All I’ve been trying to do is not remember the war! 12/07/2015

12/07/2015

A year ago in the opening days of the attack on Gaza Hossam sent us a dramatic dialogue of a family talking at home:

READ IT

In these days, yes these days, all I’ve been trying to do is not remember the war!

child in his mother lap - Basel

A family in Gaza talking at home on the anniversary of the war

A few days ago he sent, along with the digital montage art above by his artist friend Basel Maqousi, this new dramatic dialogue of a man and a woman and their daughter talking at home:

What days, may God never repeat them, the woman said

Yes. Amen, the man said

Do you remember?

Can I forget?

It’s terrible, everybody posts photos of killed children on facebook,

Don’t open facebook then.

All the TV channels are showing reports from the war.

Turn the TV off.

And on the radio!

You don’t need to listen to the radio.

 

I was trying to sleep as much as I could just to escape from my fear, the daughter said.

You were the brave one, my dear, the man said.

I was in a panic.

Sure, it is normal in war, we were all in a panic, my dear.

When Mum was going to the hospital to work, I was praying all the time until I saw her come back home again.

Your mother is very brave.

Yes.

 

Do you remember the night when they bombed Shujaiya?

I am trying to forget it!

That was one of the scariest nights.

Yes it was.

How many people took refuge at our building?

Many.

About 200 men, women and children, they arrived with nothing!

Yes, our neighbors were kind and generous.

How did the basement accommodate all of them?

Some were housed in their relative’s apartments.

And the food, it was Ramadan but all together we succeeded in feeding every one of them for 47 days.

Yes…

 

Are we going to spend the evening talking only about the war?

Do you have something else to talk about?

 

Are we going to survive the next war, the woman said

Why do you say that, there is no next war, the man said

Sure there is. What’s changed, have the Israelis fallen in love with us?

No, but the world will not allow another war in Gaza.

Really? Why? What has the world to do with us? You are naïve if you believe the world is busy thinking about us.

I mean, why there should be another war?

Same reasons as for the previous wars

What reasons?

I don’t know.

 

So there will be no war.

Yes, there will. And again, do you believe we will survive the next war?

 

War anniversary: a family in Gaza talk at home 10/07/2015

Here is the latest message form Hossam Madhoun reflecting on the war in Gaza a year ago.

On the anniversary of the war  9 July 2015

 

‘In these days, yes these days, all I’ve been trying to do was not remember the war!’

A family in Gaza talking at home:

What days, may God never repeat them, the woman said

Yes. Amen, the man said

Do you remember?

Can I forget?

It’s terrible, everybody posts photos of killed children on facebook,

Don’t open facebook then.

All the TV channels are showing reports from the war.

Turn the TV off.

And on the radio!

You don’t need to listen to the radio.

 

I was trying to sleep as much as I could just to escape from my fear, the daughter said.

You were the brave one, my dear, the man said.

I was in a panic.

Sure, it is normal in war, we were all in a panic, my dear.

When Mum was going to the hospital to work, I was praying all the time until I saw her come back home again.

Your mother is very brave.

Yes.

 

Do you remember the night when they bombed Shujaiya?

I am trying to forget it!

That was one of the scariest nights.

Yes it was.

How many people took refuge at our building?

Many.

About 200 men, women and children, they arrived with nothing!

Yes, our neighbors were kind and generous.

How did the basement accommodate all of them?

Some were housed in their relative’s apartments.

And the food, it was Ramadan but all together we succeeded in feeding every one of them for 47 days.

Yes…

Are we going to spend the evening talking only about the war?

Do you have something else to talk about?

 

Are we going to survive next war, the woman said

Why do you say that, there is no next war, the man said

Sure there is. What’s changed, have the Israelis fallen in love with us?

No, but the world will not allow another war in Gaza.

Really? Why? What has the world to do with us? You are naïve if you believe the world is busy thinking about us.

I mean, why there should be another war?

Same reasons as for the previous wars

What reasons?

I don’t know.

 

So there will be no war.

Yes, there will. And again, do you believe we will survive the next war?

 

Questions 08/03/2015

How is the work on War and Peace going in Gaza?

Hossam Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi are starting creative rehearsal sessions with director, Naem Naser Hamdan. The basis of the work is Hossam’s translation of the stage adaptation by Erwin Piscator and colleagues of Tolstoy’s novel.

Naem is one of the best known theatre-makers in the Gaza Strip. He studied the oud and worked as music teacher in Gaza and in Libya in the late 1980s.  He studied theatre with Theater Day Productions from 1993 – 1996 and participated in many theatre productions as an actor, writer and director, discovering that he preferred directing. He is one of  the founders of Gaza Theater Lab in 1996 and of Masafat Theater Group in 2000. He worked with Theater for Everybody as actor and director on many production: Welcome to Hell, Checkpoint, The Night of Life, The Island, The Wall.  His latest production is: “When the Sun Rains”, a play based on improvisations and for which he wrote the final text.  The play which is being performed in Gaza now is a kind of the Palestinian Odyssey depicting the story of the migration of our grandfathers in 1947-1948 right up to today’s forced migration by sea of young Palestinians from Gaza.  The first rehearsal session will be on Sunday 8th March.  Wish I could be there.  Wishing them well.

Why did I get involved in Palestine?

I was asked this twice recently.  Once by the security person at Tel Aviv airport. What a good question, I said and started to rattle on about ‘it’s a human issue’ and ‘this is our world’ and ‘questions of justice’.  He looked mildly annoyed and eventually told me that he thought I had a bomb in my suitcase.

The other was when my friend, a Palestinian working for the British Council, and I were rushing across Trafalgar Square in a lunch break.  I wanted to show her some of my favourite paintings in the National Gallery (Bellini and Piero della Francesco).  Same inarticulate answers! Of course she wasn’t in the least bit annoyed.

I can’t be precise.  Primo Levi (who was imprisoned in Auschwitz) said that the genocidal project of the National Socialist in Germany and the occupied territories from 1933-1945 was a cause for us to be ashamed of being human.  Yes, ashamed of our species because of the depth and scale of this historical event. That’s what I feel is the significance of what is happening in Palestine.

What is the meaning of the expression: a crime against humanity?  I suppose it mainly refers to a crime that a national state perpetrates.  And when a perpetrator national state is ‘supported’ by other national states, then all the citizens thereof are implicated.  This is the truth of what Nelson Mandela said: ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.  He probably wasn’t directly referring to UK citizens!  When I hear the phrase ‘international community’ I wonder who this is.  Does Israel belong to this community?  Why don’t they abide by international law?

Are we getting access to Gaza?

Through my Member of Parliament I have tabled a written question about access to Gaza.  I believe that the UK government is colluding with the Israelis in the blockade of Gaza.  They are not providing for cultural and educational contact and are complicit in genocidal definitions of humanitarian aid applied there.  This division between Gaza and the West Bank is intrinsic to the genocidal mission of the Israeli state.

The question was:

Ordinary Written question to: Foreign & Commonwealth Office for answer on 02 Mar 2015 12:00 AM
To ask the Secretary of State what steps he is currently taking, if any,to support cultural exchanges between UK artists and educators and their Gaza counterparts.

The answer was:

Mr Tobias Ellwood: The British Council maintains a full-time office in Gaza, with a staff of three who are involved in supporting UK – Gaza interaction in the fields of culture and education. Access restrictions together with our current travel advice warning against travel to Gaza, makes this work hard. However, despite these difficulties, our ongoing commitment has recently yielded various training events for Gazan educators in the West Bank, and Gazan delegates attending the 2014 British Council regional workshop, on “Cultural Leadership and Innovation”, in Beirut.

The answer was submitted on 05 Mar 2015 at 14:29.

Furthermore a group of MPs have put down an Early Day Motion regarding access to Gaza for Members of Parliament.  It has 48 signatures. Take a look.

Also, a group of MPs have put another motion down relating to natural resources in the sea off Gaza. It is quite usual for genocidal processes to include theft.  Take a look.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK are organising a meeting about Gaza at the House of Commons at 18.30 on Tuesday 10th March.  Find out about this and come along.

What else is happening?

Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody has agreed to strengthen our artistic partnership by creating a collaboration with Al Rowwad.  This is a wonderful project, based in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, continues ‘beautiful resistance’ to the Israeli occupation. Find out how Al Rowwad do this.  We believe it’s really important at this time to strengthen links between the West Bank and Gaza.

Telesur, the Venezuelan international television news and current affairs channel are commissioning film-maker, Mahmoud Abu Ghalwa, to make a short item on our War and Peace project in Gaza.

Collaborating with an activist who worked with Medical Aid for Palestinians I want to follow up a story I heard while I was in Palestine.  During the war in the summer medical staff at hospitals on the West Bank reported that Gaza patients who come to receive treatment are isolated from other patients and routinely swabbed to identify the types and numbers of bacteria that they carry. The result is confirmation that people from Gaza uniformly carry life-threatening, multi-drug-resistant bacteria in numbers beyond what one would expect to see under normal circumstances. The reason that they are isolated from other patients is to prevent the spread of these bacteria.  This may present evidence of a complex and critical deterioration in environmental health and public hygiene in Gaza.  This also may be interacting with the misuse of anti-biotics.  If anybody reading this has an expertise in environmental or public health and can help framing a way of exploring this issue, please contact me.

Contact: info@aztheatre.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rollercoaster 15/01/15

Yesterday evening I spoke to Hossam and Jamal, directors of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza.  We are all looking forward to Sunday 18th January in three days time when we will be having a public skype conversation at the event at Rich Mix that starts at 3pm with a reading of extracts from a stage adaptation of Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy.  Get tickets

This is a benefit for War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine) – London (UK), a part of our ten-year partnership of cultural and creative exchange.

I have been exploring all ways and means to get support, help and advice in trying to get the required permission to enter Gaza through the Eres Crossing in February.  I am hoping to spend 9 days there after being in Ramallah, Palestine, working with Caryl Churchill and Ashtar Theatre on Love and Information.

It was possible to get into Gaza through Egypt and the Rafah crossing until the army ousted Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, in July 2013.

Now it’s only possible to get there through Israel but unless you have special contacts and liaison with the Israelis this is very difficult.  I had a Gaza entry application form from the Israelis from a former attempt and it had a telephone number on it.  I rung it and talked to somebody from the Israeli Co-ordination and Liaison Administration to the Gaza Strip.  He wondered how I’d got the number and told me kindly that Eres wasn’t a check-point it was a crossing.  I thought that was nice. He said only organisations registered with the Israeli Ministry of Interior were given permits and told me to go through their web-site. I’ve requested an application form but they haven’t yet accepted my log-in name and password.  The British Council have referred me to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines. They will provide ‘comfort’ letters to facilitate travel to the West Bank but Gaza is another country. Their official and personal advice is: don’t go.

My friend Steve Tiller was invited by Theatre Day, a children’s theatre company started by Dutch theatre practitioners decades ago.  He got into Gaza because this company has a liaison with the Israelis and maybe are registered with the Ministry of Interior.  I asked them for help but they told me that they couldn’t because I wouldn’t be under their protection in Gaza.  Read about Steve’s trip last year.

I was feeling completely despondent. Nobody was offering me any help or support.  I decided it was really impossible.  And then yesterday, in response to a request that I had made to the PLO Mission here in London, the Cultural Attache called me and started to describe what they could do to get me to meet the right people in Ramallah to secure the liaison with the Israelis.  I was overjoyed.  It is by no means certain that I can get in but at least there is a chance.

Going to Gaza is important to sustain our project. Talking to Hossam and Jamal I expressed the feeling that maybe we had taken on too much in seeking to base a piece of work on Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Hossam has produced an Arabic translation of the version created by Erwin Piscator fro a production at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin in the mid-1950s.  If you are interested in this translation please contact Az Theatre.

The workshops Theatre for Everybody had planned were made impossible by the war last year.  They were to collaborate with the French Institute but the people who worked there have left.  People are exhausted.  The cultural, social and human infrastructure is in ruins.

So I asked them if it was not better to change the aim of the project and to undertake work with young people using perhaps the themes from the book.

Both Jamal and Hossam told me they would be disappointed not to pursue our aim, that there were already projects in Gaza working with young people and that they saw this War and Peace project as a unique inspiration to produce theatre.

We started talking about the basic themes and the structure of the story and how it was about a friendship between two men, Pierre and Andrei, who were quite different.  One was inclined towards peace and the other was inclined towards war.  We talked about how friendships were often between people who were radically different.  So why did these two men react so differently to their situation and what were the forces at work on them that drew them together?

Suddenly the story began to light up with significance.

They told me that they would be starting their work very soon and that they would build the company almost one person at a time.  We agreed it was very important in the circumstances to use the work to build up creative relationships and that the aim should be to make contact with the key movements in the story rather than obeying strictly the requirements of the text.

Our project is characterised by this feeling of being on a rollercoaster. At one moment everything seems impossible and at the next, because of the human contact and shared basic aims, everything seems possible again.

Who knows?  In mid-February I may be joining them in Gaza and we will be working together to develop our production of War and Peace!

 

 

Nothing is happening in Gaza 8/01/2015

8 January 2015

I asked my friends, Hossam and Jamal, how was the New Year in Gaza.

They are the directors of Theatre for Everybody with which Az Theatre is in partnership.  We first worked together in 2002 when Az brought a number of theatre companies from different countries together at the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania.  This was the start of our War Stories project.  In 2009 we started our ten-year partnership with Hossam and Jamal’s company.  The latest phase is War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine) – London (UK).  You can buy tickets for our upcoming event at Rich Mix on Sunday 18th January at 3pm. This will be a reading of a stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s last novel, Resurrection read by Philip Arditti, Annabel Capper,Tom Clark, Tom Chadwick, Deborah Findlay, Zaydun Khalaf, Elsa Mollien, David Mumeni, Andrea Smith Valls, Maggie Steed and Jennie Stoller and then there will be a video link conversation with our friends in Gaza.  Read more about our presentation of Resurrection

 

Jamal told me that the special gift for Gaza’s New Year was a brand new power cuts schedule that would mean even shorter periods of connection, 6 hours in every 24.  Things are getting worse in Gaza and most people stayed at home to welcome in the New Year.  They lit candles not to celebrate but because there was no electricity.

Then Hossam sent me this message:

Dear Jonathan,
What to say??!!! Things in Gaza have became too much that we feel talking about it is useless.  They drove us to despair. Nothing is happening, nothing at all. Nothing good, nothing bad. Nothing moves, nothing stops, nothing improves, nothing deteriorates, nothing. The only thing that’s happening is …. Nothing.
This nothingness is killing.
Less electricity, is a detail
No reconstruction, is a detail
Children dying burnt by a candle, is a detail
More than 10.000 people still living in schools as shelters, is a detail
UN Security Council rejecting the Palestinian proposal for a state, is a detail
Hundreds of thousands of people without jobs, is a detail
Judicial killing for robbery, is a detail
Hamas refusing to hand over power to the unity government, is a detail
Fatah refusing to pay Hamas public service staff salaries, is a detail
Sick people dying because they could not travel to seek health treatment, is a detail
Students losing the chance to continue their education as Rafah crossing is closed, is a detail
People drowning in the sea while trying to get some kind of life outside of Gaza, is a detail
My daughter Salma spending 2 weeks mid-year vacation at home as there is no place to go and spend some leisure time, is a detail
Houses drowning in the storm, is a detail
Nothing is happening, nothing.
This nothingness is killing us.
Gaza is not a prison. As someone said, in prison, food is guaranteed; in prison, safety is almost guaranteed; in prison, lights are guaranteed; in prison, meeting families from the outside is guaranteed.
In Gaza we are living the war, and between war and war. Nothing is happening, just waiting for the coming war.
You know what is most dangerous about this nothingness???
In the nothing, you can expect nothing but can you live without expectation?!
They put us in a status of waiting for death to come, to live with no hope, to lose the meaning of being alive, what is the point???
People have even lost the ability to revolt, or even complain or express themselves.
If you are in Gaza now days, 90% of what people are talking about is: electricity on, electricity off. 6 hours, no 8 hours, no less than 5 hours! What a subject to talk about most of the time??!!!
Nothing, my dear, nothing is happening.

 

How are you? How’s it going? 13/12/14

Blog from Jonathan Chadwick

The conversation started as it usually does with: ‘How are you?  How’s it going?’ The answer the whole world over, even in Gaza, is the same:  ‘Fine.  We’re fine, my dear’.  And we talked like friends anywhere.

It is only later that I ask:  ‘So how are things in Gaza?’

I am talking via skype to Hossam Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi from Theatre for Everybody in Gaza.

How do you get a sense of what’s happening in a given place at a given time?  If someone asks: ‘How are things in London?’ How subjective would my remarks be?  Would they really tell anyone anything other than how I was feeling?

Our project is a ten-year partnership between Az Theatre (London, UK) and Theatre for Everybody (Gaza, Palestine), the latest phase of which, is to collaborate on the production in Gaza of an original Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. You can find out about the event we organised at Rich Mix, London in September to get support for this project here and you can read about audience reactions here.

War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine)/London (UK) is definitely a way of people keeping in touch with what’s happening in Gaza.  A part of this blog consists of messages from Gaza during the recent war (Follow the messages from Gaza June- September 2014 from the beginning).  Our September event had a live video link conversation with Hossam and Jamal.  And our next event on Sunday 18th January at Rich Mix, a public reading of a stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s last novel, Resurrection, will also be followed by a live video link conversation with them. Find out more. Buy tickets.

If you want an authoritative updated report on the situation in Gaza, you can read the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs: Occupied Palestinian Territories Report on the Protection of Civilians from the 2nd-8th December here.

So Hossam and Jamal told me how things were in Gaza.  They talked about the suspension of cleaning services in the hospitals due to disagreements between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority; the same problem has interrupted the supply of cooking oil to Gaza; in order to balance ‘government expenditures’ Hamas have imposed a tax on cement and this was slowing up reconstruction work; Da’esh (‘What? There’s ISIS in Gaza? I exclaimed) had distributed leaflets outside the University threatening young women if they didn’t ‘cover up’, the same organisation had threatened writers not to contravene religious propriety; there was such chaos in the environment that life was increasingly unbearable and so people naturally turned towards hopes for life after death.

Their friends in the Basma Theatre Company were still touring the UNWRA schools with theatre shows.  Also, the actors from their group recently came together to celebrate the work of Philippe Dumoulin.  This man was Director of the Theatre du Public in Belgium. He first worked with Theatre for Everybody in Gaza in 1996.  This was during a period, just after the Oslo Accords, when Gaza was relatively open and accessible.  Theatre for Everybody collaborated on many productions with Philippe and his theatre and now Doudou, as they affectionately call him, was retiring the company made a video tribute.  This get-together acted as a catalyst and made the company much more confident that they could start the work on the War and Peace project.  They told me that by mid-January they would have accomplished the initial workshops.  They may even be able to send some video recordings of the work for our event at Rich Mix on Sunday 18th January.

We also talked about the trip I would be taking in February to Gaza and I told them that I would be doing some work with Ashtar Theatre in Ramallah before trying to get into Gaza.  I have been told that it will increase the likelihood of being granted entry if I confirm my desire to go there in person to the Palestinian Authorities on the West Bank.  The plan is for Caryl Churchill and I to run an initial workshop on her play Love and Information. This extraordinary play which consists of 49 dialogues with no indication of location or character creates a dynamic network of human interactions in which the poles of communication oscillate around love and information, variations which pull together and push apart qualitative and quantitative relationships at the centre of which there is always a secret, a mystery or a kind of ignorance.  It will be wonderful to explore how this work lights up references and instances of Palestinian experience and culture.

Hossam and Jamal know Iman Aoun, the current Director of Ashtar, from the days when the cultural scenes of Gaza and the West Bank were more fluently connected.

We also talked about how the event in January at Rich Mix would be another extraordinary exploration and I told them the story of Resurrection after which we wondered how this word would be translated into Arabic. It refers to both Christ’s coming back to life after the crucifixion and to the personal transformative renewals that people undergo in their lives.  Immediately they recognised that there was a double resurrection in the story, both that undergone by Nekhlyudov, who gives up all his wealth and dedicates himself to the well-being of Maslova, the woman he fell in love with as teenager and whom he seduced, and of Maslova herself, who, through her experience of getting to know social revolutionaries in prison, transforms her world-outlook.  I explained that it was precisely this concatenation (or chain reaction) of change in people as they interacted on each other that was the main aim of my work on Resurrection.

 

 

 

Getting into Gaza 24/11/2014

For messages from Gaza on this blog: Start from the beginning.

The social and economic (that is, human) circumstances in Gaza are critical and our partners in Theatre for Everybody are working flat out in the recovery effort.  Much of their and their colleagues’ work is concerned with psycho-social support.

This is the latest United Nations report on the situation in Gaza:  Click here.

Our friends in Theatre for Everybody are working with Ma’an Development Centre and War Child Holland

We have decided that in order to pursue our project Jonathan Chadwick needs to visit Gaza.  This trip is planned for February 2015.

It is not going to be easy to get in.  Entry is through Israel. The Egyptian border at Rafah is uncertain and the Sinai region through which the traveler must pass is too dangerous.  So we are organising invitations and making contact with all the people who may be able to help with this visit.  There is a possibility that Jonathan will spend a week in the West Bank before the Gaza visit.  This will help confirm the permissions and co-ordination necessary for entry to Gaza.

This blog will keep you updated about progress.

Also we are running an event at Rich Mix on Sunday 18th January 2015 at 3pm.  This will be a benefit to raise money for this trip.

This will be a public reading of Jonathan Chadwick’s stage adaptation of RESURRECTION, Tolstoy’s last novel.  Find out more.

Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody in Gaza have worked together since 2002. Since 2009 we have initiated a ten-year project, Gaza Drama Long Term.  The latest phase is aimed at the production of an original Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Hossam Madhoun has created an Arabic translation of a stage adaptation by pioneer theatre-maker, Erwin Piscator.  This work is the basis for the initial workshops with a company of actors in Gaza.  Az has raised money for this work through individual donations, contributions from Street Theatre Workshop Trust and the British Shalom Salaam Trust.  We also held a fundraising event at Rich Mix on Sunday 14th September which included readings of the PIscator version of War and Peace alongside plays by Caryl Churchill, Hassan Abdulrazzak and Haifa Zangana with messages from our partners in Gaza and a public skype conversation with them. However because of the attack on Gaza from July through to September the initial workshops have been held up.  This blog will keep you updated about progress.

 

No blood or bullets just pain 05/11/2014

For Messages from Gaza during the recent war, from the beginning.

The most recent message? Click here

I’ve just spoken via skype to Hossam Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi, Directors of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza with whom we at Az Theatre are developing a project called War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine)/London (UK) or click here

They told me there was no blood being shed and no bullets flying around (for the time being) compared to the time of the recent war (the bombardment started in June and a ‘peace’ was concluded on 26 August 2014) but the pain of Gaza continues.

During the war there was a level of hope that things could not return to the way things were before, that all the suffering, damage and sacrifice would lead to a lifting of the blockade and some amelioration of life for the inhabitants of Gaza.  Unfortunately things in all respects are worse than they were before.  The people of Gaza have gained absolutely nothing through all their suffering. But the world’s attention has turned away from Gaza and now the dreadful consequences of the war are still being suffered by the people there. Moreover, the blockade that was condemned by the majority of the international community and by the United Nation today is legitimatized by the UN through the so-called Robert Serry plan for goods to enter Gaza. It is scheme similar to “oil for food” which was imposed on Iraq and there it made people hungrier and more vulnerable.   And what makes matters even worse is that nobody is listening anymore, there are no protests.

Hossam and Jamal told me that people are turning in on themselves and that the feeling on the streets is one of distance and sourness. They also said people were aggressive to each other.  Stories are rife of people trying to leave, some through the remaining tunnels, some by boat.  Many have died in the attempt – many have drowned.  None of this has been reported. We talked about how the world wanted to believe that the resilience of the Palestinian people would go on forever, indomitable.  But we had to admit that Palestinians are not heroes, they are human beings and anyway, as Brecht said, ‘Unhappy is the land that needs heroes’.

Many people are internally shattered and exhausted and this means that relationships between people have deteriorated.  Of course at times of intense danger and stress, people will tend to stick closer together but then, at certain points, they will disintegrate.  There is a kind of centrifugal force that makes people want to flee and this force can become current in a whole population.  To some extent the successive wars suffered by the people of Gaza will have exercised and attenuated this ‘coming together’ during violence and this ‘coming apart’ during the so-called peace that follows.  I remember Hossam saying that maybe people could bear a war every ten years but 2008, 2012 and now 2014 have left people punch-drunk.

At one point there was a dreadful silence as we reflected on the fact that it was this existential destruction of people that the Israelis were aiming at.  Is it possible that they were succeeding?  Of course, being realistic, it was possible to admit that they could.  I recognised this balance moment in the life of a people as being intrinsic to a genocidal process.

Yes, we had to admit that the intention of the Israelis was genocide.  They wanted to ‘disappear’ the Palestinian people. And they might be successful.

The silence continued. We stared into a kind of abyss.

Of course historically each genocidal process was different.

I have been led to reflect on this process because of my involvement in a partnership between theatre-makers in Armenia and Turkey.  I have recently returned from Yerevan where we accomplished the initial stages of this partnership project. Genocide is a process in which the different functions have to be broken down, they have to be compartmentalised.  The Armenian population of Anatolia was subjected, first of all, to deportation from their homes. This was carried out by the gendarmerie in the different local districts.  These local forces typically accompanied the Armenians to the borders of the local authority region. The deported were then handed over to other forces, armed gangs organised by the Committee for Union and Progress, sometimes these people were criminals specially released from prison.  This is how the slaughter and further displacement was carried out.  Now the Turkish state is ready to admit that there were deportations but will not admit to the full charge of genocide.  They are enabled to do so by this compartmentalisation. Different functions carried out by different people. Nobody appears overall responsible. This also has to do with the robbery and theft of wealth, land and property that accompanies all genocides, including the Israeli one.  Of course there is also enslavement, rape and other forms of subjection.  But how the genocidal project is unfolded is different in all instances.  The Israelis’ genocide is slow, attritional.

Why is it that the nation-formation process seems to feature this extreme exclusion process? How is the force and thoroughness of the genocidal expulsion linked to the gaining of an internal coherence for the developing nation state?  Maybe there is in me a refusal to understand, a resistance to the implications of accepting the attendant truths about human capability. Just as in the birth of the modern Turkish state, thus in the reinvention, through National Socialism, of the German state, thus in the carving out of the Israeli state and so also in the state-building project of the Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant.

These are complex processes.  There is no unitary cause.  The movement of genocide is conjunctural.  There are economic causes ie theft and enslavement; there are psychosocial causes ie national cohesion.  It is as if nobody is singularly responsible.  Everybody in the perpetrator society plays a part although sometimes passive.  Often the killing is constructed as work.  This was true in Rwanda where the morning radio exhorted the population during the genocide to go to work, killing. Always there is the characterisation of the victim population as being sub-human, like animals and thus the genocidal project is projected as a ‘humanisation’ process.  Sometimes there is direct automated killing, sometimes death is left to do its work ‘naturally’.

All of these thoughts flooded into my mind in the silence that happened between Jamal, Hossam and I during our conversation.  The silence was like a dread.

We had to make affirmations that our work together, the latest phase of which is a production of a stage version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, was to do with resistance.  Jamal told us about a thinker who asserted that resistance very often had to be played out through a smile or an act of kindness.  We decided that we must work together face to face.  I promised that I would visit Gaza soon.  We started planning this for the end of January.  They said that by that time they would have held the initial workshops on War and Peace.  All the actors which might take part were still working flat out in the social regeneration programmes so urgently needed after the war. Suddenly we were talking about how we might find a summer course in the UK for their daughters who are both 13 years old. (Does anyone have suggestions?)   We arranged a guitar exchange between Yara, Jamal’s daughter, and I.

It was as if together we had faced death and then come alive again.

For the latest United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs Humanitarian Report for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Click here

 

I dream that Gaza one day will not be in the news anymore 22/09/2014

22 September 2014

Read messages from Gaza. Previous.

Az Theatre’s launch event for the War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine) – London (UK) project was successful.  We have now raised over £8000.

Here are some of the audience’s reactions:

“I wanted to thank you again for yesterday’s collection of work at the rich mix and the truly heart warming Skype link up to Jamal and Hossam in Gaza…..I think the energy that is going into your project also shows the power of theatre to give hope through the horror, to those who believe in it.” PH

 “The performance was great! Thank you very much for putting together such amazing pieces of work!” C L-R

 “I thought what I saw was very powerful and staged effectively. All the actors really gave their all. I thought the variety of voices really enhanced the material and I thought the order worked so well – especially hearing those war and peace scenes first and then the Caryl Churchill at the end. I thought the Caryl Churchill scene was beautifully written and provided such a refreshing other point of view of the main war and peace characters.And beautiful music at the end! All in all everything contributed to a very strong presentation. Congratulations”. CC

The public skype conversation with Hossam and Jamal was moving and enlightening.  It looks like they will not be able to do their initial workshop on the stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, that Hossam Madhoun has made a translation of, for at least another month.  Many of the actors they would use will be involved in the psycho-social support work for children that is so necessary in Gaza as people try to put their lives back together after the war.  I wrote and asked them if they would continue to write to us here about how life was there in Gaza as the painful process of recovery took place.  I sent a message asking many questions, this was Hossam’s response:

In fact we are really concerned to answer your questions and continue to highlight the situation in Gaza. Our delay is not due to laziness but being very much occupied with work. Jamal and I are running emergency psycho-social support projects and it really eats all of our time and this might continue for some time.
What I can tell you now about Gaza, is that every one here feels estrangement. No-one is able to go back to normal,
Yesterday for example, talking to one friend from Khozaa village, he  told me that as a villager he used to raise some chicken, and collect eggs every other day. The chicken survived the massacre in Khozza. When he went back to his partially destroyed home, he found all of his chicken which he use to feed every morning. It is now almost 3 weeks since the war stopped, but he is unable to think about his chicken. He is not feeding them; he is not looking for the eggs and the chicken are finding their own way to live. Is this a naive story? For a villager it is not. (I am sure you understand and you know what I mean) Many people are thinking about leaving or trying to leave. Many already died in the Mediterranean. You heard that in the news? The rest are suffering quietly in silence, as they can not even complain or shout or scream out of pain.
Hamas and Fatah are in disagreement again. The money to rebuild Gaza will come only through Fatah, so they make getting back control of Gaza a precondition for spending any money, while Hamas who believe that their popularity is now high, won’t accept this, so people just suffer. 75000 people are in shelters (schools), 2500 people in each school, thousands of homes are destroyed, 450 local factories are destroyed, more than 400 million ton of rubble to be removed from streets, unemployment above 50%, poverty above 90%, and people wait unable even to complain.
Hamas is still celebrating victory and Fatah want Gaza back and the world does not care.
By the way, in the project I manage for Ma’an Development Center, I have to manage 13 life skills activators, 13 psychological counsellors, 13 social counsellors, 5 field supervisors, 5 activators in a mobile fun unit, 5 psychodrama specialists, one psychologist supervisor working in 13 centers all over Gaza Strip running multiple tasks and activities including work with children, community mobilization, awareness campaigns, community initiatives, days out for children and, and, and…
I had to recruit 55 professionals in 2 weeks with millions of details to prepare and follow up and all of this as well as communications with donors to generate funding for other interventions in water and sanitation, also, representing Ma’an at international coordination forums, leading needs assessments in several fields. It is an emergency, damn it!!!
I am looking forward to the day that there will be no need for emergency in Gaza, no need for humanitarian intervention in Gaza, no need for mass psycho-social support for the children of Gaza.
You know what? I dream that Gaza one day will not be in the news anymore, like any small town or village in the South of Belgium or East of England, just a small quiet city living in peace and attracting no-one for any special thing.
Love from the bleeding Gaza.

Read messages from Gaza. Next.