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French Version

Graffiti for a cause

Looking for that special way to propose marriage? And show your support for the Palestinian cause at the same time? A joint Dutch-Palestinian initiative, Sendamessage.nl, allows anyone in the world to spray a message on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank from behind their computer.

Menassat, Here's what's happening in Arab media.

"Elizabeth and Jakob. Forever in my heart," reads one slogan signed Anna.

"Kasbah Rockers," says another. They are just a few of a number of intriguing slogans that have been appearing on Israel's controversial security wall in and around the West Bank.

Ostensibly created to keep Palestinian terrorists out of Israel proper, the wall has proved an irresistible target for artists and activists.

One of the latest initiatives is sendamessage.nl.

Launched in December 2007, it allows anyone in the world to email a message to the website which is then sprayed on a section of the wall in Ramallah by Palestinian volunteers in exchange for a 30 euro fee.

Any message, from poetry and cooking recipes to political statements and marriage proposals, is allowed in almost every language but hate speech against either Israelis or Palestinians is not permitted.

"You can basically write anything you want in any language want, except for Chinese which is due to a problem with our computer settings. We do ask you to give us an English translation of your message and we will double check before it actually gets painted," Justus van Oel, one of the founders of sendamessage.nl, told MENASSAT.

Until now, most spray orders have come from people in the United States or from European countries. A few have been from Jews supportive of the Palestinian issue; one of them reading, "In memory of Noah from his parents, American Jews against this Wall and all oppression of others."

The idea behind sendamessage.nl came from a series of Dutch-sponsored workshops for Dutch advertisers and young Palestinian artists in Ramallah. The group was seeking ways to empower the Palestinian point of view in the world arena.

Van Oel's own visit to the Occupied Territories three years ago served as a catalyst for his personal interest in the Palestinian cause.

"We were looking for a creative way to change the perception of Palestine on a low budget. It had to be cheap and different. We knew that we couldn't win on the [traditional] media front. So we decided to go with this project," van Oel said.

The site has received over 40,000 visits since it was launched in December.

According to the website, three quarters of the proceeds go directly to local NGO projects in the Palestinian territories. Benifiting projects include a children's garden, a basketball court, and materials for cinema students at Birzeit University in Ramallah.

Although the workshops were sponsored by the Dutch Christian NGO, ICCO, van Oel emphasized that sendamessage is a self-funded and independent organization.

"ICCO promotes and supports our project, but not money wise," he said.

Reaction so far has been positive. "People have found it amazing," said van Oel.

In the future, the group hopes to establish a partnership with Israeli human rights organizations in order to extend the project to the other side of the wall.

"We want to serve as an inspiration for both sides of the wall," said van Oel.

So far though, no Israeli tag orders have been placed to van Oel's knowledge.

He recalls only one minor incident.

"There was one time when the Israeli border police demanded a translation of one of the messages PFF had sprayed on the wall," said Van Oel.

The patrol had apparently asked for a correct English translation of a slogan that translated into "Mark married Cynthia."

"They were told that it really meant ‘Mark married Cynthia' and nothing else," said Van Oel.

Beirut,04 16 2008
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