Chinese international artist and human rights activist, Ai Weiwei, arrived in Israel yesterday, on his way to the Gaza Strip. Late yesterday afternoon, the artist posted two photos in his Instagram profile, showing his entry permit to the Israeli Ben Gurion International Airport, as well as his visa to enter Israel.
Weiwei arrived to conduct interviews in Jerusalem for a documentary film in progress. He later planned on entering the Gaza strip, but was prohibited to do so shortly after landing, probably by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Weiwei is currently staying at a hotel in Jerusalem, awaiting his permit to visit Gaza.
Photo: Ai Weiwei's Instagram account
The famous artist and activist, who only recently received a permit to leave China, has been working on a film about refugees worldwide, specifically refugees from Syria. Over the past months, he and his team have been filming in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Their current mission is to film in Gaza.
Throughout his filming period, Weiwei created art works on the subject of refugees in Europe; the artist staged himself as the dead Syrian child in a photo that has become a staple of the refugee crisis, and covered Berlin’s concert hall with 14,000 orange life-vests, in order to raise awareness to the ongoing flow of refugees arriving in broken-down boats to the shores of Europe, inevitably resulting in the death of many on the way.
Weiwei alongside Ayman Odeh, and Israeli-Arab MK
On Tuesday, May 10th in the afternoon, Weiwei was planned on entering the Gaza Strip for three days. The trip was coordinated with the Israeli production company, “Highlight”. On Tuesday evening, Erez crossing will close for three days, until after the Israeli Independence Day. Weiwei and his team planned on staying in Gaza throughout these days, to work with the Palestinian team awaiting their arrival. The production company received the refusal to enter Gaza without obtaining a formal reason for the refusal. The IDF is obligated to allow entry into Gaza only for the foreign press holders of the GPO. Weiwei’s team is not considered a team of journalists, and therefore the IDF is not required to allow their entry.
Weiwei is currently working to obtain a permit. Today, he started working on his interviews in the Israeli side, meeting with MK Ayman Odeh of the Joint List, to talk about the state of both the Palestinian refugees as well as refugees worldwide. Following the interviews, he will head out to film at refugee camps in the area of Bethlehem.
WeiWei and Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman in China. Photo by: Dorin Frankfurt
Weiwei is very active on social media, and he regularly posts about the refugee crisis. Prior to arriving in Israel, he published a few tweets on the Israeli-Palestinian subject of refugees, including a photo of Israeli fighter jets bombing Gaza, and retweeting a piece by the Guardian, titled “Netanyahu plans fence around Israel to protect it from 'wild beasts'”.
The COGAT’s spokesperson responded: “On May 3rd, we received Mr. Weiwei’s request to enter Gaza, only several days prior to his arrival. As in the case of every visit to Gaza, the request has to undergo inspection by security officials, and due to the short notice, we were unable to do so. We have now sent an urgent request to the Israeli Security Agency, but the request will not be taken care of before Independence Day, so Mr. Weiwei will have to stay in Israel for a few more days. We can’t promise his entry to Gaza, but we promise to take care of the request.”
Weiwei's orange life-vests installation, a close-up