Three theaters, two Palestinian and one Israeli, were targeted. One was physically attacked, one closed by administrative order, and the third threatened by the municipality
Sometimes it also serves as a political tool, a vehicle for satire. In Palestine, the state of Israel is taking steps to ensure that theater shows will not disseminate subversive thoughts in the public.
The Freedom Theater in the Jenin Refugee Camp is the most famous theater in Israel/Palestine. It doesn’t have a big budget or success around the world, but it demonstrated that culture can be a liberating tool which can empower people living under a brutal military occupation.
The Freedom Theater is a venue to join the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation with poetry, music, theater, cameras.
JULIANO MER-KHAMIS, COFOUNDER, THE FREEDOM THEATER: The Israelis succeeded to destroy our identity, our social structure, political and economical. Our duty as artists is to rebuild or reconstruct this destruction, who we are, why we are, where we’re going, who we want to be.
HEVER: Juliano Mer-Khamis, one of the founders of the theater, was assassinated in April 2011. His killers have not yet been found. But the theater continues its work.
In July 2011, Israeli soldiers raided the theater in the middle of the night. The soldiers vandalized the theater and arrested some of the staff.
The attack against Palestinian theater culture has recently been taken up again by the Israeli authorities. In June 22, the Israeli minister of internal security, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, gave an order to prevent the opening of the El-Hakawati Theater in East Jerusalem.
The El-Hakawati theater is a puppet theater for children and was supposed to be opened in a festival, with puppet shows intended for children in occupied East Jerusalem. The minister expressed suspicion that the festival is to be held “under the auspices of or sponsored by the Palestinian Authority.” He based this assertion on the fact that the Palestinian Cultural Fund in Ramallah, supported by Norway, has helped to finance the festival.
UNIDENTIFIED: –den of criminal lawlessness, of civil unrest, of security threats. Their basement must be filled with guns and bombs and knives and tons of rockets and sprockets that could be used to take lives. Right?
CROWD: Yes! Boo!
UNIDENTIFIED: Because why else would we shut down a children’s theater festival?
HEVER: Ariel Doron, an Israeli puppeteer, created a video in protest of what he calls “Israel’s war on puppets”.
Despite the protests, this year there will be no puppet theater for the children of East Jerusalem.
The most recent development in Israel’s repression of theater happened on the Israeli side of the Green Line, in the Israeli Khan Theater in West Jerusalem.
The Khan Theater rented its space to an organization of performance art called Hazira Habein Tkhumit, or the Inter-Theme Arena. The Arena intends to use the space to put up a theater piece (amongst other pieces) called My Name is Rachel Corrie.
Rachel Corrie was an activist from the U.S. who joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). In 2003, she laid in front of an Israeli armored bulldozer in order to stop the bulldozer from destroying a family’s home in the Gaza Strip. The bulldozer ran her over and killed her. After nine years of legal struggle by Rachel Corrie’s parents, an Israeli courthouse exonerated the Israeli government from responsibility to Corrie’s death, and refused to allow legal action against the driver of the bulldozer.
A theater play called My Name is Rachel Corrie was staged first in London in 2005, and the Hebrew version of the play is scheduled to be staged on July 7. Here is a short piece from the English version.
In response, deputy mayor of Jerusalem David Hadari, from the extreme-right Jewish Home Party, called on the municipality to deny funding to the Khan Theater in order to silence the play or similar plays who criticize Israel.
So far, the play is still scheduled to be staged as planned. After all, the Khan is an Israeli theater, the Inter-Theme Arena is an Israeli organization, and there still remains more freedom of speech for Jewish Israelis than there is for Palestinians for the time being.
This is Shir Hever for The Real News.
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