Another ad on the wall

Dutch organization sells space on the West Bank security barrier.

security barrier painting 248 88 (photo credit: )
security barrier painting 248 88
(photo credit: )
The security barrier between Israel and the West Bank is getting a commercial face-lift. A venture by a Dutch organization allows Internet users around the world to get their personal message on the Palestinian side of the barrier, part of which is a concrete gray wall, for €30 per missive. The maximum 80-character messages, which are sent over the Web and then spray-painted on the wall by a Ramallah-based Palestinian group, are then digitally photographed, with three copies of their missives on the wall sent back to clients via e-mail. Both humorous and serious messages are acceptable, while obscene, offensive and extremists texts will be rejected, the organizers say. Some of the messages shown at are blatantly political while others are surprisingly romantic. "Elisabeth and Jakob - Forever in my heart - Anna," one message pictured on the Web site reads. Others are unequivocal. "Take down that wall," reads one message spray-painted in red capital letters. The initiators of the Dutch-Palestinian venture say that the goal is to encourage Palestinians living in the West Bank. "Your message on the wall reminds Palestinians that they have not been forgotten. It helps them keeping [sic] hope alive. That's the message you are sending to them, whatever the words are," the site says. "Our aim is to make sure there is another method of communication aside from throwing rocks," said Ben Melis, a director of the Dutch organization which initiated the project. "We have no illusion that what we are doing will make the wall go away or change things, but we want to address the issue to raise awareness." He said that more than 800 people from around the world had sent a message via the Web site since it was launched a year and a half ago. A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday that the office was "unaware" of the international spray-paint venture. The Web site omits any of the barrier's security benefits, and focuses solely on the human suffering it has caused by separating some Palestinian families and dividing their communities and businesses. Potential customers are told that there is no danger for Palestinians in spray-painting on the wall in the West Bank, noting that the territory is "a lot more stable than in far away Gaza." "'Our' Palestinians will never risk their lives to get your message on the wall," the Web site states. The initiative, which was started by a group of Dutch advertisers during a visit to Ramallah, is supported by the Dutch NGO ICCO as well as Oxfam. Organizers say that the revenue is intended to support grassroots social and cultural projects in the West Bank via accredited Palestinian NGOs, and that the money does not go to buy weapons for the Palestinians.