Palestinians used graffiti for political, social, informative, and aesthetic purposes. On the separation barriers, graffiti was done by Palestinians and internationals in protest of the wall (although much of it was created by the latter). Away from the wall, graffiti was employed for various reasons. During the First Intifada, it was a medium of relating information and was swiftly covered-up by Israeli authorities. Julie Peteet argued that graffiti was “deployed as a means of resistance” to Israeli authority and censorship, a form of civil disobedience – both “the silent narrative accompanying acts of resistance [and] … themselves acts of resistance” (Peteet 1996: 139, 143). Palestinians felt voiceless, but they could speak through graffiti. It was usually done by young men overnight, seen by passersby in the morning, and blocked out by the afternoon. By the time of the Second Intifada, there was much less censorship, and graffiti could be seen on the separation wall and within cities and towns, but still had the themes of resistance and solidarity.
The photos of graffiti we looked at in class showed the various types of styles and uses in Palestinian graffiti. Unlike those at the separation barrier, graffiti within the Palestinian territories are not primarily meant for outside viewing or interpretation. It could be addressed to Palestinians, the Israeli occupiers, or both – as solidarity and resistance are two common themes. Among their uses, they could convey messages of resistance, display discontent, express wedding messages, or could be affiliated with a particular political group (Peteet).
The first photo shows an interesting way the artists got around a ban on portraits of martyrs (portraiture, some argued, could lead to idolatry). It depicts missiles aimed at a bloody wheelchair, representing the death of Ahmed Yassin, killed by Israeli missiles in 2004. This graffiti is both informative and political: it relayed the information about Ahmed Yassin’s death while taking a stance against those who caused it, and reinforced community with the remembrance and mourning of the dead.
The next photo is of wedding graffiti, with the groom’s name and the names of those congratulating him. The graffito seems like it was written in the Nashk script, meaning “to copy,” and was used to copy the Qur’an – which would make sense because Gröndahl mentioned that this script is often used in wedding graffiti. Wedding graffiti, Gröndahl explained, not only expressed congratulations and love but also solidarity among family and friends. The main part of this graffito is adorned with red hearts and it written in red, black, and green – even though it was used for a celebration of marriage, it is also political, showing solidarity to Palestine (the colors used were the colors of the Palestinian flag) as well as the family.
Peteet, J. (1996). “The Writing on the Walls: the Graffiti of the Intifada.” Cultural Anthropology 11(2): 139-159.
Gröndahl, M. (2009). Gaza Graffiti: Messages of Love and Politics. Cairo, New York: The American University in Cairo Press. **see graffiti powerpoint on Trunk (esp. slides 11, 19-21)**