wall directed at the international audience (Larkin, 2014:
I suggest that analysis of graffiti produced by local Palestinian artists outside areas of
mainstream media and tourist attention is relevant as it can reveal important details
about the Palestinian resistance movement today and the Palestinian’s political demands
and aspirations. Moreover, I argue that the interpretation of the symbolic elements used
and martyrs celebrated by artists in their graffiti can reveal their political positions and
affiliations, the type of resistance techniques they are willing to pursue and what future
they envisage for Palestine (Young, 2020: 43-45).
To that end, I used social media, namely Instagram, to contact a twenty-five-year-old
Palestinian graffiti artist named Mohamd Alraee (@mohamd_alraee), living in the Aroub
Refugee Camp
. I asked Mohamd if he could share some pictures of his work with me
and had the opportunity to ask him some questions. I was interested in understanding
how often Mohamd created graffiti, if he was doing it individually or as part of a group
and, finally, what message he was trying to transmit. Mohamd told me that he created
graffiti alone and on a regular basis, and further explained that:
Most of the time it is a political message, like resistance, you know… [The message]
can’t be subjective in Palestine. [Resistance] is part of our daily life and reality. Other
More information about the ‘’Face 2 Face’’ project is available here: https://www.jr-art.net/projects/israel-
The Aroub refugee camp is located in the southern West Bank, between the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron.
Around 10.000 live in the camp, which is characterized by high unemployment rates, overcrowding and
poor living conditions: Aroub Camp | UNRWA.