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Walls as symbolic erections of power

Justice is indivisible, and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Martin Luther King Jr.

From one of the most fanciest streets of London where people roam among an imperialist consume, on the top of one of these extravagant fashion stores, we were invited to visit the premiere UK solo exhibition of the Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar at Ayyam Gallery, where he critically unveiled us the everyday life in the occupied Palestinian’s territories (OPTs).

There are no doubts that the continuous measures applied by Israel’s policies to the Palestinian people are a crime and in a complete violation of international law. The exhibition  Whole in the Wall, not only disclosed the impact of the Apartheid Wall in the peoples’ quotidian, but also is a stark reminder of the on-going exposure to segregation, discrimination and oppression that the State of Israel deliberately keeps subjecting the Palestinian people.

The Apartheid Wall or Separation Wall, as the Israelis prefer to call, started to be built in the West Bank in 2002 and was justified by “security concerns”. As former Jerusalem’s minister Haim Ramon affirmed in 2005 “first and foremost [the wall is] to prevent them from continuing to murder us” [1]. But the wall’s route extends itself deeply inside the so-called “Green Line”, deep into OPTs, snaking through backyards, towns, and stealing natural resources, while furthermore displacing and segregating communities and families from one another. A wall that is still in construction (against The International Court for Justice orders), keeps being used as an excuse to illegally confiscate Palestinian lands. Once completed, it will have in length more than 700 km, more than double of the “Green Line” [2], and according to the UN OCHA report, it will trap more than 125,000 Palestinians in twenty-eight communities and enclose 26,000 of eight communities on all the four flanks [3].

When you enter the exhibition an imposing 2.5 meters high  concrete wall divides the gallery.  Half a world away the audience is forced to consider the implications of such a structure on their daily lives. This installation, as well as most of the artworks exhibited, is made  of fragments from the Israeli Separation Wall, which the artist secretly chiseled away near Ramallah during daylight – such action is documented in his video Concrete. By reusing these concrete fragments and “trafficking” them to other places or contexts, the artist elevates this symbol of oppression and humiliation to a source of unity [4], as well as, provokes critical dialogues about possession and reclamation. Jarrar believes that “if we all together [the Palestinian people], hand by hand, do this… the wall would fall down” [5]. If the artist alone chiseled more that 50kg for this exhibition, imagine if all the Palestinians people decided to do the same. Perhaps there is a need for Palestinians to unify their strategy in confronting Israeli racism, apartheid and oppression.

Khaled Jarrar, ‘Concrete’, Digital video, 2012. Whole in the Wall, Ayyam Gallery London, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Ayyam Gallery

Khaled Jarrar, ‘Concrete’, Digital video, 2012. Whole in the Wall, Ayyam Gallery London, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Ayyam Gallery

This exhibition is a non-violent resistance as a protest against the hostile apartheid system that Israel has been developing for more than sixty years against the Palestinian people. Khaled Jarrar is a freedom fighter using art to boost discussion among the dissident hegemony. This exhibition has been a source of inspiration for young Palestinians activists in the streets of the West Bank, reflecting the way art can promote change. At the time of the exhibition the newspaper Palestine New Network (PNN) published an article, showing a group of activists of the Popular Resistance allied with the help of dozens of young men, in the city of Abu Dis, perforating the wall with hammers. They opened a substantial hole in the Separation Wall, big enough to allow a person to pass through. This gesture may seem insignificant when compared to the entirety of the wall. Yet it marks the 9th anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s decision in 2004, criminalising the Separation Wall [11]. 

Israel has long been internationally criticised by its policies, and formally accused by international organizations of not respecting the International Law.Until now there have been no visible sanctions. Arab countries are invaded by the West for democracies sake, with excuses of having authoritarian governments that neglect their people’s rights. Nevertheless where is this behaviour to be seen in the case of Israel and its policies towards the Palestinian people? Rather than being sanctioned, Israel continues to be supported. Since 2006 it “has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon, and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade” [13], while continuously being supported by the US through an annual aid of 3 billing dollars plus weapons, and enjoying a “dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural, and trade relations with a variety of other allies” [14]. Economic interests and Western control in the Middle East, through Israel’s presence, ends up enduring Israel’s immunity. In the western fight against global terrorists it is interesting to see some of the main characters have a rather dubious notion of terrorism.

Within these ambiguous ethical and moral values, where money is more valuable than life, it would be meaningful to ask, when is the time for Palestinian freedom?

Inês Valle

Khaled Jarrar, video ‘Whole in the Wall’, 2013. Whole in the Wall, Ayyam Gallery London, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Ayyam Gallery

Khaled Jarrar, video ‘Whole in the Wall’, 2013. Whole in the Wall, Ayyam Gallery London, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Ayyam Gallery

[1] McGreal, Chris. Wall makes Jerusalem ‘more Jewish, The Guardian, 2005.
Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jul/12/israel1
[2] Barrier to Peace: The impact of Israel’s Wall five years after the ICJ ruling, PLO Negotiation Affairs Department Report, 2009. Link: http://www.nad-plo.org
[3] UN OCHA, The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier: Update, No. 8, 2008.
Link: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/Barrier_Report_July_2008.pdf
[4] Cementing Unity, Exhibition ́s catalogue “Whole in the Wall”, Ayyam Gallery, London, 2013.
[5] The art of Palestinian resistance – interview by Simon McGregor Wood for Al Jazeera, 2013. Link http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/06/201362319015724568.html
[6] Rooted to the Land, Metro Press, 2007. Link: http://www.metro-press.com
[7] Barrier to Peace: The impact of Israel’s Wall five years after the ICJ ruling, PLO Negotiation Affairs Department Report, 2009. Link: http://www.nad-plo.org
[8] Trailer: Infiltrators (Khaled Jarrar, 2012). Link: http://vimeo.com/54181305
[9] Žižek, Slavoj. What goes on when nothing goes on?, in The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, 2012.
[10] Hatuqa, Dalia. Biennale seeks to boost Palestinian art, Al Jazeera, 5.11.2012.
Link: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/11/201211410554507478.html)
[11] Palestine New Network Newspaper, 9/07/2013. Link: http://www.pnn.ps/index.php/policy/60675-pnn
[12] A new Israeli law criminalizes support to Palestinian civil society campaigns, 15/07/2011.
Link: http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/a-new-israeli-law-criminalizes-support-to-palestinian-civil-society-campaigns/ [13] Klein, Naomi. Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction, in The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, 2012.
[14] Idem.

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