Gaza Artists Union Defends Culture From Political Warfare

Roughly 600 Gazan artists held a conference in Gaza City on Feb. 28 to form a new Palestinian artists’ union in a bid to preserve their work. The gathering of the General Union of Palestinian Artists is the first of its kind to be held in Gaza in two decades.

The conference sought to address Gaza’s neglected music and art scene, which has been hampered by war and Palestinian political division. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Yusuf Almeghari, a member of the conference steering committee, said that the gathering concluded with a series of recommendations, including electing a 78-member board, which would involve all the political parties in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

“I can tell you that many of those who attended had tears [in their eyes] because it was the first time we held such a gathering, which, we hope, will constitute the beginning of organized artistic activities across the territory,” Almeghari said.

Wars with Israel and political infighting between Hamas and Fatah have resulted in a lack of interest in Gaza’s art scene as well as funding for it. As a consequence, musicians in the Gaza Strip face significant challenges, including a dearth of professional training and fellow professional musicians.

Dwindling art in Gaza

In 1986, Mohammad Abu al-Seoud, a 50-year-old local musician in the central Gaza Strip town of Deir Elbalah, began composing and writing melodies for patriotic songs, but the veteran composer stopped working in 2004, citing a lack of support from authorities.

“I have spent all my life in music, and I have performed many melodies, even on Palestine TV prior to the 2007 political split in Gaza. Yet, I have increasingly felt disappointed as the musical scene in Gaza has become worse than ever, mainly because of the lack of music schools and professional training,” Seoud told Al-Monitor at his modest family home.

One band that took part in the conference was the National Band for Folkloric Palestinian Arts, which is one of the few leading national bands in the occupied Gaza Strip that primarily performs patriotic songs.

“Our band was established in 1996, and since then it has taken part in a series of performances locally and regionally, including festivals in Haifa, which was a Palestinian city prior to 1948, as well as in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia,” said Walid Ataiya, the band’s deputy director. The band consists of 35 members, including 7 women between the ages of 18 and 25, who perform the folkloric Levantine dabka dance.

In addition to producing new content, the band also revives famous Palestinian nationalist poetry, such as the late Mahmoud Darwish’s “We Can Never Forget Our Ancestors, We Can Never Forget the Days of Dignity,” Ataiya explained. The band’s ability to perform in Gaza, however, has been routinely disrupted since 2006 due to the political climate.

Fatah-Hamas split harms music scene

According to Swailam Alabsi, a well-known scenarist and film director in Gaza, the composition of patriotic songs has suffered because of a lack of patronage by the relevant authorities, as well as the absence of music schools, as reported by Asmaa al-Ghoul.

Patriotic music, once a hallmark of Palestine’s national resistance movement, has fractured along factional lines, according to Alabsi. “I personally have written hundreds of patriotic songs since 1967. The songs used to promote national trends, but since the Oslo peace accords, unfortunately, patriotic songs have begun to appear in different forms and colors, each representing a political faction,” he said.

Regardless, the national band continues to write patriotic songs that “only go with the national aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Alabsi explained.

“Even in the time of Oslo itself, I personally composed a song that was anti-Palestinian Authority corruption during the time of late President Yasser Arafat himself. Arafat told me, ‘Do not worry Swailam, the situation will get better,’” he said.

The internal split among Palestinian factions resulted in the national band being used as a political weapon of Hamas and Fatah. The band has faced restrictions in Gaza and an attempted takeover by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“We have been facing lots of restrictions from local authorities here. For instance, they will not allow us to broadcast a certain song on a local radio station, or they prevent a certain singer from performing a certain song. We want real patronage of patriotic clips or songs that reflect the national Palestinian scene independent of any political affiliation,” Alabsi said while calling for Hamas and Fatah to repair their differences.

Nahed al-Hour, director of the national band, revealed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had issued a decree three years ago to place the band under the auspices of the Ramallah-based authority.

“So far, such a decree has not seen the light for reasons that we do not know,” he said, appealing to all parties concerned to support his band and respect its non-partisan stance.

Union brings hope

The formation of the new union is in response to the neglect and politicization of Gaza’s art scene. Among the recommendations are, according to Almeghari, establishing acting and music schools in Gaza, having musicians and actors participate in festivals abroad to represent Palestinian art and folklore, and holding local shows at public theaters to generate much-needed income for the continued development of the arts in Gaza.

Almeghari emphasized that those elected at the conference will represent the Gaza union at an upcoming general summit for the Palestinian arts, to be held in either Ramallah or Gaza. The new union is part of a growing movement of grassroots Palestinians frustrated with the continued political division between Hamas and Fatah negatively affecting Palestinian life.

“We deeply hope that the current political split will come to an end once and for all and that we Palestinian artists will have our own home for all of us, irrespective of political affiliations,” Almeghari said.

Editor’s note: Yusuf Almeghari is a relative of the author.

Rami Almeghari is an independent journalist based in Gaza.

This article appeared here  http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/03/gaza-forms-new-artist-union.html#ixzz2MPpx3o1P

The Real News on repression and cultural resistance in Gaza with footage of Tales of a City by the Sea’s public reading

Gaza audience feedback following the public reading of Tales of a City by the Sea

Photo Gallery: Gaza public reading of Tales of a City by the Sea

A reading of the play Tales of a City by the Sea took place in Gaza city at the Qattan Centre for the Child followed by a discussion on January 17th  2013.   The reading was part of ongoing efforts by international artists to break the cultural siege of Gaza and to work collaboratively with local talent.  What resulted from this event was a profound experience for both the writer, the cast and the audience.  The audience feedback (video will be uploaded next week) highlighted the need for creating more space for cultural and artistic events in the besieged Gaza strip.

The Gaza team from left: Khaled Harara, Eman Hilles, Sameeha Olwan, Ayman Qwaider, Mohammed Ghalayini, Manar Zimmo, Alaa Shoublaq, Samah Sabawi, Mahmoud Hammad, Najwan Anbar, Alia Abu Oriban and Ayah Abubasheer.

Sameeha Olwan

Sameeha Olwan reading the part of Jomana.

From left: Mohammed Ghalayini, Ayman Qwaider and Mahmoud Hammad

From left Mohammed Ghalayini reading the part of Rami, Ayman Qwaider reading the part of Ali and Mahmoud Hammad as Mohanad.

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Manar Zimmo reading the part of Lama.

From left:  Mahmoud Hammad, Alaa Shoublaq, Mohammed Ghalayini and Ayman Qwaider

From left:  Mahmoud Hammad as Mohanad Alaa Shoublaq as Abu Ahmed, Mohammed Ghalayini as Rami and Ayman Qwaider as Ali.

Eman Hilles

Eman Hilles was the narrator of our Tales.

Mohamad Akilah

Gaza esteemed musician Mohamad Akilah.

Najwan F. Anbar

Najwan Anbar reading the part of Um Ahmed

In Gaza Tales of a City by the Sea at Qattan Centre for the Child

FinalPoster

Palestine Youth Orchestra: the sound of resistance

A comprehensive analysis of the arguments surrounding the call for a cultural boycott of Israel

By Samah Sabawi

This paper was prepared for the 7arakat Conference: Theatre, Cultural Diversity and Inclusion November  2012 and was first published in the 7arakat conference E:Proceedings. 

Introduction

International artists find themselves standing at a crossroad between their desire to support all forms of artistic expression, Israeli or otherwise, and the Palestinian civil society’s call to support a cultural boycott of all Israeli state sponsored forms of art. Some argue art and culture are apolitical and boycotting them is an infringement on freedom of expression.  They insist that art is a language of peace and building bridges. Others argue that culture and art are in fact political and can serve as tools of political propaganda and repression.  They highlight the responsibility of artists to affect change by raising awareness about political and social issues. In this paper, I will set out to explore the relationship between the culture and politics within the Palestinian Israeli conflict, while examining the arguments for and against the Palestinian Civil Society’s call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

Boycott Divestment and Sanctions – BDS

Confronting a failed peace process and a disappearing Palestinian state, and inspired by the South African movement to end apartheid, Palestinian civil society in 2005 set out to build a rights based grassroots movement that adopts a non-violent form of resistance based on international law and the universal declarations of human rights. They called on people of good conscience around the world to apply boycotts divestments and sanctions on Israel until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem, and fulfills its obligations under international law toward the Palestinian refugees, granting full equality to the Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. Endorsed by 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements representing Palestinians in the Occupied Territory, inside Israel’s 1948 boundaries, as well as in Diaspora, the 2005 BDS call represents the voice of the majority of Palestinian civil society and its three demands articulate a unified Palestinian vision that cannot be dismissed. The BDS call is now endorsed by hundreds of leading international human rights activists, including prominent figures such as Stephane Hessel (2010), co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Holocaust survivor.

The Palestinian Campaign for Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PCABI)

In 2006 the majority of Palestinian cultural workers, including most filmmakers and artists along with hundreds of international cultural workers and artists issued a unified statement in support of BDS. Today the list of artists who have publically joined the cultural boycott and have cancelled performances in Israel includes celebrities from around the world like Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Annie Lennox, Brian Eno, Devendra Banhart, Tommy Sands, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron amongst many others. The list also includes some incredible writers like Eduardo Galeano, Arundhati Roy and Alice Walker, as well as accomplished filmmakers such as Ken Loach and Jean-Luc Godard.

However, not all artists respond favorably to the boycott call. Some still choose to perform in Israel like pop icons Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga to name a few. These artists insist that performing in Israel is about promoting peaceful co-existence by bringing people together. They maintain that cultural events such as concerts are apolitical and should remain so. They complain that the boycotts single out Israel unfairly and that artists – according to Elton John – should not “cherry-pick” their conscious (“Elton John performs in Israel”). They also argue that boycotts are a blunt instrument that amounts to collective punishment of the Israeli people.

Is culture apolitical?

In order to understand the relationship between culture and politics within the Palestinian Israeli context it is important to review the history of Palestinian culture and the political challenges it has faced throughout the years of the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

In an article that appeared in Haaretz (15 May 2012) commemorating Nakba, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi described Palestinian society prior to Israel’s establishment in1948 as highly developed commercially, artistically and culturally. Its economic development was one of the highest in the Arab World and its high school enrolment was second highest with 379 private schools as early as 1914, and dozens of bookstores. In fact, Ashrawi wrote that between the years 1911 and 1948 Palestine had at least 161 newspapers, magazines and other publications and a vibrant cultural scene with cinemas, live theatres and musical concerts both by local artists as well as visiting giants like Egyptian icon Om Kalthoum and the Lebanese singer Farid Alatrash.

All of this was disrupted in 1948 when Israel was established on the ruins of Palestinian villages. Since then Palestinian culture became the target of a systematic and deliberate attempt at erasure by the Israeli authorities. For example, a story which broke out only this year on Al Jazeera titled “The Great Book Robbery” uncovered how during the process of establishing the state of Israel, librarians from Israel’s National Library accompanied the Israeli army into Palestinian homes after their residents were driven out and systematically took all the books that were left in these houses. The books included priceless volumes of Palestinian Arab and Muslim literature, including poetry, works of history, art and fiction. Thousands of these books were destroyed but some were added to the library’s collection and remain till this day in the Israeli National Library, designated, abandoned property – of course totally disregarding the fact that this property does belong to a people who were forced to leave and never permitted to return to their homes or to be reunited with any of their assets, including their books.

Another example of the politicization of culture in the Palestinian Israeli context is how British and then Israeli authorities often targeted not only Palestinian political leaders, but also artists and intellectuals, imprisoning them, banishing them into exile, and even assassinating them. Amongst the artists and intellectuals assassinated by Israel were writer Ghassan Kanafani (Abukhalil 2012) and poet and intellectual Wael Zuaiter (Jacir 2007). Also of great significance to this discussion is how during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Israeli forces looted and confiscated the accumulated national archives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which included valuable and rare collections of films and other Palestinian cultural artifacts (IMEU 2012).

Israel’s attack on Palestinian culture continues today and takes many different shapes and forms. Palestinian artists in the occupied and besieged West Bank and Gaza suffer the same fate as all other Palestinians living under occupation. They are discriminated against, their movement is restricted, and their most basic human rights are denied. Israel does not distinguish between culture and politics. In 2005, when Former deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, launched the ‘Brand Israel’ campaign he admitted  “We are seeing culture as a hasbara toolof the first rank,and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture” (Ben-Ami 2005). This was abundantly clear in the aftermath of Israel’s three-week bombardment of Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009. As the world witnessed in shock the incredible devastation and human suffering of an imprisoned 1.5 million people mostly refugees and half under the age of 18, Israel brushed off all criticism, blaming the outrage over its actions on bad public relations. Its solution to improve its image as revealed in a New York Times article (Bronner 2009) was not to address its record of violations, but to grant an extra $2 million from the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s budget to improve its image through “cultural and information diplomacy”. Arye Mekel, the ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs, was quoted in the article saying, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater
companies, exhibits…This way you show Israel’s prettier
face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war” (Bronner 2009).

Mekel’s quote is a perfect illustration of how, if you dig beneath the surface, you’ll find that many Israeli state sponsored events that may seem to be simply cultural and for pure entertainment purposes are in fact driving political agendas and whitewashing crimes similar to those committed in Gaza.  In fact, Israel goes so far in its manipulation of cultural events that it has made it a condition for artists who receive state funding to sign a contract stipulating they commit to “ promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel” (Laor 2008).  In other words, Israeli artists who are sponsored by the Israeli state are required to support the policies of the state in public and to remain silent on Israel’s discrimination and atrocities against the Palestinians. This was confirmed when Israeli pop music artist Idan Raichel admitted in an interview published on Australia-il.com (2008) the nature of the relationship between the state and its sponsored artists: “We certainly see ourselves as ambassadors of Israel in the world, cultural ambassadors, hasbara ambassadors, also in regards to the political conflict”.

Can cultural events bring people together?

Having established that culture in the Israeli Palestinian context is not apolitical and cannot be seen in isolation of the political environment, I’d like to move on to address the second argument made by opponents of the cultural boycotts who favor performing in Israel as a way to ‘bring people together’ and to promote ‘co-existence’ through joint Palestinian Israeli cultural projects.

First of all, let’s look at the benefit of the joint cultural projects. Will these joint projects pursue an agenda for justice and equality or will they bring two unequal sides together – an occupied and an occupier – and promote an illusion of symmetry? Projects that don’t aim to end Israel’s occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people only promote the normalization of the status quo. That is why increasingly more and more Palestinian artists are turning away from these joint ventures, often refusing to accept badly needed funds and the promise of fame and success, because they recognize that the price for participation – normalizing oppression – is too high to accept.

Secondly, the idea that a concert in Israel can bring Palestinians and Israelis together is absurd when one considers that millions of Palestinians who live under Israel’s military control are prevented by Israel’s apartheid policies from attending. To clarify, when concerts are held in Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank do not enjoy the same access to them as Jewish settlers living on land confiscated from Palestinians in the West Bank. In fact, even when cultural events take place inside the Occupied Territories, for example in Ramallah, Palestinians in other enclaves and Bantustans within the occupied territories or those who live in Gaza, or Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenships – are often not allowed to attend due to the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints in the Occupied Territories and tricky permit systems, all designed to fragment and control Palestinian society.

Israel’s system of apartheid and segregation touches every aspect of Palestinian life and excludes Palestinians from many opportunities that are afforded the Jewish people. This issue of exclusion was at the center of the controversy at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, as international and local artists expressed dismay at The Globe for inviting Israel’s national theatre Habima to participate in the ‘Globe to Globe’ festival. A protest letter which appeared in The Guardian (29 March 2012) and was signed by an impressive number of celebrities, including first artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, Mark Rylance, Trevor Griffiths, Sonja Linden, and Emma Thompson, pointed to the fact that “…by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company”.

International artists have an ethical responsibility to address this issue of exclusion and discrimination, which is central to the reality of the conflict. The real questions artists need to ask themselves are: Do we want to promote a culture where we feel comfortable performing before an audience that is selected by way of racial privilege? Do we want to engage with Israeli artists who have committed by way of signing a legal contract to whitewash Israel’s system of discrimination and oppression? How can we accept the claim that concerts or cultural events can ‘bring people together’ when these events often work to promote and to support an existing system of discrimination designed to keep the people apart?

Protecting artistic freedom of expression

Israel has argued that the cultural boycott infringes on artistic freedom. While it is true that Israeli artists are free to express and share their art with the world, Palestinian artists face tremendous challenges with stifling travel restrictions, arbitrary detention, political repression and various roadblocks that get in the way of them holding rehearsals, exhibiting their work or even performing the simplest tasks, which becomes quite impossible under occupation.

Today, Palestinian artists and theatre makers are caught in an intricate and multi layered system of oppression. Take for example the Freedom Theatre in Jenin and the tremendous challenges they face. A Human Rights Watch report this year (27 July 2012) accused Israel and its perceived security arm the Palestinian Authority of  “trampling on the rights of Freedom Theater’s staff,” adding that  “[a] theater should be able to offer critical and provocative work without fearing that its staff will be arrested and abused.”

The HRW statement referred to Israel’s ongoing system of arbitrary arrests and detention and called for an investigation into allegations of mistreatment, raising the concern that since the murder of its director and co-founder, Juliano Mer-Khamis, in April 2011, the Israeli occupation forces have “repeatedly raided the theater and beaten and arbitrarily arrested employees”.

Israel’s occupation and system of discrimination infringes daily on the Palestinian artists’ freedom of expression.  So the question here is should Israeli state sponsored artists’ freedom of expression override that of the Palestinians? There is Hypocrisy to the Israeli claim that it does. In 1984Enuga S. Reddy, then director of the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid, responded to similar criticism about the cultural boycott of South Africa; the following is an excerpt of his press briefing published on the PACBI website:

“It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms … to the African majority … should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime.”

Profiting from the occupation

But profiting from apartheid and serving its propaganda purposes is precisely what artists do when they cross what the Palestinian solidarity movement now calls the world’s largest picket line’ (Billet 2012).  Take for example Madonna’s Israel Peace Concert during which Madonna told her fans in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan stadium, “It’s easy to say I want peace in the world, but it’s another thing to do it”. Her recipe for peace was simple; she told her fans that “[i]f we rise above our egos and our titles and the names of our countries and names of our religions, if we can rise above all that, and treat everyone around us, every human being with dignity and respect, we will have peace” (Steinberg and Bronstein, 2012). But the reality is that Madonna’s peace speech was lost on the Palestinians, who were denied access to her ‘peace concert’ and who remain locked up behind Israel’s high walls and barbed wires.

More significant is the fact that Madonna’s so called ‘peace concert’, which gave lip service to peace, in fact was successful in promoting tourism in Israel, bringing in 4,000 tourists with some fans paying up to NIS 5,000 for VIP tickets and accommodation packages (Domke and Halutz 2012).  So in reality, the concert was great for Israel, its economy, its image and its institutions but did not do much for the cause of working toward creating a real environment for a peace with justice.

Singling out Israel

Some argue that boycotts single out Israel unfairly and that artists – as Elton John said  – should not “cherry pick” their conscious (Daily Mail 19 June 2010). Some Israeli artists feel that there is a sense of prejudice, as was expressed by Habima’s artistic Director Ilan Ronen:

We come to the Globe along with 37 countries and languages. And this is the only theatre, and the only language, that should be boycotted? Everything is OK in those other countries – no problem at all? Artists should not boycott other artists… I think, as an artist, that this is wrong. We should have a dialogue with everybody. We should discuss and disagree. (Tonkin 2012)

But Palestinians have every right to single Israel out for occupying and oppressing them, and to call for the help and the solidarity of the international community in a non-violent, peaceful form of resistance that is anchored in human rights and progressive liberal values. Ronen’s assertion that Israeli artists are unfairly singled out is also misleading. Unlike South African academic and cultural boycott, which was actually a “blanket” boycott, BDS does not target individualIsraeli academics, writers or artists. Israeli artists are welcome to cooperate with Palestinian artists as long as the projects they are working on together do not whitewash Israel’s occupation, ignore the inequality and discrimination against Palestinians or work to promote Israel’s softer side, while the state continues its gross violations of the human rights of the Palestinians. Israeli artists who receive Israeli state funding are in fact under contractual duties, as illustrated earlier, to do just that.   

Boycotts raise awareness

As this debate continues, it is important to note that even when artists choose not to abide by the boycott call, the controversy that surrounds their performances or their participation in Israeli sponsored events at times within itself serves to educate and raise awareness around the issues and creates opportunities for discussions and for constructive dialogue about what is going on in Israel/Palestine.

This was apparent here in Melbourne when the Boycott fever caught on with the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2010.  At the time, the makers of the film Son of Babylon, having realized that the Melbourne Film Festival was sponsored by Israel, tried to boycott the event. The film’s director Mohamed Al-Daradji and producers Isabelle Stead and Atia Al-Daradji demanded the film, a Palestinian co-production, not to be shown in protest against Israel’s “illegal crimes against humanity” (Quinn 2010).  The festival director Richard Moore declined the request and the film was shown as scheduled. However, this incident created waves of media coverage as most major news outlets and tens of bloggers around the world weighed in their opinion.  The controversy opened the gates to debate and discussions around Israeli actions and the ethics of the boycott movement. This was a refreshing change given that before the Boycott calls, Israel was only in the spotlight when a major event took place; often a suicide bombing, rocket attacks wars or massive bombardments.

Conclusion

Palestinian Civil Society’s call for a cultural boycott of Israel is a legitimate non-violent form of resistance that aims to put international pressure on the state of Israel in order to end its occupation and discrimination policies against the Palestinian people.  Neither Palestinians nor Israelis believe that culture is apolitical. Israel’s assault on Palestinian culture is well documented and its targeting of Palestinian cultural figures has been denounced by various human rights groups. Israel uses culture as a branding tool to promote its softer side and to whitewash its violations of the Palestinian people’s basic human rights. Palestinians also view their art and their culture through the prism of their struggle for freedom justice and equality. From erasure to resistance, Palestinian culture today is an expression of the Palestinian people’s story with all its dimensions, including the political. For Palestinians art is a form of resistance; theatre is political mutiny, dance is rebellion, and singing is liberation.

Works Cited

Abukhalil, As’ad. “Ghassan Kanafani: In Our Memory.” Alakhbar English. Web. 12 July 2012.

“An interview with Idan Raichel.” Australia.il.com. Web. Hebrew. 2008.

Ashrawi, Hanan. “Recognizing Nakba, reaching peace.” Haaretz. Web. 15 May 2012.

Ben-Ami, Yuval. “About Face.” Haaretz. Web. 20 Sept. 2005.

Billet, Alexander . “Madonna sings for apartheid; yet campaign to boycott Israel grows stronger.” Electronic Intifada ChicagoWeb. 12 June 2012.

Bronner, Ethan. “After Gaza, Israel Grapples with Crisis of Isolation.” New York Times. Web. 18 March 2009.

“Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.”  Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PCACBI].  Statements. Web. 6 July 2004.

“Cultural Boycott: Statement by Enuga S. Reddy, Director of U.N. Centre Against Apartheid at a Press Briefing (1984).” Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI]. Web. 11 January 1984.

Domke, Ronit and Avshalom Halutz. “Madonna draws 4,000 tourists to Israel for MDNA concert premier.”  Haaretz. Web. 29 May 2012.

“Elton John performs in Israel after string of other artists cancel appearances.” Daily Mail Online. Web. 19 June 2010.

“Fact Sheet:  Palestinian Culture: 64 Years Under Israeli Assault.” The Institute for Middle East Understanding [IMEU]. Web. 2 August 2012.

Hessel, Stephane. “Gaza Flotilla: Global Citizens Must Respond Where Governments Failed”. Huffington Post. The Blog. Web. 15 June 2010.

“Israel/Palestinian Authority: Theatre Group Hit From Both Sides”. Human Rights Watch. News. Web. 27 July 2012.

Jacir, Emily. “Material for a Film: Retracing Wael Zuatier.” Electronic Intifada. Web. 16 Jul. 2007.

Laor, Yitzhak . “Putting out a contract on art.” Haaretz. Web. 25 July 2008.

“Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS.”  BDS Movement.  Statements. Web. 9 Jul. 2005.

Quinn, Karl. “Festival threatened over Israel link.” The Age. Web. 4 August 2010.

Steinberg, Jessica and Dani Bronstein.  “Madonna kept Tel Aviv crowd waiting ‘until she got her Gummi Bears’.” The Times of Israel. Web. 4 June 2012.

“The Great Book Robbery.” AlJazeera. Web. 24 May 2012.

Tonkin, Boyd. “Artists should not boycott other artists.” The Independent. Web. 28 May 2012.

 

Biography

Samah Sabawi is a writer, political analyst, commentator, author and playwright. She is co-author of the book Journey to Peace in Palestine and writer and producer of the plays Cries from the Land and Three Wishes. Sabawi is currently in the process of working on her third play Tales of a City by the Sea – a love story set against the backdrop of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2008-2009.
Sabawi is a policy advisor to the Palestinian policy network AlShabaka and former public advocate for Australians for Palestine. Her past work experience include holding the position of Executive Director and Media Spokesperson for the National Council on Canada Arab Relations (NCCAR) and working as Subject Matter Expert (SME) on various countries in the Middle East’s cultural and political landscape for the Canadian Foreign Service Institute’s Center for Intercultural Learning.

I Am Yusuf and This Is My Brother: A Palestinian story about Palestinians

In the war of 1948, thousands of Palestinians were uprooted from their homes never to return, and playwright Amir Nizar Zuabi is determined to tell their stories.

 

Amir Nizar Zuabi, a Palestinian director and playwright

Amir Nizar Zuabi in Jerusalem. Photograph: Gali Tibbon

 

It was six decades ago, but the fallout from the war continues. A few months ago, one fast-rising, rightwing Israeli party tried to introduce a bill that would ban Palestinians from commemorating the Nakba of 1948, their catastrophe (but which Israelis hail as the creation of their state, the apogee of their independence struggle). In the end, the law will probably be watered down, but the principle seems to have wide support. As far as most Israelis are concerned, they won in 1948, the Palestinians lost, and history has moved on. Except, of course, it hasn’t.

Next week, a compelling new play opens at London’s Young Vic, promising to thrust the discomforting story of that war back into public scrutiny. At the age of 33, Amir Nizar Zuabi, the play’s writer and director, is from a generation of Palestinians raised on stories of the Nakba, haunted by tales of how hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted from their homes, never to return. “We have it as a covert partner in everything,” says Zuabi. “Two of us can sit having coffee and the third person will be Mr Nakba.”

Zuabi was brought up in Nazareth, in the Galilee, where there is a large population of Palestinians living within Israel, and where all around there is evidence of the 1948 war, including ruined villages. One of the razed villages was Baissamoon, a tiny Palestinian community. It is here that Zuabi set his play, I Am Yusuf and This Is My Brother, which tells of two brothers, an ill-fated love, and the dislocation and tragedy brought about by the war.

The play, says Zuabi, began as a personal investigation to scrape away layers of myth. “Why did people make the decision to leave? Or did they make the decision to leave? What would you have done?” Zuabi, living in Israel, found the story had been “hushed up”: “It’s the big taboo, because it’s the primal sin. It is the mother of all problems here. They don’t like talking about it.”

Zuabi’s writing is, however, far from polemical. The Jews who fought to create their state are almost absent; never named, they appear only in the background. “We saw them first in January, then all the time,” says one brother. “They invaded our dreams, our conversation.” Zuabi simply wanted to tell a Palestinian story about Palestinians. “Our narrative is the less known one – history is written by the victors,” he says, but adds: “There is no spite. I find the blame game futile. It’s not like I do theatre to crush Israeli propaganda. I don’t hear Israeli propaganda. I don’t care about it.”

The villagers are divided: should they run or fight? Some see the battle in stark terms. “The war was over before it began,” says one character. “We lost. They won. It was that simple.” But with Britain’s Mandate ending, the same character tells a British officer: “We are not a rubbish heap for your guilt, my friend. We’re in your Middle East and what you sow here you’ll reap in 50 years or 100 years in your lovely London.”

Dropped into the middle of this is the original, sombre recording of the results of the UN vote on the 1947 Partition Plan. Rejected by Palestinians, it was passed by the UN and, but for the war, would have carved Palestine into two states around an internationally protected Jerusalem. “Soviet Union: Yes. United Kingdom: Abstained. United States: Yes . . .”

The play explores the what ifs, says Zuabi. “My grandmother, this Palestinian matriarch, used to say, ‘If you plant what ifs, you’ll sow I wish.’ When I walk around Haifa, in some of the neighbourhoods that are empty, I really have to ask myself, ‘What if that hadn’t happened? What are they doing, these people that once lived here?'”

Zuabi studied acting in Jerusalem, then worked with the al-Kasaba theatre in Ramallah as the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising, took hold. He and his actors produced short sketches that drew unexpectedly large audiences, hungry for relief. The sketches turned into Alive from Palestine, which toured abroad, with runs at the Royal Court and the Young Vic. Zuabi then spent a year working at the Young Vic, studied in Moscow, and returned home to work with the Palestinian National theatre.

I Am Yusuf is the first play from ShiberHur, a new touring theatre company based in Haifa, whose name means Within a Few Inches of Freedom. It has already toured Palestinian villages and refugee camps – communities with little access to the theatre. “We have everything going against us as a theatre movement,” says Zuabi. “Lack of funds, infrastructure, the fact that theatre is not really part of our cultural tradition – we come from a poetic tradition.”

When Zuabi was at drama school, he was the sole Palestinian among Israeli students (one of whom, now a successful actor, later became his wife). Only recently has a drama school opened in Ramallah. Until then, Palestinians went to Israel, if they could obtain the permit, or abroad, if they could afford it. “It’s a new art form for us. We have an audience that’s completely uncatered for and is very thirsty. Once they know theatre exists, they keep coming back.”

He has been surprised by the reaction to the play across the generations. In Jerusalem, an elderly man came up to him after one performance and said: “Thank you very much for telling my story.” In Haifa, a woman in her 20s told him: “I understand my parents better now.” Still, he doubts how much difference one play can make towards unravelling this bitter conflict. “I have to believe it does affect people,” he says. “On the other level, I’m not daft. I know I can’t change the reality. I can’t make a show and tomorrow everyone will walk hand-in-hand.”

I am Yusuf and This Is My Brother Young Vic,  London SE1 Starts 19 Jan Until 6 Feb Box office:  020-7922 2922 Venue website

Original article was posted here.

euronews le mag : Art festival in Ramallah

Published on Nov 15, 2012 by 

http://www.euronews.com/ Qalandiya, the first ever Palestinian Contemporary Art Biennale has been held in Ramallah. One of the most popular displays was a pop art-inspired needlework portrait is of Mohamed Bouazizi, the market stall holder who sparked the beginning of the Arab Spring when he burned himself to death in protest at being rough-handled by the police.

The biennial took its name from one of the most famous symbols of Palestinian separation, the Israeli checkpoint at Qalandiya, which is one of the main crossing points between the West Bank and Israel.

Displaying art installations in hard-to-access Palestinian villages scattered across the West Bank was a gamble, but it worked. People flocked to the Abwein village for a day packed with art and fun.

Using villages as art galleries, and borrowing its name from a crowded refugee camp and Israeli military checkpoint, Qalandiya International was a chance for Palestinian artists of the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel and Gaza to get together and overcome their politically fragmented world.

Jerusalem artist, Jumana Manna’s short movie was inspired by a 1942 picture of a high society masquerade hosted by Palestinian politician Alfred Roch, a reenactment that has won Manna the festival’s “Young Artist of the Year” award.

For more information see
http://centrefortheaestheticrevolution.blogspot.fr/2012/11/gestures-in-time-a…

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Maysoon Zayid: Funny Arabs – Review

 LSMedia The Independent Liverpool Student Newspaper

In a brilliantly candid account of topics such as terrorism and the Israel-Palestine conflict, Zayid’s autobiographical stand up deals with the post 9/11 relationship between America and its Arabs.

Having heard nothing about Maysoon Zayid other than she is a Palestinian-American comic with cerebral palsy, it was with large amounts of curiosity rather than anticipation that I headed down to the Epstein Theatre on Sunday afternoon.  Even before Zayid stepped on stage, I suspected that I was going to enjoy her take on things. With a fantastic and glowing introduction by Liverpool’s very own Alexei Sale, it was great to see a Jewish comic warming up for his Palestinian counterpart and roundly condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.

Maysoon gets her gig underway with her take on the traditional call and response, berating the audience for even daring to feel sorry for her and making light of the jerking limbs caused by her cerebral palsy. The comedy comes thick and fast, with topical stories punctuated with quick, jokes leading up to weighty and often bawdy punch lines.

Using an ever growing number of call backs to previous anecdotes, Maysoon weaves her own narrative along with that of the Israel-Palestine conflict and life in post 9/11 America.

Maysoon’s parents moved to the New Jersey from a small village in rural Palestine and by her own admission her upbringing was exceptionally strict. Her father forbade Maysoon and her sisters from riding a bike or sitting on a seesaw, in what can only be described as a misguided attempt to retain her virginity until her wedding day. The comedy respectfully yet openly pokes fun at some of the more extreme examples of parenting.

Treating her family in much the same way Jewish comics have often conjured up caricatures of the dreaded ‘Jewish mother-in-law’, Zayid refers to her husband as ‘the refugee’ because she first met him in one of the West Bank’s crowded refugee camps.  Using tales of visits over to Palestine to see ‘her refugee’ she explains the backward attitudes that a society under such oppression resorts to, at one point telling of how her mother-in-law gathered all the women of the village together to assess whether a disabled person was worthy of her son.

Zayid lampoons the post 9/11 attitudes to Muslims in the US, by conveying the difficulties of being a shaking Arab at the airport who was dropped off by a father with a striking resemblance to Saddam Hussein.

Regardless of the history her people, Maysoon’s comic digs are sharply leveled at both Israeli and Palestinian politicians. Packing out theatres as a listened to voice for the Palestinian people, whether it’s the US or the West Bank, gives her comedy the kind of importance that few achieve, and puts her up there with the very best. She uses her voice and position to raise awareness and address issues that not many politicians, never mind comics, often go near.

The barriers to success that Maysoon Zayid has overcome are larger than most and that alone makes her worth listening to. However, her comic skill in turning the trials of being a disabled Palestinian woman born in America into something very funny, without losing its point, shows her to be a remarkably gifted performer.

Read original article here 

 

Shakespeare in Palestine

By Abdullah H. Erakat, Ramallah

Yasmin Qadmany’s parents did not want her to study acting. In fact, they tried to prevent the 26-year-old engineer from doing so, to the extent that when she told them she was going to follow her heart, they stopped talking to her. That was three years ago, and next year she will graduate. But before she does, she and fellow thespians at the Drama Academy in Ramallah will put on a production of “Romeo & Juliet.”

“I faced difficulties. But I overcame it because I saw it as a challenge,” says Qadmany noting that her relation with her family is now better than ever. Qadmany is gearing up for another challenge in late November: a two-week workshop taught by the all-female company, the Manhattan Shakespeare Project.

Sarah Eismann, the founding artistic director of the Manhattan Shakespeare project says the project came about last year after she performed in an international production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Folkwang University of the arts in Germany. Students from Palestine’s Drama academy also made up the cast.

“They were just incredible artists, as well as passionate, courageous and really wonderful people. So when their director asked if I wanted to work with them again, I was like yeah, of course, I would love to,” she adds.

The Drama Academy managing director Petra Bargouthi says the workshop, (English with Arabic translation), is an excellent way to prepare her students for next year’s Shakespeare festival in Germany.

“Language is the most important character when it comes to Shakespeare. It’s a game of language, so this will be very helpful for our students to understand and discover the poetry in Shakespeare,” explained Bargouthi – also a movement therapy instructor – in an interview with Variety Arabia,

The academy, the first of its kind acting school in Palestine, is located in downtown Ramallah and is hosted by Al-Kasaba Theatre and Cinematheque.

Teaching artist Jensen Olaya says she hopes that she and her colleague Eismann will contribute to the “already rich curriculum” of the Academy.

Olaya explained that the sessions will be recorded by film documenter Lena Rudnick: “I feel that Shakespeare is a widely used tool to teach theatre and performance. I feel like his themes are universal on the smallest, most intimate level and I hope that the universal themes can help us connect past cultural and political divides,” she wrote in an email to Variety Arabia.

It’s not only her first trip to the Palestine, but to the Middle East. While she says there are people in Ramallah who have already welcomed her, Olaya says she still cannot quite comprehend that she is actually going and does not know what to expect.

“We have received support – both financial support and moral support – from people in the US and I feel like I have a lot of people who are hoping that I go out there and return with wonderful stories to share about Ramallah and its’ people,” Olaya adds.

“It’s a little scary,” says second-year acting student Rabee Hanani, who has mostly been educated in Germany, but his feelings are more of curiosity than fear.

“By being exposed to different cultures from different countries in the world, we gain more,” he said.

Third-year Drama Academy student Jihad Al Khateeb says he hopes this workshop will make him a better actor, not only in performing Shakespeare, but in general.

“I think the most important thing is how to do Shakespeare the way he intended for us to do it,” says the 24-year old.

Leaving Ramallah, Olaya and Eismann will head north to Jenin’s Freedom Theatre, where they will carry out the same thing.

The venue made the news headlines in April 2011, when its co-founder Juliano Mer Khamis was murdered in broad daylight by unknown men on the steps of the theatre.

Managing director Jonatan Stanczak said the incident caused some students to drop out of the student theatre acting school, but things are now back on track.

Currently, British director Diane Trevis, the first woman to work with the Royal Shakespeare theatre, is conducting a workshop there.

“I am aware that Shakespeare is a very important component of any actor’s development. It’s a great opportunity for us to have one of the best Shakespeare troupes in the world working with our students,” adds Stanczak, who is a nurse by profession.

“We believe culture is the glue that keeps everything together and it is also the process that allows Palestinian society to form itself around ideas,” he said.

“Most of the people who come to Palestine and do the workshop become more aware of the Palestinian life and Palestinian humanity,” says Bargouthi. “I hope this will be a way of knowing us and understanding us and also for our students to see how people perceive them.”

“I merely want to connect as an artist on a human level: person-to-person, overcoming political barriers,” said Olaya.

Eismann says the Manhattan Shakespeare project is simply excited because it is their first venture into creating international relationships.

“We’re not there to make a political statement. We’re just there to create theatre, and to create art,” she concluded.

The story was originally published in Variety Arabia November issue.

The Freedom Bus’s New Initiative “The Ride for Water Justice”

Details Published on Monday, 05 November 2012 08:46

PNN

Thirsting for Justice Campaign said in a press release that during November 2012, the Ride for Water Justice! is taking place in communities impacted by Israel’s illegal appropriations of Palestinian water resources.

The Ride includes guided walks, Playback Theatre performances, and community discussions about water apartheid and the broader struggle for freedom and justice in occupied Palestine. Audience members share autobiographical accounts and watch as a team of actors and musicians instantly transform these accounts into improvised theatre pieces. Playback Theatre provides opportunity for education, advocacy and community building.

The Ride started on Friday, November 2, in the village of Faquaa (in the Jenin district), one of many Palestinian communities impacted by Israel’s illegal appropriations of Palestinian water resources.

In the next Fridays, Palestinian and international activists, students, journalists, artists and the wider public are invited to join any or all of the Ride for Water Justice events:

November 9th: Attuwani, South Hebron Hills

November 16th: Al Hadidiya, Jordan Valley

November 23rd: Gaza via Video Conference

This four time event is organized by the Freedom Bus and EWASH’s West Bank local partner Juzoor.

The Freedom Bus is an initiative of The Freedom Theatre that uses interactive theatre and cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and build alliances throughout occupied Palestine and beyond.

Juzoor for Health and Social Development is a Palestinian non-governmental organization based in Jerusalem working at the national level, dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Palestinian families and promoting health as a basic human right.

The Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH) is a coalition of almost 30 organisations working in the water and sanitation sector in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Freedom Theatre: http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org/

Thirsting for Justice Campaign: http://www.thirstingforjustice.org/new

Juzoor: http://www.juzoor.org/portal

For further information about the event, visit

https://www.facebook.com/events/429492253776932/?ref=ts&fref=ts

DAM featuring AMAL MURKUS – If I Could Go Back In Time لو أرجع بالزمن

http://www.DAMRAP.com
Translation and Credits
Arabic script: If I Could Go Back In Time
‏Suhel Nafar:
‏Before she was murdered, she wasn’t alive
‏We’ll tell her story backwards from her murder to her birth
‏Her body rises from the grave to the ground
‏The bullet flies out of her forehead and swallowed into the gun
‏The sound of her echo screams, she screams back
‏Tears rise up from her cheeks to her eyes
‏Behind the clouds of smoke, faces of her family appear
‏Without shame, her brother puts the gun in his pocket
‏Her father throws down the shovel and wipes the sweat off his forehead
‏He shakes his head, satisfied from the size of the grave
‏They pull her back to the car, her legs kicking
‏Like a sand storm, she’s erasing her own tracks
‏They throw her in the trunk, she doesn’t know where she is
‏But she knows that three left the house and only two will return
‏They reach the house; throw her to the bed in violence
‏”So you want run away huh?” they wake her with violence

‏Amal Murkus (Chorus)
‏If I could go back in time
‏I would smile
‏Fall in love
‏Sing
‏If I could go back in time
‏I would draw
‏Write
‏Sing

‏Mahmood Jrere:
‏She dreams before falling asleep
‏We’ll tell her story backwards, maybe understand
‏The clock hands move right to left
‏She reconstructs her steps as if she were lost
‏She sleeps prepared, money for the taxi
‏Plane ticket and passport under her pillow
‏Answer: leave the clothes in the closet; she plans to wear a new life
‏Question: what if they ask what the suitcase is for?
‏She went to bed, leaves table
‏Eats well, she must act today
‏Her nose stops bleeding, that’s what they see
‏But it’s a fresh wound; before they will beat her she will beat them
‏Her mom says “your life is like heaven”
‏She’s right, if you taste the forbidden you better know someone is watching
‏Two hours before dinner, the phone hangs up
‏Her mom is shocked “the flight is delayed”
‏Phone rings

‏ Amal Murkus (Chorus)

‏Tamer Nafar:
‏Before she answers, she isn’t even asked
‏The story is like the logic in her life, all backwards
‏Her hands up in the sky, begging for help
‏Their hands up in the sky reciting the Fatiha (ceremony before marriage)
‏The calendar page moves one day back, the time is
‏Afternoon, the argument is over, her brother commands her
‏Blood flows from her lips to her nose
‏A sound of a fist, his hand jumps from her face
‏It’s the first time in her life that she says “NO!”
‏Her mom announces happily “tomorrow you will marry your cousin”
‏If I look through the album of her life
‏I won’t see a photo of her standing up for her rights
‏It’s hard, the pages are stuck to my hand
‏Her past full of blood and tears
‏But we promise you, from her murder to her birth
‏Their expressions filled with anger as if someone announced a crime
‏”Congratulations, it’s a girl”
‏The beginning.

Arabic script:Freedom For My Sisters

Lyrics written by DAM
Music produced & arranged by NABIL NAFAR
Mixed by SAQIB and NABIL NAFAR
Mastered by SAQIB

Directed by JACQUELINE REEM SALLOUM and SUHEL NAFAR
Produced by LAURA HAWA
Assistant Director ELI REZIK
Director of Photography ARI ISSLER
Editor ABDUL JABBAR MAKI
Composting and Visual Effects CONRAD OSTWALD
Colorist SETH RICART
Costume Designer and Stylist NADA NAFAR
Art Director BASHAR HASSUNEH
Production Manager JAMAL KHLAYLEH
Makeup Artist VERED NIVO
Lighting Director ARI ISSLER
Steadicam Operator HAIM ASIAS
Focus Puller GEORGE DABAS
Key Grip MORDI BOAZ
Key Gaffer YANA MITNICK
Production Assistant MANAR YACOUB
Best Boy Gaffer REA’OT GING
Best Boy Grip FADI MATAR
Art Assistant PAULINE CARBONIER
V
Visual Effects Supervisor HASHEM ODEH
Sound Playback JAMIL NAFAR
Catering NADIA NAFAR and MONIRA GOHAR

Cast
Main Girl SAMAA WAKEEM
Brother DORAID LIDAWI
Mom KHAWLA DIBSI
Dad BAHJAT YOUNIS

Chorus scene
YARA ZRIEK
ISIS AZAM
NERIAN KEYWAN

Fateha Readers
BAHA KADURA
ABEDALLAH NAHFAWI
RAMI YOUNIS
SAMI AWADI
WAEL ABU SHAREKH
ABED SHAHADA
MUHAMAD HADDAD

Young girls
ASIL KADURA
CILIN AWADI

Special Thanks
UN WOMEN
JULIEN VAISSIER
FAIEZ NAFAR
MARKO MATKOVIC
MARTIN BJERREGAARD
AdTomic
WALEED ZAITER
SALIM SHEHADEH
SALMA SAMARA
AHMAD KANAAN
AYED FADEL
NINA ZIDANI
ABED HATHOT
BAHAA RASHED
ADI KHALEFA
ADI KRAYEM
ELYAN BASEL
MANAL BASEL
RASSLAN BASEL
ABEER AWADI
RASHA KADURA
CINDY THAI THIEN NGHIA

Smuggling some fun: Teens sneak paintball game into Gaza

By REUTERS
GAZA

It was once the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, but now the site has been turned into the Gaza Strip’s first ever paintball park.

The arrival of the strategic action game in Gaza is offering Palestinian youths a chance to try something new.

But bringing the relevant equipment and protective clothing into the blockaded territory was no small achievement: everything had to be smuggled in through one of the 1000-metre (yard) underground tunnels that link Gaza with Egypt.

“We brought it over via a very hard route, via the tunnels from Egypt, so that we can play games that are played all over the world, so that the youth of Gaza can play games that are played around the world. This is a peaceful game and it’s really, really fun. There’s no danger whatsoever,” said paintball referee Rami Eid.

Palestinian youths have been teaming up for a chance to play the new game, which involves hiding behind positions laid out in a field, before jumping out to spray competitors with balls of colored paint.

“We came to play paintball today. It’s the first time I’ve played it and it’s a really fun game, a really nice game. We were a big group but it’s a nice game with suspense, preparation, action and war. Young men like us like these kinds of games. It’s a nice game and we’ve enjoyed it a lot,” said participant Ahmad Abu Ryaleh.

Paintball has become increasingly popular around the world in recent years, with national teams going head-to-head in regional and world tournaments.

Enthusiasts say it is a game of skill and team-work – something Gaza’s new participants are just discovering.

“I am really happy, I hope there will be more things like this because it is better for young people to use up their energy playing these games, rather than getting up to no good somewhere else,” said Abu Ryaleh.

But with an entrance fee of 10 shekels ($2.5), 50 shekels ($12.8) to rent the paintball field and 30 shekels ($7.6) for 50 paintballs, the experience is beyond the reach of most Gazans.

A recent U.N. report said tougher Israeli policies and settlement expansion were pushing all Palestinian territories deeper into poverty.

Amid persistently high unemployment, one in two Palestinians was now classified as ‘poor’, the UNCTAD report said.

Palestinian artists launch art festival to protest Israel’s barrier

By REUTERS
WEST BANK

Sunday, 04 November 2012

Palestinian artists showcased their art work at West Bank’s Qalandia International Festival on Thursday framed as part of a creative reaction to the Israeli barrier that separates Palestinian villages from each other.

Israel has said the barrier, a mix of electronic fences and walls that encroaches on West Bank territory, is meant to keep suicide bombers out of its cities.

Palestinians call the barrier — whose course encompasses Israeli settlements in the West Bank — a disguised move to annex or fragment territory Palestinians seek for a viable state.

The International court of Justice declared the planned 600-km (370-mile) barrier, more than half of which is completed, illegal but Israel has ignored the non-binding ruling.

Qalandia International Festival Art Director, Jack Persekian, said it was an important way for Palestinians to channel their emotional reactions to the barrier.

“The wall and the road that was constructed recently connect the Israeli settlements together and separate the Palestinian villages from each other. The reaction to this separation was a cultural festival. It is an important and a good reaction — it shows a positive, artistic and cultural spirit in a painful situation that should be stopped,” he said.

The festival, which showcases Palestinian contemporary art projects, performances, films, and other cultural activities, kicked off on Thursday at Qalandia village northern of Jerusalem and ends on November 15.

According to the festival’s organizers, over 50 local and International artists came together for the launch of Qalandia International, ‘a milestone contemporary art event’.

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarar screened his 2 minutes film at the festival. His film, too, addresses barrier issues and Palestinians’ reactions to it.

“I went to the wall and I cut out some pieces of it. I smashed them then I mixed them with cement and water and I made a ball which children play with. My message is that the wall is an ugly thing, so we should seek out ways in which to use it and the occupation for our benefit,” he told Reuters television.

The festival was organized by seven Palestinian institutions- Riwaq, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, A. M. Qattan Foundation, Palestinian Art Court – Al Hoash, International Art Academy – Palestine, Sakakini Cultural Centre and the House of Culture Arts – Nazareth.

Palestinian band ‘Dar Qandeel’ performed traditional and modern music at the festival’s opening ceremony and people from various Palestinian villages and cities as well as Internationals came to attend.

Yara Bayoumi, a visitor at the festival, said the cooperation involved in hosting such a festival was wonderful.

“The festival is very nice. It is the first of its kind in Palestine. It is the first time seven organizations have worked together to organize such a festival. I hope it will have a good effect, and put Palestine in the world’s contemporary art,” she said.
The festival is expected to tour Jerusalem and other West Bank cities.

This article appeared in http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/11/04/247588.html

SoA Women take Shakespeare project to Palestine

 

By Zoë Miller

Columbia Daily Spectator

Published October 1, 2012

The Manhattan Shakespeare Project’s current venture is centered on the creation of original theatrical pieces that will incorporate Shakespeare’s sonnets and Palestinian youth songs.

For the all-female Shakespeare company Manhattan Shakespeare Project, all the world really is a stage­ for cross-cultural communication.  MSP’s newest project, “Shakespeare For A New World: The Palestinian Voice,” is centered on the creation of original theatrical pieces that will incorporate Shakespeare’s sonnets and Palestinian youth songs. Teaching artists Sarah Eismann, SoA ’12, and Jensen Olaya, SoA ’12, will travel to Palestine in late November, accompanied by documentary film director Lena Rudnick, SoA directing candidate, to work with students at the Drama Academy Ramallah and the Jenin refugee camp’s Freedom Theatre.

Eismann said that although “Shakespeare For A New World” and MSP are not political entities, projects “have the potential for having political undertones” by nature of the fact that MSP is an all-female company traveling to a region often associated with more rigid patriarchy. But the purpose of “Shakespeare For A New World,” above all else, is for Eismann and Olaya to work with the students at the Drama Academy Ramallah to create theater and art. Due to their geographical location, the Palestinian theater students are extremely isolated. The project will “help get their voice outside of the borders of Palestine,” Eismann said.

The concept of “Shakespeare For A New World” emerged after Eismann performed in an international production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that took place in 2011 at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Germany. The “Midsummer” cast was comprised of acting students from Folkwang, in addition to students from Columbia, the Drama Academy Ramallah, the Shanghai Theatre Academy, and the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu. Eismann said that she was inspired by the beauty of “a Palestinian Helena working with a Romanian Demetrius.” Shakespeare’s words, she realized, could effectively cut across cultural and linguistic barriers. “We found our common world. We found our common language,” she said.

The Folkwang production, Eismann said, led to an epiphany. “If only the world could work this way, we would have no problems,” she said. “It wouldn’t be me against you—it would be what was on that stage.”

Eismann was thrilled when the Drama Academy Ramallah’s director invited her to teach the “Shakespeare For A New World” workshops and make this vision of “a completely united, holistic, humanistic world” more of a reality—at least in theater.

As time went on, the project gained momentum and “exploded into this very idealistic, very grandiose plan.” The intense, six-hours-a-day workshops will include not only actors from the Academy but also teenagers at the Jenin refugee camp, which is one of the oldest, most devastated refugee camps in Palestine. With the help of a team including Rudnick, these workshops and the performances that result from them will be filmed.

In the next five years, Eismann hopes to take the methodology that the MSP team learns from the Ramallah and Jenin workshops and bring it to high school students in New York.

The end goal, she said, is to get diverse communities across the globe to learn about each other, “to use Shakespeare to talk, to create theater, to create peace.”

arts@columbiaspectator.com

This article appeared in Colubmia Spectator

 

 

 

 

A Message from Young Palestinians in Gaza to the World!

Palestinian Film Festival Australia

Cultural Media is proud to present the 4th Palestinian Film Festival. This year’s theme is simple yet heartfelt: Visit Palestine.

Many of us have a connection to Palestine. For some, it may be historical, ancestral or spiritual. For others, it may be political, humanitarian or educational.

Whatever your interest may be, join us on a cinematic journey of unforgettable imagery and creative, thought-provoking storytelling.

For information and tickets go to http://www.palestinianfilmfestival.com.au/tickets