Palestinian activists plan massive graffiti protest on West Bank fence
By Cnaan Liphshiz
The separation barrier will receive its largest piece of graffiti yet when Dutch and Palestinian activists scrawl on it a 2,000-word letter by a South African scholar arguing that "Israeli apartheid" is "far more brutal" than Pretoria’s was.
The letter by Farid Esack will be put on the eastern face of the wall this week by activists belonging to Sendamessage – a Dutch group that collects money over the Internet for painting messages to protest against the barrier Israel is building along the West Bank.
According to Israel, the barrier is designed to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out, but Palestinians say it juts into their land. The letter, to be sprayed in a single line against a white-paint background, is expected to take up over 2,500 meters of concrete beginning near Ramallah.
"Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation?" Esack writes to Palestinian readers. "In your land, we are seeing something far more brutal, relentless and inhuman than what we have ever seen under apartheid."
In another segment, he writes: "The apartheid police never used kids as shields … nor did the apartheid army ever use gunships and bombs against largely civilian targets."
Esack is a Muslim writer and political activist appointed by Nelson Mandela to preside as gender equity commissioner. His text, which deplores Israel's "targeted killings of those who dare to resist," does not mention Hamas' anti-Semitic ideology, the Palestinians' firing of rockets on Israeli civilians or suicide bombings.
"We chose this letter because it holds no provocation, but is a balanced and academic text, not cheap propaganda," the Dutch site's operator and concept designer, Justus van Oel, told Haaretz.
"We do not contest that the wall is protecting Israelis from attacks. But it's a short-term solution. Apartheid can never be a long-term solution," said van Oel, who works in part as a communications consultant.
He added that the cost of the letter project is estimated at 12,500 euros and that advertisers and private individuals sponsor 1.5-meter segments. The sponsors' signatures will be sprayed at the bottom of Esack's text.
The spraying, which begins Thursday, will be the work of Sendamessage's three Palestinian partners, led by Faris Arouri. "We think that we can get it done within eight full days," van Oel said. "It's impossible, but it's no reason not to do it." A documentary on the project will be filmed by Federico Campanale and Iona Hoogendoorn.
The open letter will be sprayed along with Sendamessage's other works, in which the spraying team puts up messages they receive from clients through the Internet for 30 euros. Since the group came into being in December 2007, it has put some 850 messages on the wall for around $33,500, according to van Oel.
Part of the money Sendamessage receives stays in Holland "to cover the minimal costs," van Oel says, with the bulk of the profits going to Palestinian non-governmental charities. "All recipients are linked to the network of ICCO, a large Dutch-Christian nonprofits, which only accepts legal organizations," he said.
Asked whether the money could go to educational projects that could be seen as hateful to Israelis and Jews, van Oel said: "I don't have an intelligence service there. It's about trust, and I do trust the people involved in this project."