This illustrates as clearly as anything the dereliction of any restrictive or punitive policy based on who, rather than what.
“Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza struggle to live a normal life while penned in by checkpoints, surveillance, and violence. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are isolated from their brothers and sisters in Ramallah. Bethlehem is cut off from Nablus. The elaborate system of checkpoints and Jewish-settler only roads in the West Bank have barricaded one Palestinian community from another. In addition the deep economic, educational and personal grief this swiss-cheese prison has produced, Palestinian cultural life struggles to survive despite all the odds.”
“The festival began as a call from Edward Said, to “reaffirm the power of culture over the culture of power.” As participants were gathering, the Israeli policeshut down the theater. The French consul who was in attendance, offered the French Cultural Center as a new venue in the moment, in order for the festival to continue.”
“Shortly before the opening event was due to begin, a squad of around a dozen Israeli border police walked into the Palestinian National Theatre, in East Jerusalem, and ordered it to be closed.
Police brought a letter from the Israeli minister of internal security which said the event could not be held because it was a political activity connected to the Palestinian Authority.
Members of the audience and the eight speakers were ordered to leave, but the event was held several minutes later, on a smaller scale, in the garden of the nearby French Cultural Centre.
Israeli police were deployed on the street outside.
“We’re so taken aback. It’s is completely, completely independent,” Egyptian novelist Soueif, who is chairing the Palestine Festival of Literature, said.
“I think it’s very telling,” she told the crowd at the French centre. “Our motto, which is taken from the late Edward Said, is to pit the power of culture against the culture of power.”
“This is the policy being implemented with regard to any events which are either organised or funded by the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem,” he said.
He added that previous Palestinian events in the city, including the press centre for the pope, had been closed under the same policy.
However, Rafiq Husseini, the chief of staff to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who was in last night’s audience, was dismissive of the Israeli actions.
“It shows how the Israelis are not thinking, he said. “This is a cultural event. There is no terrorism, there is nobody shooting. It’s just a cultural event.”
“Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif gave this account at palfest.org.
“I saw 10 old friends in the first minute, all the Jerusalem cultural and academic set were there, a lot of Internationals, a lot of press,” she wrote. “We stood in the early evening light, by the tables laden with books and food and flowers, nibbled at kofta and borek and laughed and chatted and introduced new friends to old. . . . Then we started moving towards the auditorium and I heard someone say quietly, ‘They’ve come.’””
“…those in the diaspora who campaign long and hard against a boycott of Israeli culture should be raging with anger at this latest disgrace.”