Art has the possibility to unite different cultures into harmony and to create new options for individuals, in order to live and work together for justice, equality and peace.
Three Cities Against the Wall is an exhibition protesting the Separation Wall under construction by Israel in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. This project involves groups of artists in Ramallah, Palestine; Tel Aviv, Israel; and New York City. The show will be held simultaneously in all three cities in November 2005.
Through this collaborative exhibition, the organizers and participating artists will draw attention to the reality of the Wall and its disastrous impact on the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by the separation of Palestinian communities from each other and from their fertile lands, water resources, schools, hospitals and work places; thereby “contributing to the departure of Palestinian populations,” as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has warned.
The wall also robs and destroys the human spirit. Spiritual and cultural life cannot survive under these conditions, and we, as artists, find it necessary to fight this crime with the means which we posses.
This illegal Wall prevents the possibility of a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as based on the universal principles of equality and self-determination. It prolongs this conflict and the suffering that results from it. Therefore we Israeli, Palestinian and American artists resist this wall and its devastating impact, and aim to call attention to the urgency of dismantling the Wall which threatens any peaceful future in both Israel and Palestine for all.
The Separation Wall was found to be illegal by an advisory opinion given by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague on July 9, 2004. In its ruling, the ICJ stated: “The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, [is] contrary to international law.”
Who we are
Curatorial and organizing committees for Three Cities Against the Wall, comprised of local artists and activists, have been established in each of the three participating cities. These committees have each invited the participation of numerous artists, each of whom has been asked to provide three works to be exhibited in all three locations.
In Palestine, Tayseer Barakat, founder of the League of Palestinian Artists and curator of Gallery Barakat, and Sliman Mansour are organizing the exhibition. The organizations involved are the League of Palestinian Artists and the Palestinian Association of Contemporary Art (PACA).
In Israel the project is organized by a group of artists and activists that came together to resist the wall through art and culture. Members of the group are also associated with the Israeli Coalition Against the Wall; Taayush; and Anarchists Against the Wall. These groups are very active in protests and projects, both in Israel and Palestine, against the construction of the Wall and the occupation, including protests where there have been many victims, Palestinian, Israeli, and international.
In New York, Three Cities Against the Wall is organized through the arts center ABC No Rio by a committee of artists and activists, a number of them associated with the radical comic magazine World War 3 Illustrated. World War 3 Illustrated was founded in 1979 to oppose the right-wing policies of Ronald Reagan. It has been publishing art and articles in support of the rights of the Palestinian people since 1988, when it published an interview with Naji-Ali. ABC No Rio is a community center for the arts that grew out of the housing struggles on New York’s Lower East Side. Many of the organizers in New York participate in the International Solidarity Movement, Women In Black, SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now), International Women’s Peace Service, Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation, and other groups opposed to Israel’s unjust occupation.
Our Vision: A world without borders
In the process of creating Three Cities Against the Wall, the organizers and participating artists are building networks and creating relationships between their respective communities to oppose both Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and the Wall as a symbol of that oppression.
Yet while American, Palestinian, and Israeli artists are showing their work together in this exhibition, we understand that the relationship amongst them is not one of equality. The relationship between Palestinians and Israelis has been compared to that between prisoners and guards, with U.S. cittizens as the patrons of this prison. Americans finance Israel through their tax dollars; some also finance Israel through contributions to Zionist organizations. The Wall is horrifying because it casts these relationships in concrete, making Palestinian imprisonment more thorough and more permanent.
Ironically, there is also an opportunity created by the Wall: this physical barrier makes the oppression of Palestinians more visible. Artists can use the Wall as a metaphor to educate the public. We are working together because we understand that, by uniting our voices, we are more likely to be heard and will therefore be better able to inform the public of the true nature of this catastrophic situation. We also want to demonstrate that within the Israeli and the American public there is opposition to the Wall.
We are laying the foundation for building a community of artists across borders, and will demonstrate, through combined effort, our opposition to injustice and oppression on moral and ethical grounds, and because injustice and oppression engender a separation between peoples, preventing normal human communication between them.
We believe that the world of the future is a world without borders. We support the right of a Turk to work in Germany, of a Haitian to seek refuge in the United States, of a Croat to live peacefully in Serbia. Thus we also support the right of a Palestinian, a Jew, or anyone else to live in the city of their choice, to enjoy all the privileges of citizenship there, and to travel freely to and from their chosen place of residence. This is not a radical demand but a natural human expectation. The attempts of 20th century governments to control demographics through genocide, forced transfer and other coercive means have been a disaster and such policies must be discarded. It is tragic that at a time when governments in Europe are discussing the possibility of open borders, Israel is building a border of cement and steel. We oppose the Wall because it is a wall against the future.
A full-color catalog of Three Cities Against the Wall, including essays by writers, critics, and activists from all three communities, is to be be published by Vox Pop Press in November.