Britain's Banksy takes aim at Gaza's privations in mini-video

Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:32pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The eminent but anonymous British street artist known as Banksy has posted a mini-documentary on his site showing squalid conditions in Gaza six months after the end of the war between the enclave's Islamist Hamas rulers and Israel.

Israel was criticized over the large number of Palestinian civilian deaths during the conflict, including by its main ally the United States. 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" - meaning Israel which patrols the sea and land borders apart from a closed crossing with Egypt. The result is Gaza can only be entered through one of the tunnels shown.

The film also shows Israeli soldiers on patrol, giving the impression they are in Gaza. The troops actually are operating at the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank, well known for its mural of Yasser Arafat, which appears in the Banksy video.

Much of the short film focuses on the harsh conditions of life in Gaza - 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. However, small amounts of cement are now entering the territory under an agreement struck by the United Nations allowing in reconstruction materials under tight restrictions.

"Development opportunities are everywhere" and there is "plenty of scope for refurbishment", the film's subtitles say, noting that 18,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed in the conflict. The small, densely populated territory came under Israeli air strikes and shelling during the fighting.   Continued...

Palestinians walk past a mural of a playful-looking kitten, presumably painted by British street artist Banksy, on the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer, in Biet Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem