'Lost' Banksy painting created in West Bank resurfaces in Tel Aviv gallery

A painting by the British graffiti artist Banksy has resurfaced in an art gallery in Tel Aviv, an hour’s drive away from the concrete wall in the occupied West Bank where it was initially sprayed.

The 'lost' Banksy artwork which turned up 43 miles away from its original location in Bethlehem
Pic: Banksy
The 'lost' Banksy artwork which turned up 43 miles away from its original location in Bethlehem Pic: Banksy

The painting – which depicts a slingshot-toting rat – is a protest against the Israeli occupation.

It initially appeared near Israel’s separation barrier in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem and was one of several works created in secret around 2007.

Banksy’s trademark imagery was used to protest against Israel’s decades-long occupation of territories the Palestinians want for a future state.

The artwork now resides at the Urban Gallery in the heart of Tel Aviv’s financial district, surrounded by glass and steel skyscrapers.

It’s new owner Koby Abergel, an Israeli art dealer and partner in the gallery, said: “This is the story of David and Goliath.”

The 43-mile journey it made from the West Bank to Tel Aviv is shrouded in secrecy. The 900lb concrete slab would have had to pass through Israel’s barrier and at least one military checkpoint.

Mr Abergesaid he bought the concrete slab from a Palestinian associate in Bethlehem. He declined to disclose the sum he paid or identify the seller, but insisted on the deal’s legality.

The graffiti artwork was spray-painted on a concrete block that was part of an abandoned Israeli army position in Bethlehem, next to a soaring concrete section of the separation barrier.

It was later targeted by pro-Israeli protesters who sprayed paint on the artwork and scrawled “RIP Bansky Rat” on the block.

Palestinian residents cut out the painting and kept it in private residences until earlier this year, Mr Abergel said.

He said the relocation involved delicate negotiations with his Palestinian associate and careful restoration to remove the acrylic paint sprayed over Banksy’s work.

Jeries Qumsieh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Tourism Ministry, said: “This is theft of the property of the Palestinian people.

“Transferring them, manipulating them and stealing them is definitely an illegal act.”

Banksy has created numerous artworks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including one depicting a girl conducting a body search on an Israeli soldier.

He also designed the “Walled Off Hotel” guesthouse in Bethlehem, which is filled with his artwork.

A spokesperson for Banksy did not respond to requests for comment.

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