General UK Media

Media Turn Banksy’s Small Anti-Israel Installation into Major News


Written by Tamar Sternthal

Photo of Bansky’s “Scar of Bethlehem” by Majdi Mohammed/AP

A major media event has hit the biblical town of Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace, just days before Christmas: The secretive artist Banksy has produced a new exhibit depicting the nativity scene with Israel’s concrete security barrier in the background, topped by a bullet hole in the shape of the iconic star characteristic of the manger.

The opening of what the artists has dubbed “The Scar of Bethlehem” has garnered vast coverage: articles include those by the Associated Press (“Banksy takes politically charged Nativity Scene to Bethlehem“), Agence France Presse (“Mysterious artist Bansky unveils dark nativity in Bethlehem“), Reuters (“Banksy’s scar of Bethlehem’ nativity unveiled in West Bank hotel“), Sky News (“Banksy “nativity” appears at his Walled Off hotel in Bethlehem“); The Mirror (“Banksy paints baby Jesus nativity scene. . . “), The Independent (Bansky unveils ‘Scar of Bethlehem’ nativity mural“), BBC (“Banksy ‘nativity scene’ appears in Bethlehem hotel“), CNN (“Banksy unveils ‘modified nativity’ scene in Bethlehem“), The Irish Independent (“Banksy highlights conflict with his ‘Scar of Bethlehem’ nativity“), videos by Reuters, Deutsche Welle, and Voice of America (seen below, the three-minute promotional piece does not include even one word about why the security barrier was built), and numerous photographs from the major wire services.

Based on the media frenzy, one would assume that the political art was a towering mural, a dominant feature in the city, outside the boutique Walled Off hotel, perhaps appearing on the security barrier itself, which sits right next to the high-end lodging based around Banksy’s work.

A visitor takes a picture of Banksy’s small installation, Dec. 22, 2019 (AP photo of Majdi Mohammed)

But far from being a huge mural which changes the face of the city itself, Banksy’s new piece is a small affair which sits atop a little end table inside the hotel. The diminutive size of the art installation, however, was apparently not a factor in the determination of news organizations to dedicate astounding amounts of high profile, high visibility coverage.

Editors considered the unveiling of “Scar of Bethlehem” so newsworthy that photographers used it as a hook for images of the hotel’s facade and the nearby security barrier; in other words, pictures which don’t even show the actual installation. Thus the accompanying caption for the image below states:

The Israeli security barrier stands near The Walled Off Hotel where a new artwork dubbed “scar of Bethlehem” by artist Banksy is displayed in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Has the opening of any other art exhibit – never mind a single small installation – ever garnered so must interest before in Israel or the West Bank, warranting headlines in numerous leading news organizations? None of the aforementioned media outlets which covered the opening of “Scar of Bethlehem” gave any coverage to the graffiti murals painted on Israeli bomb shelters by visiting international artists. According to Artists 4 Israel:

Artists 4 Israel’s team of international artists (over 1,000 participating artists representing 21 different countries) have painted over 800 murals across the world on everything from bomb shelters and orphanages to the middle of the most populous cities. These murals transform the grim reminders of war and terrorism into outdoor art galleries, beautify areas in need of renewal, add color to communities darkened by poverty and show that people in need are supported by Israel, artists and the creative communities of the world.

Wisam Salsa, general manager of the Walled Off hotel, speaks to journalists about a new artwork dubbed “Scar of Bethlehem” by the artist Banksy that is displayed in hotel, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Notably, Artists 4 Israel murals don’t trade in cheap anti-Israel propaganda in which Jesus and his family are depicted as Palestinians oppressed at the hands of the Israeli military, like the Banksy installation which places Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the foot of the bullet-scarred towering separation barrier. Falsely casting Jesus and his parents as Palestinian is standard Palestinian propaganda. As noted by CAMERA’s Tricia Miller, according to this formulation, “just as first century Jews persecuted Jesus, the Jewish State now persecutes Palestinians, the purported descendants of Jesus.” By giving the small installation such disproportionate coverage, journalists have provided an unfortunate platform to propagate the falsehoods.

Moreover, the suggestion that the Israeli military is firing on Jesus evokes ancient antisemitic charges of deicide. The widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism includes the following:

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Instead of exploring and exposing the antisemitic canard behind the installation, or choosing not to give the vitriolic message a platform, media outlets uniformly provided warm, approving coverage. As one tourist interviewed in a Reuters video put it:

I think it’s totally true that the connection is really, really important and Banksy found exactly how to tell without words the reality.

According to the anti-Israel, antisemitic line of reasoning so warmly adopted in the approving media reports, the “connection” is that just as Jews oppressed and killed Jesus long ago, today they oppress and kill his descendants, the Palestinians.

See also “Art at Banksy’s Bethlehem Hotel gives lie to media claim he merely seeks ‘dialogue‘” and “San Diego Union-Tribune’s ‘Christmyth’: Jesus’ Relatives Were Palestinian

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19 replies »

  1. So many honest artists are struggling for mere mention in international media, and all this time all they had to do was imbue some table-top nativity kitsch with fake anti-Israel tropes. Go figure …

    • “I think it’s totally true that the connection is really, really important and Banksy found exactly how to tell without words the reality.”

      Without words? No, what caught people’s attention was the play on words, “Scar of Bethlehem” and the notoriety of Banksy’s name on it. Without words no-one would have noticed.

  2. The blame for this sits squarely upon the Israel Interior Ministry that controls all the border crossings into Israel for letting him in – did they not know who he was? He could not have got to Beit Lechem without going through one of the crossing posts.
    Perhaps, some of the blame can be attributed indirectly to the Israeli Embassy in London for failing to alert the Ministry of Interior in Israel of the intended visit.
    All in all another foul up by Israel scoring an own goal!

      • Sorry, but I blame the one-note, virtue-signaling media for making this visual political hack far more important than the multitude of truly talented artists (streetwise or otherwise) — no doubt some of whom understand Middle East historical and political complexities on a level higher than a cartoon.

        Minus the epidemic of adulating agitprop disguised as mainstream news, this fraudulent doodler would remain in deserved obscurity and not worth any extra effort at Israeli borders.

      • If he were more educated (and talented), he obviously wouldn’t be trying to depict such reductive cliché messages with such obvious cliche images. Do you really think it’s some sort of genius to exchange “star” with “scar”? Give me a break …

        • This website has so many Tighty Righties that y’all still your shit when a liberal supports Israel. Give you a break? Give me a break. The comment called Banksy (who is probably a consortium of anonymous people, and not just one asswipe) uneducated, and you think I give him/her/it/them too much credit?

          I know, I know. Why defend Israel if you can’t fight everybody who thinks Trump is a walking and talking poopstain? Well, Evan II, liberals do support Israel. In fact, Israel is the most liberal, democratic state in that region.

        • Too True – why they din’t ban this scum from entering Beit Lechem – since the only way is through Israel is like an own goal. Moreover i is said he owns this dump

          • What the h- – – are you even talking about, kaufaxmitzva? No mention of Trump from me. I actually write art criticism on a professional level, and I am a liberal who supports Israel … and disdains hack artists who embrace reductive trendy political causes on issues they don’t even understand — like Banksy. Try again.

  3. Banksy, the anonymous artist, spends another Christmas spreading anti-Semitic tropes to the masses. When the Klan does it, people rightfully have issues. But when Banksy does it, he/she/it/they gets money. Hmmmm….

    As Jesus was a Jew, and he died a Jew, I suggest finding a baby doll and pummeling a nail through its forehead and dousing it with rat poison. That has more reality about the supposed modern day aspects of the West Bank.

  4. Skanksy should think about the families who won’t have a Merry Christmas because their loved ones were murdered by Islamofascist Terrorists.

    See 9/11, London’s 7/7, Pan Am 103, Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Mumbai, Nairobi, Lee Rigby, the people stabbed to death on London bridge.

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