The Many Uses of Israeli Tools of Occupation: From Flower Gardens to Christmas Trees

Recent images of a small sailing boat made of plastic bottles by Palestinians in Gaza got us thinking about all the innovative ways in which Palestinians – under occupation and often short of resources – reconfigure the material of Israeli occupation from tools of devastation to tools of art, resistance, and hope.

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Often confronted by a barrage of tear gas canisters fired off by Israel Defense Forces soldiers at Palestinian demonstrators (the Israeli defense industry has even devised a machine that fires off dozens of canisters in one minute), many Palestinians have started to collect and reuse them, such as this family planting a garden in the village of Bilin, near Ramallah. The village’s lands were subject to expropriation by Israel, which intended to build the separation barrier on the lands. After a legal challenge, the wall was re-routed.

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Celebrating Christmas 2013 under occupation,  Palestinians decorated Christmas trees in Bethlehem’s Manger Square with painted canisters and a peace symbol made of tear gas and grenade canisters. Most of the tear gas used by Israel are manufactured by the Pennsylvania-based Combined Systems Inc.

Protest against the occupation, Nabi Saleh, West Bank, 10.4.2015

Protest against the occupation, Nabi Saleh, West Bank, 10.4.2015

Palestinians in the village of Nabi Saleh have been marching every Friday against Israeli efforts to seize their lands. Residents have even been barred from visiting the village spring after Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Halamish took it over.  Earlier this month, the children of Nabi Saleh decorated canisters with flowers alongside one of the village’s streets.

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Palestinian activists and artists Sami Musa and Mohammed Khatib made miniatures of Israeli symbols of occupation – walls, barbed wire, rifles, security cameras and the ever ubiquitous tear gas – and re-framed them in an exhibition titled “Chic-Art-Resistance,” which traveled to Ramallah and Bethlehem in December 2013. “We came up with these art pieces which express daily suffering [and] turned tools of murder used by the Israeli occupation against us into tools granting hope in life, liberation and independence,” Khatib said at the time and added his hope that the exhibition “stimulates all people to get engaged in popular resistance.”

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And there is no better illustration of art under occupation than the separation barrier; which is painted with countless illustrations as seen here in Bethlehem, where the barrier cuts through the city.