Guerrilla Artist Banksy in Holy Land
For years he has tickled Londoners with his provocative daubings. He claims a legion of celebrity fans and recently sold one of his images for a record £322,000 at auction. Now "Guerrilla Artist" Banksy has returned to the Holy Land, with his trademark stencils and spray paints, in an effort to revive the tourist industry and stir interest in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
The Bristol-born artist has struck again with a series of stencilled works on and around the highly controversial security barrier ringing Bethlehem - with six ironic images, including a dove wearing a flak jacket and a soldier being frisked by a young girl.
Banksy, who has successfully outfoxed the art world over his identity, has "tagged" the 436-mile West Bank wall before. In 2005, he stencilled nine scenes of life beyond the concrete wall, sparking a craze for international graffiti artists to leave their mark on the eight metre-high concrete barrier and winning plaudits from human rights campaigners for his satirical attack on the wall, which borders large sections of the occupied territories.
His latest publicity stunt is timed to coincide with today's opening of an exhibition of his work, and that of other artists, in the city which aims to bring tourists back to Bethlehem over the Christmas period.
Banksy said: "Because of the troubles Bethlehem is no longer a top tourist destination, but it would be good if more people came to see the situation for themselves.
"If it is safe enough for a bunch of sissy artists, then it is safe enough for anyone."
Visitors will be able to buy original Banksy works at his Santa's Ghetto exhibition in the city until Christmas Eve.
The highly controversial wall, constructed by Israel under the claim that it provides security for its people, has been condemned by activists and declared illegal by the United Nations. It now showcases the work of possibly the most well-known and popular graffiti artist around.
To see more of Banksy's work in the West Bank, visit this slideshow.
© 2007 The Guardian