Our regular report on Israel’s war on Palestinian cultural life and expression.
[Pictured: Palestinian-American rapper and video-maker, Abu Rahss]
HOW ISRAEL MAINTAINS A FREE AND THRIVING PRESS
In May 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2222, on the protection of journalists in conflict situations. The resolution ‘condemned all violations and abuses committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in situations of armed conflict’.
During the debate on the resolution, Israel’s delegate, David Roet, spoke in praise of his country, ‘a model for how a democratic nation, even while facing immense challenges could maintain a free and thriving press’.
In a statement released on Friday 28th July, the NGO Reporters sans Frontières condemned Israeli forces for using ‘intimidation, denial of access, violence and arrests to limit or prevent media coverage of the demonstrations and clashes sparked by the introduction of additional security measures around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem’
In a statement released on 31st July, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a pre-dawn raid by Israeli forces on the headquarters of the media production company Palmedia. They ransacked Palmedia’s offices, and destroyed equipment.
In a statement released on 6th August, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Israel’s decision, announced by Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, to close Al-Jazeera’s offices in Israel, revoke the credentials of its journalists and censor its transmissions.
TATOUR – PROGRESS MEASURED IN SMALL VICTORIES
In October, Dareen Tatour will have spent two years in detention, for the crime of posting poems on her Facebook page – see Artswatch April-May 2017, and earlier. Her long-drawn out trial has not yet resulted in a verdict and so Tatour lives under highly restrictive bail conditions. The Free Haifa website (August 3rd) reports on a small courtroom victory won by Dareen. The conditions imposed by the court in May 2017 meant that she couldn’t go out of the house unless accompanied at every moment by one of her 5 certified “supervisors” – her parents, two brothers and a sister in law. But four of these five “supervisors” are working every day, and Dareen’s mother ‘is busy caring for a bunch of her small grandchildren while their parents are at work’. Dareen’s lawyers therefore asked for the court to approve three further supervisors. After extensive argument, the court agreed. For Palestinians, progress is measured in small victories.
Dareen’s ordeal continues. Its absurdity and viciousness is well brought out in this report, by Israeli sociologist Yehouda Shenhav.
THEATRE UNDER SIEGE IN ACRE
Shlomi Eldar reports in Al Monitor, June 2017, that various playwrights, directors and other artists have announced their withdrawal from the Acre Festival of Alternative Theatre, in which they were scheduled to take part in October 2017. Their withdrawal was a response to the decision of the festival organizers to ban the play “Prisoners of the Occupation” by Einat Weitzman.
Eldar sees the ban as an effect of the policies of Culture Minister Mini Regev ,which have ‘created a threatening climate that limits free expression and leads theatres to practice self-censorship’.
Ha’aretz reported on 7th June that the Executive Committee of Shacham, the Israeli Actors Guild had agreed to call on its members not to take part in productions selected for the festival under its new artistic management.
MOHAMMED BAKRI IN FRANCE
Mohammed Bakri harassed in the Israeli courts for his film ‘Jenin, Jenin’ (see Artswatch November 2016 and earlier) was guest of honour at the third Festival Ciné-Palestine, held in Paris and surrounding towns. The Festival has now established a real presence in France. 2700 people attended its screenings; details of its programme can be read here.
ON NOT CROSSING BORDERS (1): GAZA TO NABLUS IS AN IMPASSABLE ROAD
Amira Hass (Ha’aretz 8th August) reports that Israel’s high court has refused to allow two 16 year-old Palestinian musicians, members of the Edward Said National Conservatoire, to travel from their homes in Gaza to perform in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus. Hass dissects the decision-making of the High Court, and of COGAT, the Israeli office for the Co-ordination of Government Activities in the Territories. She concludes that ‘they’re only following orders, which are to sever Palestinians in Gaza from those in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), to destroy the natural connections between them. Israel’s clear objective, which is gradually being realized, is to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate entity’.
ON NOT CROSSING BORDERS (2): THE VISA PROBLEMS OF A PALESTINIAN PHOTGRAPHER
Hamde Abu Rahma is an award-winning Palestinian photojournalist, an activist and the author of ‘Roots Run Deep – Life in Occupied Palestine’. His work as photojournalist focuses on the lives of Palestinians living in the Israeli occupied territories of the West Bank.
Some of Abu Rahma’s photos were exhibited at the PalExpo Event in London in July, attended by 15,000 people. Abu Rahma himself could not attend. The British government, having agreed his visa request, failed to return his passport in time.
Abu Rahma also experienced visa problems in 2016. He was unable to turn up at a travelling exhibition of his work because UK Visas and Immigration Office had refused his visa application, saying there was no proof of funding and that therefore they were not satisfied he was a genuine visitor.
ON NOT CROSSING BORDERS (3): THOM YORKE AND ABU RAHSS.
Thom Yorke is a musician, a member of Radiohead, who despite widespread opposition performed in July this year in Hayarkon Park, Israel. Before the concert, Yorke tweeted ‘Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression.’
Abu Rahss (pictured above) is a Palestinian-American rapper and video-maker.He is also a skateboader. In early August he made the journey to Palestine, in order to be a camp counsellor at SkateQilya Skate Camp in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. He got as far as the Allenby Bridge, on Israel’s border with Jordan. In Mondoweiss, Rahss explained what happened next:
‘After going up to the window and presenting my passport like all travellers, I was questioned for 15 minutes after which my passport was taken and I was told to sit and wait, as I had been expecting. Palestinians have to sit and wait while Europeans, Americans, and other international travelers pass through without any problem 95 percent of the time.
‘After two hours of waiting, I was finally called to be questioned. It was unpleasant and antagonistic from the start and I was questioned for about 30 minutes about my family history, who I know in the West Bank, if I attend protests in the U.S., if I attend protests in Palestine, and much more. My phone was taken and looked through for five minutes (a young woman looked through my Instagram account thoroughly but seemed upset that she couldn’t find whatever it was she was looking for).
I then waited for another hour before being taken to a back room and questioned further about the same things by two new border officers (they also took my fingerprints and took headshots). After this round of questioning, they informed me that since I’m going to the West Bank and not Israel, I have to talk with an official from the Israeli army’.
The official turned Rahss away, and he has since returned to Washington.