‘The National Puppet Theatre of Israel’
Habima, Israel’s National Theatre, has announced that in mid-November it will put on a show in Kiryat Arba. Kiryat Arba is a settlement in territory illegally occupied by Israel, and a place which, in the words of an editorial in Ha’aretz (26th October), ‘has become a symbol of the injustices of the occupation and the settlements’.
Habima has performed in the occupied territories before – notably in Ariel in 2012. Then, the theatre’s co-director, Odelia Friedman, stated ‘Habima will perform for all residents of Israel. Residents of Ariel are residents of Israel and Habima will stage shows for them.’ Habima has now reaffirmed its support for occupation, again in the language of national inclusion. According to Ha’aretz, it ‘rejects with repugnance any call to exclude citizens and to exclude communities, and condemns any attempt at a cultural boycott in any place where Israeli citizens live’. Supporting the state-funded theatre, Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, said: ‘the decision to perform for the first time in Hebron exemplifies the national theatre’s being a central pioneer in treating all citizens of the state as equal in their right to experience culture.’
Ha’aretz describes the decision as ‘a moral stain worthy of condemnation’ and describes Habima as the ‘national puppet theatre of the Israeli state’.
Habima’s latest actions confirm the timeliness of the ‘apology video’ produced by Norwegian artists, directed at the collaboration of Norway’s national theatre with Habima, and calling for European theatres to break their links to the Israeli company. (See Artswatch September).
Palestinian children dance in Sheffield – and are arrested by Israel
The Sheffield Star (16th October) reports that three 14 year old boys, dancers in the Lajee Dance Troupe, have been arrested in a night raid by the Israeli military. The Lajee Centre is located in the Aida refugee camp, a settlement of 6000 people surrounded on two sides by Israel’s separation wall.
In October last year, an Israeli army sniper killed 13 year-old Abed al-Rahman Obeidallah in the streets of the camp. This year, attacks by the Israeli army on the Lajee Centre have escalated since August, when Celtic football fans raised over £170,000 divided between the Centre and Medical Aid for Palestinians. On 19th September, soldiers attacked the Lajee Centre with teargas and rubber bullets. The following night they forced open the gate of the centre, threw tear gas grenades inside and closed the gate, trapping children inside, forcing them to inhale toxic teargas.
The three boys have been released on bail but will be tried by an Israeli military court. In April this year 414 children under 18 were held in military detention by Israel; year on year, the number is rising.
The Art of Silencing: Berlin
The Berlin Festival ‘After the Last Sky’ (September-October 2016) brought together theatre, film, performance, literature, spoken word, dramatic readings, music, and dance, in events dedicated to the ‘artistic diversity of Palestinian narratives and visions’. In the words of its opening statement, it asked ‘what can we understand about our universal human condition through the example of Palestine and Palestinian narratives?’
Inna Michaeli, blogging for the magazine +972, writes that ‘After The Last Sky’ has been attacked as antisemitic and as an instance of ‘Israel hounding’ by right-wing press commentators – and also by a leader of the German Left Party, Die Linke. Klaus Lederer, party president in Berlin, quoted in Die Tagesspiegel, 21st October, claims that in referring to ‘apartheid’ and ‘colonialism’, the event has crossed the line between culture and propaganda. The decision of city government institutions to fund the event has been called into question.
Michaeli notes that ‘the very existence of Palestinian identity and culture’ is construed as antisemitic. The politics of Miri Regev have taken root in Berlin.
Even the dead are not safe
Writing in Electronic Intifada, 3rd November, Charlotte Silver reports that the Israeli Antiquities Authority has been outsourcing the management of major archaeological excavations and sites in Jerusalem to Elad, ‘a private organization that settles Jews in the militarily occupied eastern part of the city in violation of international law’. Elad manages the so-called City of David, a settlement containing an archaeological museum catering to tourists.
With the backing of the Israeli government, notes the alternative archaeology group Emek Shaveh, Elad is engaged in a double project: attempting to construct an historical narrative that emphasises the identity of Jerusalem as a Jewish city, while erasing artifacts from other cultures and wrecking the Palestinian heritage. At the same time, the requirements of archaeological research and recreation, are put forward as a reason for destroying Palestinian homes.
Palestinian rapper performs, is booed on stage following Regev ‘terror’ accusations.
Rapper Tamer Nafar, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, performed at the Haifa Community Theatre Festival in October – despite calls from Israel’s Culture Minister to cancel his performance. Regev had opined that ‘public funds should not support activity that undermines the state, its values and symbols in the name of art and freedom of speech’ and accused Nafar of writing lyrics that legitimated terrorism . ‘I won’t let them silence me’, said Nafar, as ‘protestors in the audience booed at him and even gave him the middle finger, lifting up hands wrapped in the Israeli flag’. ‘And to those of you yelling and trying to ruin this,’ he added, ‘I can’t even bring myself to hate you’.
Palestinians invade Israel in new video posted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry
Allison Kaplan Sommer, blogging in Ha’aretz (7th October), criticises a new propaganda film posted by Israel’s foreign ministry. Sommer notes that the film ‘takes liberties’ with history, is insulting, and possibly racist. The film presents Jewish links with the territory of Israel as unshared and unbroken. Other peoples, from Babylonians, to Greeks, to Arabs, to Ottomans are presented as a succession of invaders and interlopers. In the last scene of the film, the final group of aliens arrive: they are Palestinian.
Below the line commentators on her blog are forthright:
‘That the Israeli government would go out of its way to offend intelligent people with garbage like this is beyond belief’.
By the beginning of October, the film had received 150,000 views and had been shared more than 3,000 times.