Banksy hotel in Palestinian West Bank with ‘worst view in the world’ divides locals

New project aiming to bring Israelis to Bethlehem met with criticism by activists

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British artist Banksy’s latest venture in the West Bank has drawn criticism from some Palestinians who say it is “conflict tourism” which “normalises” the Israeli occupation.

The 'Walled Off Hotel’ opened in an Israeli-military controlled part of Bethlehem earlier this month. Its 10 rooms all face the Israeli separation wall which cuts through large parts of the West Bank. Constructed in 2002, the International Court of Justice ruled the wall is illegal under international law. At its closest point it runs just five metres away from the hotel’s entrance.  

As well as boasting the “worst view in the world”, Banksy said in a statement that his take on the Waldorf, which contains a museum, gift shop and gallery, is designed to be a “three-storey cure for fanaticism.”

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(Reuters)

The “dystopian colonial” interior is filled with Banksy artworks and installations commenting on the Middle Eastern conflict.

While any Israelis who want to visit have to make an illegal journey on Palestinian-controlled roads in order to reach it, Banksy and the hotel’s workers are still hopeful it will encourage dialogue between people on both sides of the conflict. 

However, the project has been met with opposition by Palestinians who believe it trivialises their plight.

Amjad al-Qaisi, an adviser at the Al Haq Centre for Applied International Law, told Middle East Eye that initially he thought the hotel was a good idea, but he worries that it is an oversimplification of the conflict.

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The view from one of the rooms at Banksy's new Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. Some locals are unhappy with the project (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

"This whole idea of let's drink coffee or have a beer together that the hotel seems to be suggesting doesn't reflect at all the situation on the ground,” he said.  

“The situation here is a brutal form of colonisation, which goes hand-in-hand with forcible displacement and the erasure of the Palestinian identity.”

There has also been anger at the fact the hotel intends to sell graffiti materials so guests, like Banksy before them, can leave their mark on the wall. Foreigners have long been criticised for such behaviour, which the hotel acknowledges.

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Banksy opened his Walled Off Hotel for a special viewing for locals and journalists earlier this month (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

"Some people don't agree with painting the wall and argue anything that trivialises or normalises its existence is a mistake. Then again, others welcome any attention brought to it and the ongoing situation. So in essence - you can paint it, but avoid anything normal or trivial," the Walled Off’s website says.

The Walled Off Hotel opens its doors to guests on March 20.

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