ARTSWATCH August 2016

 Gaza’s celebrated Dawaween refused exit permits  [photo Shadi Alqarra]

Borders closed to musicians from Gaza

Israel opens the door to Western performers, but as far as Palestinian artists are concerned, the borders are closed. Middle East Eye (23rd August) reports on two cases where singers and musicians from Gaza have been denied access to other parts of occupied Palestine. Decisions made by the Israeli authorities have prevented the ‘Palestine Sings’ children’s choir from performing at the Palestine Choral Festival, while Gaza’s most popular band, Dawaween, was not given the exit permits that would have allowed it to perform at the Palestine International Festival.  The band responded with a protest performance at the Erez border point between Israel and Gaza. The full story is here.

Cement and Children’s Art

The German company HeidelbergCement owns quarries and cement works in the West Bank, extracting Palestinian natural resources, and transferring them to Israel.  Meanwhile, back in the city of Heidelberg where the company’s head office is located, the authorities have banned, according to the German press, an exhibition of paintings and drawings entitled “Experiences, Fears and Dreams – Children in Palestine.”  The event was supposed to host drawings from two rehabilitation centres in Gaza and Ramallah. Some of the pieces depicted aerial bombing and burning buildings. The city authorities explained that the exhibition was highly political, whereas the city was committed to neutrality.

Jenin,  Jenin

In 2002, Mohammed Bakri made a film – ‘Jenin,  Jenin’ – about the people of Jenin refugee camp,  in which they told what happened to them during the Israeli invasion of April 2002.It was banned by the Israeli film censorship board.  Though the ban was subsequently lifted, the persecution of Bakri did not stop. Ex-members of the Israeli Defence Force took legal action against him for defamation; screenings of his films have been disrupted, and his stage appearances have been the focus of protests by the Israeli right.  In a comment piece in Ha’aretz (3rd August, firewall) Bakri refers to the years of boycott and ostracism that he has experienced, and challenges Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim to be a force for peace:

‘How can I believe your statements when on the ground the occupation continues to flourish, and plans for building thousands of apartments for Israeli Jews in the West Bank are published day after day?’

 Flying while Palestinian            

Ha’aretz reports (28th July ) that Israeli Palestinian actress Samar Qupty has written on Facebook about being delayed for two hours by security inspectors at Ben-Gurion Airport and forced to board her flight without her carry-on baggage.

Qupty, star of the Israeli film “Junction 48,” arrived at the airport for a flight to Colombia, where the film was being screened at a local film festival.  Airport security refused to let her bring her carry-ons aboard.

“I don’t know how I dared to think I had a right to fly to Colombia,” she wrote. “After all, it’s not clear what an Arab woman is going to do there by herself.”

Mohammed Abu Sakha – update (see Artswatch July)

The Palestinian Prisoner Network, Samidoun, reported on 27th July that Mohammed Abu Sakha, circus performer and trainer, had joined a prison hunger strike in support of Bilal Kayed. Kayed is protesting against his imprisonment without trial. Sakha, likewise, is an administrative detainee, whose case has not been taken to court.  The Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association noted on 25th August, that Sakha’s appeal against administrative detention had been turned down.

Artists for Palestine UK protests Brand Israel on the Fringe

Palestinian youngsters from Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society appearing on the Edinburgh Fringe in August

Palestinian youngsters from Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society appearing on the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Artists for Palestine UK has written to the organisers of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe enclosing a letter of protest from the founder of Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, over the inclusion on the Fringe programme of an event billed as “probably the most significant pro-Israel advocacy event of the year in the United Kingdom”.

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Threat of 800 lashes hangs over Palestinian poet in Saudi jail

Palestinian artist, curator and poet Ashraf Fayadh is serving an eight year term in a Saudi jail, sentenced to receive 800 lashes for alleged apostasy. Here a member of the Artists for Palestine UK collective reviews the significance of this alarming case.

Ashraf Fayadh

Ashraf Fayadh

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Israel’s war on Palestinian media – Why no protest from the UK government?

In March 2016, Israel continued its assault on Palestinian media organisations by closing down the TV station, Palestine Today, and arresting some of its staff. The British government, so vocal at other times in its defence of ‘democratic values’, responded only with silence.  The APUK collective sent this letter to the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, to request that he apply the principles that apparently underpin his government’s domestic policy, to relations with Britain’s allies overseas. We await a reply.

Israeli troops invading Palestinian radio station. Picture:Palestine News Network.

Israeli troops invading Palestinian radio station. Picture:Palestine News Network.

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Freedom Theatre defies all odds to tell their “absolutely compelling” story

Discussion with The Freedom Theatre from Jenin

As the Freedom Theatre’s first ever UK tour draws to a close, we are proud to be able to post a short film (27 minutes) offering insights into the experience of members of the company, and also the audiences who have flocked to see The Siege at 10 venues from Manchester to Hastings, Colchester to Glasgow, where the tour ends on June 20.

The play tells the story of a group of armed men who sought sanctuary in arguably the world’s holiest site, the Church of the Holy Nativity, in Bethlehem in 2002. Based in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, Freedom Theatre rose out of the resistance to Israeli occupation, survived the brutal killing of its founder Juliano Mer Khamis, and continues to exemplify Palestinian cultural resistance in the face of intimidation and harrassment, which even followed it to the UK.

Filmed at the post-performance panel discussion after their first show at London’s Battersea Arts Centre on May 19, the video makes inspiring viewing for supporters of Palestinian artistic expression, whether or not they have seen the play itself. Continue reading

Palestinian artists speak: boycott directed against apartheid system of occupation & discrimination

My name is Abdelfattah Abusrour. I am director of Alrowwad cultural and theatre training society, which I founded with a group of friends in 1998 in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine, where I was born, to create a safe space of beautiful expression, a philosophy that I call beautiful resistance against the ugliness of occupation and its violence… and to help our children and youth to see their potential as change makers, without needing to carry a gun and shoot everybody else…

In May 2002, Alrowwad theatre centre was vandalised by the Israeli army. They broke our video cameras and computers, and emptied oil and acrylic painting tubes all over the space. During our tours in the West Bank, many checkpoints forbid us passage with our theatre or dance shows and our play bus. We wait for hours, sometimes without being allowed to pass south to Hebron or to the north. No access is granted to Gaza, to East Jerusalem or 1948 Palestine.

Theatre and arts are about giving a voice to those who are not heard, and defending what we believe is just and right… That is why for me as an artist, as a theatre practitioner, I boycott every relation with Israeli artists or academics or politicians… Continue reading

Theatre director Jonathan Chadwick: BDS crucially important element in resistance

Jonathan Chadwick – artistic director of Az Theatre, and a Pledge signatory – has written a blog post about his recent trip to the West Bank, which we think is worth sharing:

I went to Palestine on Saturday 7th February and came back on Sunday 15th February. I failed to get into Gaza to pursue the work on War and Peace.

Caryl Churchill and I worked on her recent play, Love and Information, at Ashtar Theatre. The British Council accommodated us. The Royal Court Theatre provided finance for the translation. We paid for the travel and did the work for free. It was our contribution, like planting a play in Palestine! Continue reading

UK theatre director blogs his trip to Palestine

Jonathan Chadwick is artistic director of Az Theatre:

The aim was to visit my colleagues in Gaza in order to pursue our project to create an original new Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Gaza. Now it looks quite unlikely that I will get permission from the Israelis. But I will still be going to the West Bank.

… Theatre for Everybody in Gaza have produced a good Arabic translation of a stage adaptation that was produced in the 1950 in Germany. We have presented two events as benefits to finance the work. Both events were at Rich Mix. One in September and the other in January. At both these events there were readings of stage adaptations of Tolstoy’s works and skype conversations with our colleagues in Gaza.

The work in Gaza has been held up by the recent ‘war’ and the subsequent ‘peace’. The situation there is dreadful. We thought that if I visited Gaza and worked with Theatre for Everybody it would get things moving and it would help to break down the isolation they feel.

He will be joined by playwright Caryl Churchill: Continue reading