The
Image: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images The "Walled-Off Hotel" has nine rooms, each decorated with samples of Banksy's art, including one with a mural depicting a Palestinian man with his face shrouded in a keffiyeh having a pillow fight with an Israeli paramilitary policeman

Banksy, the provocative British graffiti artist known for his politically barbed work, opened a hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 3, 2017, just a few meters from Israel's security barrier. 

The "Walled-Off Hotel" has nine rooms, each decorated with samples of Banksy's art, including one with a mural depicting a Palestinian man with his face shrouded in a keffiyeh having a pillow fight with an Israeli paramilitary policeman. 

Rooms look out over the security barrier and Banksy described the guesthouse as having the worst view of any hotel in the world.

'The Walled Off' hotel sits across from the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank
Image: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images 'The Walled Off' hotel sits across from the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank

The project is the latest of several by the elusive artist in the occupied Palestinian territories. Murals he previously painted on the separation barrier — a dove of peace wearing a flak jacket; a girl frisking an Israeli soldier — have become iconic images reproduced on postcards and refrigerator magnets. 

After Israel's 2014 war against Hamas, the Islamist militant group, in the Gaza Strip, the artist produced pictures and a satirical film.

"Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before Trump made it cool," the artist told Britain's Channel 4 News on Friday.

A model monkey carrying bags is seen outside the hotel
Image: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images A model monkey carrying bags is seen outside the hotel

Bethlehem is popular with Christian pilgrims. However, many of the city's hotels suffer from low occupancy outside the Christmas season because of security concerns, and tour operators often bring in visitors only for the day, returning them to sleep in Israeli hotels.

Israel built a network of walls and fences, sections of which run in the occupied West Bank, in response to the violence of the second intifada in the early 2000s. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the barrier was in breach of international law. 

Banksy's new hotel brought mixed reactions from Palestinians on Friday. Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said it was an "excellent initiative". 

"Israel's monopoly over tourism makes thousands ignore the facts around them, including the annexation wall," he wrote on Twitter. 

Three models of angels wearing oxygen masks hang from the ceiling above the piano in the dining room at the Walled-Off Hotel
Image: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Three models of angels wearing oxygen masks hang from the ceiling above the piano in the dining room at the Walled-Off Hotel

However, Fadi Kattan, proprietor of Hosh Al-Syrian, a guesthouse and restaurant in Bethlehem's Old City, criticised the artist for opening a hotel that will compete with local institutions and — because of its location — "fetishise" the wall by making it a tourist attraction. 

"It's very awkward that a social artist like Banksy decided to open up a hotel in Bethlehem," Kattan said. "Is it not in competition with local hotels? And isn't it a bizarre way to take a stance in support of the Palestinians?"


This article was originally published by the Financial Times
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