Khaled Jarrar's West Bank Rainbow Ignites LGBT Rights Debate
While Americans across the country celebrate the legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court, LGBT pride in the Palestinian community took a step back due to a controversial rainbow-themed mural. In late June, Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar painted a rainbow mural titled Through The Spectrum on the dividing “Israeli Apartheid wall” in the West Bank. Within hours, a group of Palestinian men had completely erased the work by painting a thick layer of white over the rainbow stripes in the middle of the night.
The mural, which was painted in broad daylight while Palestinian citizens and Israeli soldiers looked on, caused controversy because of a sharp divide over the status of gay rights in Palestine and Israel. However, Jarrar insisted that the work was not about LGBT acceptance in Palestine: “I am not shying away from any debate that our society should have by using these colors, but I believe the colors of the rainbow represent love, humanity and freedom.”
This is not the first time the artist has courted political controversy with his art. Jarrarr was born in the heated West Bank territory and lives a mere 70 meters from the solid concrete wall that has sectioned off and isolated Palestine from Israel for over a decade. In 2013, he produced a documentary called Infiltrators that followed a group of Palestinians as they attempted to scale the wall and his Whole in the Wall series uses pieces of the wall that were chiseled off to create sculptures that reference aspects of Palestinian culture he felt were endangered by Israel’s dividing wall.
No matter what the original intention of the piece was, it’s clear that the artwork is going to live on as an important symbol of the fight for gay rights internationally despite only existing for a few hours before its unfortunate defacement. It now stands as a testament to the ongoing struggle for acceptance that LGBT individuals face across the world.
“By subverting a symbol of freedom and self-determination to apply in broader contexts that include our own plight as Palestinians, I wanted to use the rainbow colors to open a passionate dialogue,” Jarrar explained. “While the work is now whitewashed, the debate continues.”
All images via Khaled Jarrar’s Facebook.