The anonymous but eminent British street artist known as Banksy has posted a mini-documentary on his banksy.co.uk site showing squalid conditions in Gaza, six months after the end of the war between the enclave's Islamist Hamas rulers and Israel.
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Israel was criticised over the large number of Palestinian civilian deaths during the conflict. 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".
That destination is Gaza, which the film, using mostly text rather than narration, says is watched over by "friendly neighbors" – alluding to Israeli military jets – and can only be entered through illegal tunnels. The claim, however, is not entirely accurate. While the Rafah Crossing from Egypt is currently closed, access to the Strip is possible via the Erez Crossings from Israel.
It also shows Israeli soldiers on patrol, 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. This, too, is inaccurate; Israel has permitted limited amounts of cement and other construction materials into the strip since the war.
"Development opportunities are everywhere" and there is "plenty of scope for refurbishment", the subtitles say, noting that 18,000 homes were destroyed during the war.
Toward 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 "Enter Through the Gift Shop" in 2010.
Graffiti by British street artist Banksy, is painted on a wall in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, May 3, 2008. Photo by Bloomberg