Palestine Update 166
Israel destroys Palestinian culture and restricts solidarity
Directors and playwrights reacted to the destruction of the Said al-Mishal Centre, one of the Strip’s few venues big enough to host plays, performances and exhibitions. Citing it as a “symbol of Palestinian culture and identity”, they denounced the way Israel Defence Forces choice to flatten the five-storey building by a bomb. The IDF argued that the centre was being used by Hamas for military purposes. The signatories include the artistic directors of the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Lyceum Theatre and the English Touring Theatre, as well as well-known names such as playwright Caryl Churchill and director Rufus Norris. In fact, Caryl Churchill, who is a patron of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, caused controversy in 2009 with her short ten-minute play titled ‘Seven Jewish Children,’ was featured in the hall and later condemned as being “anti-Semitic.” In today’s Israel, any criticism of the regime’s most harsh actions are labeled anti-Semitic. In the same vein, Israel will set out to destroy, maim, and kill indiscriminately against all standards of international human rights law under the bogus ruse that their perceived enemies are anti-Semitic. It does not amount to political honesty to indulge in the cruelest political and military measures and then take shelter under the claim that those measures are obligatory only because Jews are under threat. The bulk of such claims are gobbledygook. The world must not be fooled even if the media keeps rubbing the notion of anti-Semitism in ways that poison the minds of readers and viewers of media outlets.
Over the past year and a half, Israel has followed a policy designed to spurn foreign nationals out of the West Bank. This policy impacts Palestinian residents of the West Bank, parents of children who are West Bank residents, and people who have been working in the occupied territories for many years. Israel deems the measure as a security requisite. It nonchalantly delegitimizes even what is legal as anti-Semitic because it does not suit their political stance. Many of the foreign nationals work with international NGOs and make an important contribution to human advancement in Palestine. Any challenge to anti-Zionist pathways are subject to the charge of anti-Semitism.
Jews and Arabs have no alternative but to share the land as commons based on a governance model There is little doubt that ultimately Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews will have to find a way to live together undivided by borders through an arrangement that is viable and agreeable to both sides. In terms of demography, there is parity among Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs living in what was historic Palestine. Through colonization, Israel has come to control the total area land. Not just that; it has managed through its practices to appropriate the best of natural resources and other finance-oriented machinery in favour of the Israelis. The conflict will never die until there is equity in land sharing and uniform development. The current apartheid policies do not permit this. It needs international pressure to push Israel into such an arrangement.
Open letter denounces Israel’s bombing of Gaza cultural centre
Leading lights in the world of British theatre have penned an angry open letter denouncing the bombing of Gaza’s main cultural centre by Israel. Directors and playwrights were reacting to the destruction of the Said al-Mishal Centre, was one of the Strip’s few venues big enough to host plays, performances and exhibitions, saying it was a “symbol of Palestinian culture and identity”. The signatories said the centre was “the venue of choice for theatre companies in Gaza and a space for Gaza’s top musical acts and also included recreational activities for children who were affected by three successive wars in Gaza, including the first dabkeh school for 250 children. The Israel Defence Forces claimed it was being used by “the Hamas terror organization for military purposes”.
Text of letter
“As theatre practitioners who have worked closely with Palestinian artists, we write to condemn the bombing and total destruction of the Said Al-Mishal Cultural Centre in Gaza on 9 August by an Israeli airstrike. We support our dear friends and colleagues who describe their great rage and deep pain at the obliteration of this symbol of Palestinian culture and identity as they mourn the destruction of one of the few large venues for theatre and music performances in besieged Gaza.
Since its establishment in 2004, Al-Mishal served as a home for hundreds of plays, ceremonies, exhibits, musical performances and national ceremonies. It was the venue of choice for theatre companies in Gaza and a space for Gaza’s top musical acts. The centre also included recreational activities for children who were affected by three successive wars in Gaza, including the first dabkeh school for 250 children. It is a devastating loss for the already isolated community.
We are deeply shocked that this act of destruction has not been widely reported in the British press. We support all efforts to continue Al-Mishal’s mission and the campaign for the centre’s reconstruction. We urge the UK government and the international community to take prompt and effective steps to seek a de-escalation of the situation in Gaza, to insist on the effective protection of civilians as a prime legal obligation and to take firm action to ensure that violations of international law are not tolerated”.
A new policy in Israel is making it impossible for foreign nationals to live in the West Bank
Over the past year and a half, Israel has pursued a policy which aims to keep foreign nationals out of the West Bank. This policy affects everyone — partners of Palestinian residents of the West Bank, parents of children who are West Bank residents, and people who have been working in the occupied territories for many years. It is being implemented by the Civil Administration in the settlement of Beit El, which is denying extensions of duration for visa holders. The Civil Administration finds numerous reasons to justify their decision for denial. Working in the territories without a permit is one. In a breach of the Oslo Accords, the Civil Administration refuses to approve work permits for people who are married to a West Bank resident, and have lived in the occupied territories for several decades. The administration probably expects these people not to be able to provide for their family.
Traveling out of Ben Gurion Airport is another justification used to decline visa extensions for those foreign nationals. Israel restricts their movement to the West Bank only, and those who dare fly through the airport in Tel Aviv are punished for it. Here, too, the procedures violate treaties Israel is a signatory of, and even the protocols of the Civil Administration itself.
The rejection is debilitating in its conciseness: in a single stroke, two words – “request denied” – are jotted down on a little note that is attached to an applicant’s passport. Within seconds, these people become illegal residents of the very place they had lived and worked in for many years, and suddenly face deportation. If they stay in the West Bank shortly after their status is changed, even if for a mere few days, their designation as “illegal residents” will prevent their ability to return in their future.
A Palestinian voice on the “one-state solution”
Without outside pressure allied with fresh thinking, we are unlikely to get any closer towards finding an equitable way to share the land
There is little doubt that ultimately Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews will have to find a way to live together in the same land, undivided by borders. Whether this would be an undivided single state, or a federation of some sort, will have to be worked out through an arrangement that is viable and agreeable to both sides. Until then the “one- state solution” remains more of a slogan than a programme, something to be further developed before this future attractive prospect can ever become a reality. Even though there is rough parity between the numbers of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs living in historic Palestine, as matters now stand it is the Israeli state that dominates the entire land—exploiting it as its own, and privileging the Israeli Jewish citizens.
When one farmer in the South Hebron hills, where the settlers are doing all they can to drive out local Palestinians [such as him], was asked whether the settlers can stay, he responded that as far as he was concerned they could, but he added a rider. “There is plenty of room, but only on condition that they act like human beings.” As long as Israel reigns supreme, and can violate Palestinians’ rights to the land and discriminate against them with impunity – whether they be disenfranchised people living under occupation, or Palestinians living as citizens within Israel itself—there is little likelihood that the present reality will change.
Without outside pressure allied with fresh thinking, we are unlikely to get any closer towards finding an equitable way to share the land.
Why Young Jews Are Walking Off Birthright Tours
“Every year, Birthright sends 50,000 young Jews on 10-day, all expenses paid trips to Israel that they claim are apolitical,” he said. “But my experience taught me that, in fact, Birthright has an explicitly right-wing political agenda.” The tour group Birthright sponsors free trips for young Jews annually, and approximately 80% of participants are from the U.S. and Canada.
Wagner walked off the summer trip along with seven other participants, joining several more who left different Birthright trip throughout 2018. “Visiting Israel in 2018 and not talking about Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians is like visiting the Deep South in the 1950s and not talking about Jim Crow segregation. Birthright consistently tried to hide the occupation from its participants, instead giving a false narrative intended to get my generation to support a violent system that goes against so many of our Jewish values,” said Wagner. “Seven other Birthright participants and I decided that instead of taking part in Birthright’s pro-occupation agenda, we would leave the trip to meet with Palestinians living under occupation every day.”
Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.
لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.