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Giant eye murals bear witness to Palestinians in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) – A group of artists has filled a Palestinian area of east Jerusalem with paintings of large, wide-open eyes. The murals are a reminder that all eyes are on the neighbourhood of Silwan, a flashpoint where Palestinians said Israeli forces and settlers are working to drive them out of their homes.

The eye murals are so giant that they make you feel they are watching you wherever you walk in the neighbourhood. Many are painted on the walls of decaying Palestinian homes alongside national symbols.

“The staring eyes say to people that we see them and they should see us too,” said Director of Madaa-Silwan Creative Center Jawad Siyam.

“We want to say that we are here – we love our land and our home.”

Since 2015, the center has worked with US artists to create the murals and maintain them. In total, they have made about 2,000 feet of graffiti and paintings.

Murals that are part of the public art project ‘I Witness Silwan’ depicting the eyes of local and international figures, including George Floyd, a Black American killed by police, top right, in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem. PHOTO: AFP

The ‘I Witness Silwan’ art project depicts the eyes of Palestinian and international leaders and influencers. It also features symbols such as the goldfinch and poppy, which Palestinians call their national flower.

Organisers say the art project aims at drawing attention to the displacements the Palestinians face in this neighbourhood near the Old City of Jerusalem.

Israel occupied Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the holy city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim the eastern part as the capital of their future state. Peace talks between the two sides ground to a halt years ago.

The Silwan project said it aims to counter Israeli settler groups that work to boost the Jewish presence in predominantly Arab or Palestinian areas of the contested holy city.

Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem face Israeli arrests, home raids, demolitions, and the threat of evictions. Israeli rights group B’Tselem said Israel is “enjoying far-reaching powers with no accountability for their actions” in running the lives of Palestinians in the area.

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