ARTSWATCH December 2016 – January 2017

Regev Watch

Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, has commented , 27th December, on the change of presidency in the United States:   ‘Obama is history,’ said Regev. ‘We have Trump.’

Christian Viveros-Fauné, writing in Artnet, suggests that ‘like Trump, the Likud politician consistently engages in a brazen, counter-factual brand of right-wing populism’.  Viveros-Fauné charts the growing scope of Regev’s ‘war against culture’ noting inter alia that:

‘At least one major institution, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, has already found itself in the crossfire. As reported in February 2016 by Shany Littman at Haaretz, its director and chief curator Suzanne Landau recently “called off an exhibit by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman because of political pressures.” Kratsman’s contribution to the show, which was scheduled to open in November 2016, consisted of a Harvard University-funded series of 3,000 portraits of Palestinians he met on his travels to the Occupied Territories. Many of the photographer’s portrait subjects have since been killed in clashes with Israeli Defense Forces. When [the reporter] reached Landau for comment, the curator cited “scheduling problems.”’

Habima and Ashtar: tales from two theatres

In 2012. The Globe Theatre invited theatre companies from around the world to come to London with their productions of Shakespeare’s plays.

Habima Theatre, based in Tel Aviv, arrived fresh from appearances in the Occupied Territories, to perform The Merchant of Venice. Ashtar Theatre, came from Ramallah with Richard II.

Since 2012, the two companies have experienced contrasting fortunes. Habima continues to perform in the occupied territories (see October Artswatch), and in return receives additional funding from the Israeli state.

Iman Aoun, artistic director of Ashtar, reports the financial difficulties that the Palestinian theatre faces:

‘The economic situation of the people in Palestine is dire especially in the rural areas, where most of our audience is situated, which makes it hard for them to invest in seeing any theatre. We have to present our performances to them for free, which creates another problem for us as we are continually facing financial difficulties and we rely on donations.’

Ashtar has issued an appeal for donations.  Habima continues to enjoy membership of the Union of European Theatres.

Dareen Tatour’s prosecution for poetry continues in Nazareth court

In June, July and November 2016 Artswatch reported on the prosecution of Dareen Tatour for writing a poem, ‘Resist my people, resist them’ and posting it on Youtube. The long drawn out prosecution process seems as much part of the punishment of Tatour as any sentence likely to be imposed by the court.

Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Support Network, reported on the latest stage of the case.

On 26th January, Tatour testified before the Magistrate’s Court in Nazareth. The Free Haifa website reports that her testimony and cross-examination lasted for six hours. She refuted prosecution claims that she sympathises with Islamic Jihad.

The court will re-convene on 19th March. In the meantime, Tatour will continue to live under house arrest. She is prohibited from using the Internet, or her smart phone and she can leave her home only for short periods, under supervision. She has refused prosecution attempts to plea bargain.

Social Media and the Israeli state

Israel’s social media war continues. The Palestine Chronicle (28th December) reports that an Israeli ministerial committee has approved the so-called ‘Facebook Bill’ that would allow Israeli officials to force the social media giant to remove certain content through a court order if there are suspicions of ‘incitement’ . The bill, proposed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, claims legislative authority not only for Israel but also for the West Bank – another indicator of Israel’s intentions towards the illegally occupied territories.  Interestingly, Justice Minister Shaked herself has a record of the very thing she wishes to legislate against. MA’AN News agency recalls that in the summer of 2014, she made the case on Facebook for the killing of mothers of Palestinian militants:  ‘They should follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go as should the physical houses in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise more little snakes are raised.’

7amleh, the Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement, launched on 21st January the Palestine Digital Activism Forum. Nadim Nashif, Director of 7amleh, presented the results of 7amleh’s survey of the social media experience of Palestinian youth:  25 percent of Palestinian accounts were hacked, and 19 percent of the Palestinian social media users were intercepted by the authorities on the basis of their posts.  (In 2016 the Palestinian company Conceptsestimated that Facebook was used by approximately 1.7 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.)

In the last sixth months, Israeli forces have raided seven Palestinian publishing houses

Israel’s war of attrition against Palestinian culture continues. The International Middle East Media Centre (IMEMC) reported on 30th January on the Israeli army’s latest raid on a Palestinian publisher. Troops entered the offices of al-Nour and seized a computer and printers. The offices were ransacked.  According to IMEMC, in 2016 Israeli authorities committed a total of 252 violations against the Palestinian media in the occupied territories: raiding media outlets, confiscating equipment, and arresting journalists.

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