Sunday 19 January 2020

Artists leave Israel after painting mural celebrating teenage protester

The work depicting Ahed Tamimi was painted in Bethlehem on Saturday.

A giant mural of prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi on part of the Israeli separation wall, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem (AP)
A giant mural of prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi on part of the Israeli separation wall, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem (AP)

By Isaac Scharf

Two Italian artists have left Israel after being arrested over a large mural of teenage Palestinian protester Ahed Tamimi which they painted on the West Bank separation barrier.

Jorit Agoch and Salvatore De Luis have been barred for 10 years from entering the country again, according to their lawyer, Azmi Masalha.

The artists painted the mural in Bethlehem on Saturday, a day before Ms Tamimi’s release after serving an eight-month sentence in prison for slapping two Israeli soldiers.

Ms Tamimi’s case had drawn international attention and she received a hero’s welcome in the West Bank after her release.

Israeli police said the artists were caught in the act and arrested for vandalism, and Israel cancelled their visas.

They were ordered to leave within three days.

Mr Masalha told The Associated Press that Israeli authorities did not pursue any criminal charges.

The artists have been barred from Israel for 10 years (AP)

Ms Tamimi, 17, was arrested in December after she slapped two Israeli soldiers outside her family home.

Her mother filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook, where it went viral and, for many, instantly turned the teenager into a symbol of resistance to Israel’s military rule over the Palestinians.

In Israel, she is seen by many either as a provocateur, an irritation or a threat to the military’s deterrence policy.

Mr Masalha said the artists drew the mural in a sign of “solidarity” with Ms Tamimi.

He said he viewed the artists’ arrest with suspicion when there are countless works of graffiti on the separation barrier, and questioned the timing so close to Ms Tamimi’s release.

The lawyer said: “They were arrested on the fourth day of carrying out this graffiti painting despite the fact that there is an observation tower of the military there and they were under this observation point from the first day and it’s interesting as to why this incident occurred on the fourth day.”

Mr Masalha said diplomatic officials from Italy were involved in securing the artists’ release.

Three recent posts on an Instagram account believed to be Mr Agoch’s had a photo of the mural in progress, a photo of an Israeli police vehicle and a black and white handwritten note reading: “Free thank all of you.”

The two artists left Israel on a Monday morning flight to Naples.

PA Media

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