HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE brief descriptions

The new phase of our GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM project is called HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE.

Read a description here

Read a description of the space we need for the HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE live events space

INVITATION

HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE: GAZA, PALESTINE <> LONDON, UK

You are invited to come and share your ideas for, and imagination of, a ‘live events space’ planned for late September 2017.

Az Theatre is hosting a gathering at:

British Actors Equity Offices: Equity Guild House, Upper St. Martin’s Lane WC2 9EG (within 50 metres of Leicester Square Tube Station) at 5.45 – 7.45pm on Monday 24th April

We are inviting writers, academics, thinkers, activists, performers and artists to co-create the HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE ‘live events space’ with us. This means imagining together ways in which this space may be used:

  • to bring home what is happening in Gaza
  • to open creative communication with people in Gaza
  • to open up conversations and learning to wider publics and more communities.

Through:

  • Films and videos
  • Performance: dance, spoken word, music, drama.
  • Panel discussions (about Gaza, War on Terror, Tolstoy, sustainable environment, international law)
  • Publications (focus on recent books, films etc.)
  • Photography
  • Art, participatory or exhibition
  • Public Skype exchanges with people in Gaza
  • Learning programme
  • Community outreach
  • Participatory activities
  • Contact with the hundreds of people in Gaza who are participating, as audience or theatre-makers in Theatre for Everybody’s production of Tolstoy’s War & Peace.

We are planning to animate a ‘live events space’ for 7 days at a venue in East London in late September 2017.

This is a part of a ten-year 2009-2019 cultural exchange partnership between Az Theatre (London) and Theatre for Everybody (Gaza).

http://aztheatre.org.uk/wordpress/gaza-drama-long-term-2/

http://www.aztheatre.org.uk

mailto:info@aztheatre.org.uk

HERE-THERE-EVERYWHERE

 

How can we create a space that can present live events with a variety of inputs (organisation, programming, presentation, sponsorship) and using different forms of expression (film, spoken word, written word, music, photography, dance, song, skype exchanges, panel discussions, public conversation, participatory and installation art) that can make connections between what is happening in Gaza with what is happening here in the UK and in other parts of the world, from the point of view of the threats to, and opportunities for, human beings living the lives they want to live?

 

The occasion for the creation of a ‘live events space’ is the production in Gaza in late September 2017 of Theatre for Everybody’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace. This is a stage in GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM, a ten-year cultural exchange project between Theatre for Everybody (Gaza, Palestine) and Az Theatre (London, UK).

Az Theatre is calling for a gathering at 5.45pm-7.45pm on Monday 24th April at British Actors Equity’s Offices, Guild House, Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2 9EG.

The keynote of this stage of our project is ‘connections’. As Angela Y Davis points out in her most recent book FREEDOM IS A CONSTANT STRUGGLE (Haymarket Books 2016): “The tendency has been to consider Palestine a separate – unfortunately too often marginal – issue” p.11

Nelson Mandela said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”

In the Native Americans Rise protest against the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline in March led by the Sioux from the Standing Rock reservation the chant went up: ‘Occupation is a crime, From Standing Rock to Palestine’

Our aspiration is to unite different forms of expression and engage with connections between struggles in Palestine, the UK, in Ferguson, Missouri, in Diyarbakir, Eastern Turkey and elsewhere. This entails a strategy of ‘intersectionality’, ‘efforts to think, analyze, organize as we recognize interconnections of race, class, gender, sexuality’ (Davis op cit. p.18)

Never has it been so clear that the issues raised by the Palestinian struggle for freedom is at the centre of our own political and social discourses.

The above is the question we are using as a ‘calling’ question for this gathering.

 

HERE-THERE-EVERYWHERE

 

 

Permission to Narrate Gaza by Ilan Pappe in ‘Gaza as Metaphor’ and thoughts about regime change

 

Reading Ilan Pappe‘s essay in the ‘Gaza as Metaphor’ book I began to believe that he was answering a question that I had asked myself. Don’t we in the UK need a new kind of activism? See my “Activism and Az Theatre’ in the Az Theatre blog.

His essay called ‘Permission to Narrate Gaza’ is one of many wonderful contributions in this volume edited by Helga Tawil-Souri and Dina Matar but Pappe’s was the contribution that really caught my attention. Here is an extract. He is responding to Edward Said’s call for Palestinians ‘to extend their struggle into the realm of representation and historical narratives’:

‘One can continue Said’s journey by challenging further the historical narrative and by questioning the hegemonic discourse on Palestine commonly employed by the powers that be. This questioning has to insist on including the historical context and new terminology when discussing the 2014 attacks on Gaza and the overarching question of Palestine. The new terminology can be presented best as several pairs of antinomies: the former in each pair representing a redundant term to be replaced by the latter more apt one. Occupation versus Colonisation; Peace Process versus Decolonisation; Peace Solution versus Regime Change; Two States Solution versus One Sate Solution; Israeli Democracy versus Israeli Apartheid; Israeli Defence Policy versus Ethnic Cleansing (and, as we shall see, Genocide in the case of Gaza)’ p.159 Gaza as Metaphor

He is summary and is concerned with breaking down illusions, of moving beyond the accepted given narrative of the situation. He is redefining the space of thought. I feel his reasoning has dimension. But, at the same time, he is summing up what has already been articulated. And the thoughts are based on recognising what is happening in Gaza.

I am particularly interested in his use of the idea of ‘Regime Change’. See The Specifics of British Regime Change and Is Regime Change a Paradigm Shift?

What was the first building block on the way to founding this new vision, what he calls a new ‘penning’? He is comparing the power of the pen with the power of the sword. Maybe it starts with a critique of the accepted thinking. Usually faced with the situation there in Palestine you meet ‘facts on the ground’. These facts on the ground are the arguments that set out the space, determine the basic ideas, the terms of the debate. Normally these facts and ideas send your mind round in circles. They make it not make sense.

The ‘two-state solution’ arises from the initial partition of the land in 1948 that was validated by the United Nations. The logical corollary of this partition is that the two peoples should live in separate spaces. He quotes sardonically the Robert Frost poem about ‘good fences making good neighbours’.

The next proposition is that the Peace Process should lead to the foundation of the Two States. This is a piece of double-think or, at any rate, it is the generation of thinking as a smoke screen. The Israelis are ‘pretending’ that they are not appropriating Palestinian land, most significantly the land which they occupied in 1967. So the next idea that hits the floor and smashes to pieces, is that what they are doing is ‘occupying’ the West Bank and Gaza, that what is taking place is an ‘occupation’, as if this is envisaged by the perpetrators as a time-limited process and that the ‘occupiers’ are planning to withdraw. Of course the ‘withdrawal’ of colonies from Gaza is a part of this feint. We are asked to believe that this was a part of the ‘occupation’ ending.

Already by criticising the Two-State solution, the Peace Process and the Occupation, the ground in view, and the mind, starts to clear. If these were pictures that obscured the real view then it is necessary to knock them down and dispense with them. The Peace Process is the biggest feint. There can be no peace without justice. It cannot be that a ‘peace’ can be constructed as if there has been a war between two parties whose conflict has reached a conclusion.

I have recognised for some time that the Peace Process is a fake game and finally knowing this was simultaneous with recognising that a genocide was happening. I don’t agree with Pappe that this is only happening in Gaza.

Of course, my use of the word genocide is specific. It is genocide in the strictest meaning of the word. This is as I understand it: genocide is, according to Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who invented the word and defined what it meant, the destruction of a human group. This idea of ‘human group’ often refers to an ethnic group, a ‘people’ but it can be any identifiable group. This means that the group has to be capable of being identified and the process of identification must be an integral part of the genocide itself. The victim group in a genocide, as such, may not exist as an identifiable group before the genocidal process begins. It may lack definition and a part of the genocide is to clarify this definition.

Understanding why genocide starts with the identification of the victimised ‘human group’ and does not start with the scale of the killing (the actual physical destruction of the group) is important because it clarifies the fact that the process does not start from the attributes of the victim group but rather with the requirements of the perpetrator group.

In the first movements of the operative definition of genocide when it was incorporated into the United Nations Convention on Genocide framework Lemkin struggled to maintain the political rather than only the ethnic definition of ‘human group’. In the wake of the Second World War when this process of formulation was undertaken considerable pressure (yes, an early example of the Israeli ‘lobby’) was brought to bear to ensure that the ethnic definition was primary.

This political consideration makes us mindful of the requirements of the perpetrator group rather then the characteristics of the victim group and brings attention to the fact that identification is a key part of the genocidal process. I believe it is this specific understanding of genocide that has been developed by the work of Daniel Feierstein. In his book Genocide as Social Practice he outlines five stages of Genocide.

Two main things are important in this. One is that mass killing is only one phase of genocide. It may be the final phase. The most important overall objective is the ‘imposition of the national pattern of the perpetrator group on the victim group’. Secondly, this work draws attention primarily to the characteristics of the perpetrator group. These characteristics amount to a need for social cohesion and the genocidal process provides a means of social reorganisation for the perpetrator group or society.

So there can be emerging or proto-genocidal movements. For example, during the Thatcher government years there was move towards a kind of ‘genocidal’ mentality when she designated the miners (or at least the active resistant sector of the National Union of Mineworkers) as ‘the enemy within’. This is like an internal declaration of war. Similarly, during the regime of the Argentinian junta there was an internal war against ‘subversive’ and political opponents of the regime. Daniel Feierstein draws attention to the parallels between the practices of this regime and the national socialist regime in Germany in his book.

Whereas I would resist the definition of genocide as simply and solely mass killing it is difficult to accept a definition that excludes killing or excludes the tendency towards mass killing. Processes of exclusion, the creation of ‘the other’ or of an enemy, appear to be endemic to human society so when does an exclusionary process of social organisation become genocidal?

One significant factor is the cohesion a group gains from considering itself more advanced or superior. It has to do so in relation to another group. It is this distancing itself from the other human group that is a crucial moment in the genocidal movement. The erasure of the other human group ‘as a group’ becomes the means of securing the identity of the genocidal group. What occurs is a specific relationship between different specific technologies of power, or techniques of social organisation, imposed on one group and the impacts, in terms of social cohesion produced, for the other group. Each stage of erasure is co-ordinate with each stage of cohesion.

It might be true that the moment of actual mass killing is the moment of self destruction for the perpetrator group. There has to be survivors of the victim group for the perpetrator group to have the ability to impose its ‘national pattern’.

The mass killing is an end game. This is the significance of Feierstein’s devastating observation that genocide is endemic to modernity. After all, modernity must be the point of arrival for advanced human groups as they distinguish themselves from those less ‘modern’ than themselves.

This brings our attention to another important aspect of what Ilan Pappe is saying. Having replaced Occupation with Colonisation, Two-State Solution with One-State Solution, Peace Process with Decolonisation he goes on to argue for Regime Change. He connects the need for regime change to the apartheid and settler-colonial nature of the Zionist regime.

This brings me back to the exploration of new activism with which I started. I said that Ilan Pappe concerns himself with changing the narrative and thus making an intervention with the power of his ‘pen’ in relationship to the Israelis powerful ‘sword’. What does the counterposing of these two forms of human power bring to our attention?

Why does the turn or change that he is pointing to open up key tactics and key strategic demands? What perspectives are opened up by BDS (Boycott, Divestment Sanctions) and the co-ordinate emphasis on the Right of Return. These are aimed at Regime Change

He is saying that the core of the current regime in Israel needs to change. It is not just a question of changing government policy. Policy change does not go deep enough. It is the basic premise on which the policy is constructed that needs attention.

Feierstein describes the genocidal process as consisting of a number of stages. Though these stages are chronologically ordered, some of the stages could take place at the same time. One of the stages, the last, is ‘symbolic re-enactment’. He describes this as the portrayal of the events of the genocide as composing the two absolutely distinct groups (we know from the historical record that such distinctions are not so absolute): innocent victims and diabolical perpetrators. These two groups, manifesting as absolute opposites of each other, assume a symbolic function as they enact a basic mythic story. And thus this story impels and motivates correlative action.

All ‘national patterns’ or national stories, narratives, are symbolically enacted in the construction and institutionalisation of the instruments of policy. For the symbolic enactment to take place the figures or characters in the story have to be recognisable and therefore both specific and general.

Augusto Boal says in his book The Rainbow of Desire, enacted stories can be related to in modes of varying qualitative intensity. He gives the key points in an array of perceptual responses from identification, to recognition and to resonance, pointing out that elements of these appropriative reactions can be fired simultaneously. It could be said that responses to a symbolic enactment of a genocide may have to operate at multiple levels for the actions that correspond to it to have effective force.

Several stories with different but related personages may reformulate and play out a basic mythic pattern, rather in the way that Ted Hughes in his book, Shakespeare and The Goddess of Complete Being, tells us that Shakespeare, along with other poets, articulate a key mythic formulation through a multiplicity of narratives.

If the basic story that the Israelis are able to tell, which is a symbolic re-enactment of a genocidal process in which they cast themselves as absolute victims, then what is the basic story of the UK national pattern? What are the components of this story?

From where can regime change emerge? The sense that I get from Ilan Pappe’s work is that the process of regime change must be accompanied if not preceded, by a new narrative. From what well-spring does this restructured narrative come?

It must come from profound and basic needs felt by the human beings who participate in such movements. Of course material circumstances such as appetite, hunger, need for shelter and so on may well play a part but it is demonstrable that these material exigences can equally work against the renewal that is envisaged in a change of regime.  The needs must exceed these material requirements.

Human beings are creatures whose actions are intentional. We hold ourselves together through the intentions that we formulate for ourselves. Thus we are creatures, but creatures who are political and mimetic. We formulate our intentions through language and this is a social tool. We collectivise our intentions but only so long as the mimetic processes, that hold us together as a group, can operate effectively. These understandings of the nature of human group behaviour have been explored by writers as diverse as Elias Canetti, Wilfred Bion and Rene Girard.

In order to co-ordinate and form our intentions, which are always experienced individually though formed collectively, we must engage in the organisational processes of symbolic enactment. How precisely symbolic enactment operates and is effective in social organisation may, at first sight, seem complicated.

It is perhaps by understanding how this structuring of stories takes place that new narratives can begin to be developed. It is at times when the old stories send us round in circles that this restructuring feels necessary. When the restructuring feels necessary we start to reject the old story and begin to look with interest not just at new stories but at how these stories operate. This, in turn, leads us to looking more closely at the basic parameters of human experience and at the sources of desire. To understand the way in which stories operate on us, we need to look at how we are in that stage of our lives that is pre-verbal.

This may be taking us too far from Ilan Pappe truly enlightening essay.

Does this new activism have implications for Regime Change here in the UK? We can compare the foundation of the state of Israel with the foundation of the UK state. One is immediately met with differences. The Israeli state was founded in 1948 through an armed land grab, a military appropriation of territory. This securing of occupied land is the prevailing raison d’etre of the state. Although the initial land grab and the subsequent land grab in 1967 were sudden and dramatic, the building and sustaining of the Israeli state project is a long-term venture. The sudden moments of change may give rise to, or make more apparent, a prevailing narrative or sustaining myth. This may have a relationship to the ‘national pattern’ that Lemkin refers to in his definition of genocide. Does the UK have a prevailing narrative, sustaining myth or national pattern that is comparable with Israel’s?

Many questions arise from these thoughts. Is the regime that reigns over the major part of Palestine comparable to the regime that reigns over the British Isles? They are very different in size. One started in 1948, the other could be said to have started in 1688. This last detail is, for example, open to question. Did what we can identify as the UK regime not start before that date? How much of the basic institution-building took place during the Tudor period. Certainly the Reformation and the political break with Roman Catholicism could be considered to be the starting point for the regime. Also the arrival of the Norman institutions in 1066 might similarly be considered thus. Equally, the advent of the 1832 Reform Act or that of 1867, or the battle of Culloden in 1745 or the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 may mark major points of no return or major starting points.

In fact, what you consider the key characteristic of the regime will determine what you believe the starting point might be. To some extent what you consider to be the starting point is dependent on your sense of what is happening in the current situation. Isn’t this to do with the fact that the social formations we are describing are not static entities? They are combinations of processes that are unfolding and developing.

On the one hand, this seems to be true and, if it is true, it must apply to both the regime in Palestine and the regime in the British Isles. On the other hand, it seems to be actively and immediately true in the case of the Zionist regime that it is facing a more violently contradictory situation.

Is this to do with the relationship of forces working on the internal development of the country and those working on the external development. By all accounts, Israeli society is held together by a deliberately engendered state of fear. This means that the whole society is constantly in a state of war. So the level of intensity and fragility of the social processes aimed at cohesion and security is very high. This is reflected absolutely in the level of dependence on external support. This means that there is a direct relationship between these internal and external tensions.

Both regimes are client states of a larger political entity but the level of dependence of Israel is much higher. Both regimes are colonialist. The colonial processes in one are ongoing and have yet to stabilise themselves whilst in the other, the colonialism is more of an historical factor. In this sense they are at different stages of development. The Israeli Zionist state project may be historically short-lived. The British state project has been sustained for at least 400 years (depending on your definition). There is also a relationship of what might be called precedence. Britain was the former colonial ruler of Palestine and before that the Ottoman ruled there. As Israel’s star waxed so Britain’s waned.

This reminds us of a kind of succession in the movement of history. The political forms are transposed from one player to another in a movement of variation on a theme of conformity. One state becomes like another state in order to match it. Then there are movements when one ‘model’ of statehood has hegemony and other states conform. This also must be to some extent the case with the relationship between Israel and the UK but more so with the relationship of Israel to the USA.

This means that all states are held in place in relationship to all other states and, once in a while, a state or group of states breaks away and forms a new movement. In this sense the internal constitutions of states appear to arise, at best, from the will of the people but are as much determined by the structure of the states with which they are in relation.

This dynamic between external conformity and internal aspiration is the tension that holds the structures in place. Both the regimes in Palestine and in the British Isles are ‘structured’ or held in place by their relationship to the hegemony of the USA. Of course these relationships are very different. You might think, at first sight, that Israel is more dependent on the USA than the UK is. However this may not be simply the case. This interconnectedness also means that regime change in one related political entity can be causally related to regime change in another. Regime change in one country can trigger regime change in another and it might also be true that regime change in one country is unlikely without regime change in another.

What Ilan Pappe is saying is that effective resistance starts with resisting the narrative that the dominant power is effecting or enacting. This potentially avoids the reciprocal structures that can lead to the emerging social movements being incorporated and stifling resistance. It involves ‘moving the goalposts’ or creating a new paradigm. This is why he is concerned with ‘replacing’ occupation with colonisation and peace process with decolonisation and so on.

Isn’t there an equivalent paradigm shift warranted by the politics of the UK? Is there a way of expressing it that is as simple and clear? Is there a tactical equivalent to BDS? Since these political regimes are connected isn’t the struggle for BDS indirectly a movement of resistance to the regime in the UK? Resistance is connected to regime change through a keener mode of activism: refusal.

I am grateful to Ilan Pappe for his provocative essay, to the editors of Gaza as Metaphor. We clearly need to seize on what is at the core of our problem in our own society and this will give us the breadth of perspective necessary to change the narrative and re-write history.

 

 

 

 

Theatre For Everybody and GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM who are they and what is it

THEATRE FOR EVERYBODY

Jamal Al Rozzi and Hossam Madhoun are the Directors of Theatre for Everybody with whom Az Theatre have a ten-year (2009-2019) cultural exchange partnership.  The current phase involves working with a group of 18-30 year olds in Gaza on drama and creative writing and the production of an original contemporary stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Plus a workshop in London of international artists, including Jamal and Hossam.  This will be based on the extract from the meditation by John Donne that begins: ‘No man is an island’ so we are calling this the NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop. (more about this below)

What is GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM?

Our exchange partnership is called GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM. It developed from Az Theatre’s WAR STORIES project which worked with companies from Algeria, Palestine, Serbia, Kosovo, Italy and the UK and at theatre festivals in Romania and Turkey from 2002 to 2007, supported by the European Cultural Foundation and the Arts Council England.

It set out to create cultural exchange between artists and audiences in Gaza and London, to break down isolation and cultivate solidarity and to do so through creative work.  It has created a model of participatory production and has refused to seek support from any government organisation.

GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM has generated work in four phases since 2009: GAZA GUERNICA, GAZA: BREATHING SPACE, GAZA OPENING SIGNS and WAR & PEACE: GAZA (PALESTINE)/LONDON (UK).  It has organised numerous public events in the UK some of which have connected live with Gaza through Skype.

It has been supported by financial contributions from 100s of individuals and over 50 UK theatre artists (including Harriet Walter, David Calder, Maggie Steed, Tara Fitzgerald, David Lan, Jennie Stoller, Philip Arditti, Deborah Findlay, Caryl Churchill, Hassan Abdulrazzak and many more) have made creative contributions and appeared in person at our events that have attracted 100s and 100s of audience members.  It has worked with over a hundred young people in Gaza and has explored theatre for those with hearing disability there and in London as well as linking theatre talent in both places.

It has engaged with London venues: Rich Mix, Soho Theatre and the Globe Theatre and has received support from International Committee for Artists Freedom, International Performers Aid Trust, British Shalom Salaam Trust,  Street Theatre Workshop. It has worked alongside Culture and Conflict, the Shake! Community from Platform Arts.

We are looking for a group of young people here in the UK to make an exchange with the young people there who have come together around and activist journalist project: We Are Not Numbers.  And we are looking for funds to do the War and Peace production and the NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop.

The NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop

A six-day workshop bringing together international stage artists with members of the Theatre for Everybody group from Gaza.

This is a key stage in the ten-year GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM project (2009-2019), a cultural exchange partnership between Az Theatre London and Theatre for Everybody Gaza.

The NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop is planned to happen in London in January 2017 and will offer audiences one or two presentations of work created and devised by the 10 participants directed by Jonathan Chadwick.

The aims of the workshop will be to:

Provide a creative interaction for the artists from Gaza, to meet and work with artists from the UK and other regions
Create as wide an access for audiences in the UK to this major international cultural exchange project.
Provide the GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM project partners with the opportunity to develop plans for the closing phase of the project within an inspirational context.
Act as the central event for the artists from Gaza to meet other groups and individuals who have supported the work (International Committee for Artists Freedom, British Shalom Salaam Trust, International Performers Aid Trust)
Work with other institutions and organisations (e.g. University of Manchester IN PLACE OF WAR project, University of Coventry Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, British Actors Equity, British Arab Centre) to offer a platform for them to share experiences of working, living and creating theatre in Gaza.

UNFORESEEN news 19/10/2015

UNFORESEEN – WAR STORIES ENCORE – GAZA/LONDON is happening at Rich Mix London on Sunday 24th January.  Read more about this event: unforeseen2

We are building the company of actors who will take part.  We are inviting Arthur Nazaryan from Yerevan, Armenia and Reyhan Ozdilek from Istanbul, Turkey to join us, both of whom Jonathan Chadwick worked with earlier in the year in Istanbul.  The following UK-based artists will join us (subject to availability):  Harriet Walter, Joe Kloska, Nahar Ramadan, Zaydun Khalaf, Tom Chadwick.

Jonathan Chadwick will be attending the Corner in the World Festival in Istanbul between 23rd October and 28th October to link up with Turkish and Syrian artists who worked on the Armenian-Turkish partnership project, THE BRIDGE, earlier in the year.

 

Eid in Gaza, this year and last year 23/07/2015

Message from Hossam in Gaza 23/07/2015

Eid this year and last year

I am still alive, my wife and my daughter too!
1.8 million are still alive after the 2014 war.
Only 2174 are not alive any more.
1.8 million Gazans are celebrating the feast of Eid

As in all other places the feast in Gaza has its own rituals.
Children get new clothes, women cook Ka’ak, special sweets made only for the feast, men will visit their family home, their sisters, aunts, uncles and other family member who live in other houses.

Children wake up early, wash, put on new clothes and approach their father to receive some money  – we call it ‘Eddiyah’ – special pocket money given to the children during the feast,  normally much more than ordinary pocket money.

Women make sure that the home is clean and well-organized and that their children are well-dressed, then family members arrive. Children go with their full pockets to grocery shops to buy all the sweets they couldn’t buy during the year. They go to the fair, and to buy shawarma sandwiches that they usually couldn’t afford. They buy toys, run around and make a huge noise.

The streets are like a cinema location for a movie about children, colorful children, and the sound effect is children’s voices. Fun and laughter, arguments and shouting, smiles and involuntary dancing, the celebration of life as it should be ….

In 2014, all of this was stolen from us. All of this was stolen from our children.

Today, one year ago, I was at the bakery to buy bread. The bakery sells Ka’ak, and I bought some. When I arrived home, I did not get the usual welcome from my daughter. She went angrily to her room and, worried about her, I followed.
‘Celebrate the feast! How dare you! I’m not going to eat it. Don’t expect me to celebrate the feast while death is moving around us, above us, among us, underneath us, don’t!’ She closed her door.
To be honest, when I bought the Ka’ak I didn’t think for a moment about the feast or about the celebration. I just bought it like I might buy anything.
My daughter still doesn’t like to remember this incident.

Anyway, today is the feast. All the rituals are back.
Children are in the streets, except 530 children are not with them any more.
Women are waiting at home for their fathers and brothers, but 302 women are not among them any more.
Men are visiting their family members and relatives, but 1342 men are not there any more.
2174 beloved fathers, mothers, daughters and sons are not here any more.
In this feast, I am not happy. I find it very gloomy.
Yet, we made Ka’ak. It’s delicious, please come and have some. It’s great with tea, you’ll love it !

Ka'ak

Gaza Beach 16/07/2015

Gaza Beach 16th July 2015

We just received this message from Hossam Madhoun, Co-Director of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza.  With it we received this digital art by Basel Maqousi

children and war- basel

Az Theatre (London) and Theatre for Everybody (Gaza) are exchanging messages remembering the war last year.

Hossam’s message:

‘Are we going to spend the evening talking about the war?’ I said.

‘Do you have something else to talk about?’

‘I am going out’.

 

Walking on Gaza beach, the sky is so clear, millions of stars, some are shining more than the others.

I remember when my little brother, Mazen, died 35 years ago.

My grandmother told me that he went to the sky and he will always be shining up there. He was a year old, I was 9 years old and I believed her.

I used to go to the roof of our house and look at the sky, choose the most brilliant star and talk to it as if it was Mazen.

On the dark nights when I couldn’t see the stars I cried, believing that Mazen was upset with me. I complained to my grandmother and she used to tell me: ‘No, he’s not upset with you, he’s just playing with the other children, that’s all, he will come back tomorrow or the day after’. I believed her.

 

Looking at the sky, trying to count all those children who lost their lives during the last war. The shining stars are many more than 540. Surely it is the souls of the children who died in 2014 and in 2012 and 2008 and 2006 and 2000 and 1987 and 1982 and 1973 and 1967 and 1956 and 1948 …… Oh my God, how many children must die in order to light up our nights! We could save their souls and light candles instead.

My feet trudged on, the sandy beach enfolding every step, 15 minutes walking and I felt tired.

I sat down, in the silence, no-one nearby me, just me and the sea and the shining children in the sky, very calm, relaxed, and I was able to hear my heartbeats.

Not for long.

A family arrived and sat some meters away from me. They talked and I tried to ignore them. Not easy, they were loud.

 

‘We were 11 last year, may God bless their souls’, a woman said, ‘Ahmad would be in 8th grade now’

 

They are talking about another star, shall I tell this mother that her son is lighting our dark night? For a moment this naïve idea passes through my mind.

 

‘Mariam wanted a drink but the kitchen was bombed and all of us were hiding in the bedroom. Half of the house was destroyed. Ahmad was in his mother’s lap bleeding and we couldn’t do anything.’

‘Yes I remember’ …

‘Three days stuck in the bedroom, the bombing all around us, some very close, some not and we were all praying and waiting for the shell which would end our lives’

‘On the second day at sunset, Ahmad stopped breathing. His mother refused to put him aside, she kept holding him in her lap. She was not crying, none of us were crying. I believe we lost the ability to cry at that time’

‘Do you want some tea?’

‘Tea?’

‘Yes’

‘Please’

Come to our event at Rich Mix on Sunday 13th September 2015 SIMULTANEOUS – WAR & PEACE – GAZA/LONDON.  Find out more

Read Hossam’s message this time last year

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!