The British artist Banksy — who keeps his identity a secret — has opened a hotel in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. The hotel itself is a work of art, which, according to the artist’s website, attempts to tell the story of the conflict from all sides and facilitate dialogue and understanding. They “offer an especially warm welcome to young Israelis” who wish to venture into the Palestinian city.
Though set to open later this month, the hotel’s opening ceremony was held this week, with British musician Sir Elton John (remotely) performing as the guest of honor.
Elton John was an excellent choice. Having performed in Israel multiple times, he has taken a strong stand against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — which seeks to isolate Israel with the end goal of eliminating it as the Jewish state — and in favor of dialogue and cooperation.
“No one could have stopped me from coming here,” he said at his 2010 show in Tel Aviv. “We’re spreading peace and love on this stage and we’re happy to be here.”
We at Creative Community For Peace (CCFP) — an organization comprised of prominent members of the entertainment industry dedicated to promoting the arts as a means to peace and to countering the cultural boycott of Israel — applaud the opening of this hotel and its attempt at dialogue. As we have long believed, art broadens our horizons, opens us to new perspectives, and allows us to connect on the most basic human level.
While we hope that the hotel will serve this purpose just like Elton did in Tel Aviv, it is important to make some clarifications.
The first is that the hotel itself is located in a city that is under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, due to safety concerns, Jewish Israeli citizens are not generally permitted to enter these cities, making it rather difficult for Israelis to be part of the dialogue taking place within the hotel.
The second is that the security barrier itself has long served as a source of inaccurate and inflammatory rhetoric against Israel, which has merely served to increase tension and dampen hope for rational dialogue. Banksy himself has been creating works of art on the barrier for quite some time, which unfortunately have shown a one sided view of the conflict.
The obvious choice of the location of the hotel and its namesake — alongside the security barrier — was selected for its symbolism. It is important to remember that, despite the ugliness of the barrier and the hardships it has certainly placed on Palestinian civilians, it was constructed to keep all citizens of Israel, be they Jewish, Arab, Christian, Druze or Bedouin, safe from daily acts of terrorism.
Despite these challenges and concerns, we wish the hotel great success with its stated aim of creating dialogue through art. We encourage the hotel proprietors to not allow this hotel to become a one-sided marketing tool of propaganda, but instead to use art as a tool to truly bring people together and encourage thoughtful, engaged and respectful dialogue. We at CCFP will continue to work to accomplish the same, and offer our support to find new avenues of creative collaboration.