No blood or bullets just pain 05/11/2014


For Messages from Gaza during the 2014 war, from the beginning.

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).

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.


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


22 September 2014

Az Theatre’s launch event for the War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine) – London (UK) project on 14th September 2014 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.


Art at War and Peace launch event 10/09/2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 15.27.17


(This post is about our event on 14th September 2014 at Rich Mix launching our War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine)/London (UK) project

10 September 2014

This is a painting called Water Tanks.  It’s by Raed Issa, an artist living and working in Gaza. You can read about how Raed’s house was blown up in the recent attack on Gaza here.

At our War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine) – London (UK) launch event on Sunday 14 September (Book tickets) at Rich Mix in London we exhibiting and selling paintings by artists including Raed.

Az Theatre are collaborating with Arts Canteen in making this presentation of art work from Gaza, 25% of proceeds will go to our War and Peace project.  Arts Canteen director, Aser Saqqa said:

‘This collection features the work of artists, all of whom are from Gaza, of different generations and experiences. The artistic work emerging from Gaza, particularly since the war of 2011&2014, is increasingly attracting notice from the wider world and taking its place in major collections and exhibitions. The work illustrates varying energies and concerns, as well as techniques, influences, interests and themes. Showing these paintings together illustrates the diversity, the alive-ness, and the potential of art to be a creative force. They challenge preconceptions and inspire curiosity and further explorations’.

Alongside brand new writing by Caryl Churchill, Hassan Abdulrazzak and Haifa Zangana, the programme includes readings by an all star cast of scenes from a stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and a live link-up conversation via skype with Gaza! Music from Soufian Saihi and Alex Munk.



Gaza, peace and the price of fish 03/09/2014


3 September 2014

Regarding Gaza? It is:
as if nothing happened,
as if 2200 lives weren’t lost
as if 40,000 houses weren’t destroyed
as if more than 50 local factories weren’t damaged
as if 100,000 people aren’t without shelter
as if hundreds of kids haven’t lost their parents
as if hundreds of parents haven’t lost their kids
as if all of Gaza wasn’t suffering shortages in food, in water, in electricity, in money,
Fatah and Hamas are back to square one
Arguments and fighting in the media
Fatah blaming Hamas for having a shadow government in Gaza
Hamas asking for the salaries of their employees
Accusation from both sides that none of them want unity, that none of them are committed to the obligations they agreed upon
And Gaza keeps bleeding this time in silence.
The irony is that all the media celebrates the extra quantities of fish because fishermen are allowed to fish within the 6 mile limit whereas this was allowed 55 days ago.
By the way, the price of fish is still affordable only by the same people as 55 days ago, those who were not able to afford the price of fish before the war are still unable to afford it after the war!
Victory is ours !!!!!!!???????


We (personally) do feel some relief 27/08/2014


27 August 2014

This below is Hossam response to my asking about reactions to the indefinite ceasefire declared yesterday.  First have a look at the previous message.  This will give you a sense of the significance of the ceasefire. We still don’t know what our partners, Theatre for Everybody, of which Jamal and Hossam are directors, are going to be able to achieve for our planned live exchange on Sunday 14th September at Rich Mix in London.  They were to have had a two-week workshop with their actors leading up to this event and this was a part of our partnership development of a production of an original Arabic stage version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace produced in Gaza.  Anyway the event will happen.  There will be a live exchange with Hossam and Jamal.  And our project will continue.  This is just the beginning.

Dear Jonathan
We are fine my friend, we are safe (personally)
We (personally) survived this savage brutal attack
We (personally) do feel some relief
But, a big but, a very big but
I am not sure Gaza is fine
I am sure Gaza is not fine
Gaza is not fine at all
Yesterday evening Hamas celebrated victory
But Gaza is still bleeding
The end of the fight is not the end of Gaza’s agony
Many people who took refuge in schools will go back home
But at least 100.000 people have no home anymore to go back to
18000 housing units destroyed completely
In Gaza before the war there was a deficit of 4500 housing units
This is only one catastrophe
The 2200 killed, are dead, they have no pain any more
The pain is for those who are still alive, their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends ….
Among the 3000 children who were injured, according to WHO and OCHA, 1000 of them will live with lifelong disability
Among the other 8000 adults injured,  according to the WHO and OCHA, 3000 of them will live with lifelong disability
50 days ago the unemployment rate was 43% in Gaza
Food insecure affected around 67% of the population
Today with the destruction of 15 local factories employing thousands of people with low salaries, poverty increases, daily suffering increases, food insecurity increases.

Yes I am fine, my dear
But Gaza is not fine
Hamas celebrated a triumph yesterday
But Gaza in still in huge pain
The deal is to open the crossings for humanitarian aid, (it was not closed for humanitarian aid, even during the last 50 days!!)
The deal is to allow fishing up to 6 miles, (this is no more effectively sufficient for fishing than the previous limit of 3 miles); moreover this is to start at the end of the year (and this is if Israel to be trusted)
I survived this war my dear, but Gaza did not
We are still in blockade, the agreement says nothing about freedom at all
Maybe one positive thing could be mentioned, that the Palestinian negotiation team was representing all the Palestinians; maybe this will start to end division between Palestinians, Maybe this might unite us (I pray)
Gaza is not fine, my friend                                                                                                    More than 2.5 million tons of rubble spread all over Gaza needs to be removed
The huge destruction of the water system, of the sewage system, of the solid waste system, of the power system, needs hundreds of millions to repair
I really do not know what all this infrastructure has to do with this war, and why the Israelis had to bomb a water well, or the power plant or a water reservoir or a solid waste station or a sewage treatment plant (what do all these have to do with Hamas or rockets or resistance????????)
Or why a child of 4 years old should ask his pregnant mother to hide him in her belly with his brother inside her
What harm could such a child cause to the Israelis? (a potential terrorist???!!!!! )
According to Golda Meir (the former Israeli Prime-Minister in the 1970s): There is no such thing as Palestinians
They proved today that this is what every single Israeli government believed in
I am fine my friend, I survived this war, but Gaza is not fine, not fine at all, and will never be fine without freedom, freedom to Palestine, to Palestinians, to humanity
freedom my friend, this is what we need, this is what we want, this is what we cannot live without, this is what no man can live without


How you get ready for death 26/08/2014


26 August 2014

I had an email exchange with Hossam yesterday and I didn’t have enough time to post his reply. Take a look at what he had to say about the bombing of the tower block in downtown Gaza. Anyway, this is what Hossam sent today!

Another night when death was knocking on doors! With every bombing you believe it is your door. It is your turn. Are you ready?
How? How do you get ready for death?
What you should do?
OK, this is what I do. I make sure that I dress well because I don’t want those who will move my body to see me naked; I also want to appear nice when my relatives and friends take their last look at me.
But you know, this is not guaranteed. Maybe I will die in pieces and my clothes will be also in pieces; maybe my body will be burnt, and then my clothes will be burnt too.
But I do dress well.
I will meet death with a smile? That’s a lie told only in Hollywood movies! My face will be shaped according to the level of fear I will be at the moment death comes.
But maybe I will be smiling, as death might come suddenly. This has already happened to more than 1500 people in Gaza. They did not expect death, but it came through an artillery shell, or a tank bomb or an air strike or an F16 missile, or naval bombing or some bullets in the back while they were trying to run for their lives.
So it is possible to meet death with a smile, but nothing is guaranteed.
While waiting for death, I try not to sleep so I can spend the last moments, minutes, hours looking at the angel face of my wife, visiting my daughter’s room to put what I expect to be the last father’s kiss on her cheek.
And it is not so difficult to stay awake, the sound of bombing and shelling and air strikes and bombardments keeps me awake as much as I want.
Other preparations for death knocking on the door?
During the day, you make sure that no one is angry with you, because you want people to say good things about you when you’re gone.
You make sure that you left no debts, because you don’t want people asking your wife and child for money that they may not have after you’re gone.
You make sure that home is a safe place (or at any rate make it a safer place than any other place is) for your wife and daughter. You want them to live. Of course you want to live too, but they are the priority.
Another two huge tower blocks in Gaza were bombed last night; another 100 families in the street with no shelter.
Another five tower blocks were warned to evacuate in order to be bombed; hundreds more families are in the street without shelter; thousands more people lose their dreams; hundreds more children wonder why their parents had to wake them up in the middle of the night to get them to run away from home, refusing to let them take their favorite toy;
hundreds more fathers can give ….. can give nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing to their children, to their wives, to their old parents, to themselves.


Nothing but freedom 25/08/2014


25 August 2014

I asked Hossam in an email what he thought was the significance of the Israeli destruction of a downtown apartment block. What did he think was happening? His reply:

Yes Jonathan, since the start of this brutal offensive on Gaza by the Israelis, the main aim was to hurt everyone and every single person in Gaza is hurt. In the media they say what they are doing is minimizing Hamas’ ability to attack Israel or to stop the rockets being launched from Gaza but in every single action they only hurt Gaza, all of Gaza and with different means:
they start bombing randomly,
then they move to push people out of their houses and force them to get refuge in the town center,
they increase the number of civilian causalities , mainly among children,
then they start personal assassinations, targeting vehicles
then they start on other buildings and tower blocks
food shortage
water shortage
no electricity (bombing in the dark)
they create the no safe place at all in Gaza
no one is guaranteed safety, whether supporting or opposing the resistance.
People know that the blockade is imposed by Israel (people cannot and will never believe or accept that it is because of Hamas)
they want every single person in Gaza to be in pain
they believe or they want to believe that by hurting all of Gaza’s people, Gaza people will turn against Hamas or the resistance.
They might succeed, but never for long, people do really want the war to end, some voices may now be starting to blame the resistance, but this is only temporary and due to the pain, but people will always blame Israel and this is not temporary this will continue until people become free.
Freedom is the only way to put an end to this tragedy.
Nothing but freedom.

Can’t see my tears 24/08/2014


24 August 2014


I just emailed Hossam and Jamal earlier today to tell them that I was thinking about them and to tell them that I went to see Rafeef Ziadeh perform her poetry at the P21 gallery on Friday evening after she was in conversation with Rich Wiles and to tell them that she performed this poem, and that I learned a lot at this event and that when we named our project they had told me that they wanted the title ‘War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine) – London (UK)’ and that sometimes I had shortened this title to ‘War and Peace: Gaza- London’ (because I’m a bit lazy!!) and that I would never shorten it again (get it?!).  And just now Hossam sent me this message.

Dear Jonathan
I started start writing this message after more than 15 minutes of opening it. I do not find words any more, I feel very much depressed and unable to control it, I am opening my computer trying to read a project that I must start in few days and am unable to continue more than some lines, I am very frustrated, I want to shout, to scream, to curse, to beat something, to break something, I feel very, very, very angry, and afraid, terrified, panicked. I feel lost, I try to calm down, but do not succeed, I try to get busy with something but can not concentrate, unable to focus on anything.
Yesterday they bombed a housing tower block, a 14-floor building with 54 apartments, 54 families were obliged to evacuate the building in 30 minutes, 54 families came onto the street with nowhere to go, 54 families, including men, women, children, old people, babies, people with disabilities, a complete society thrown out of their home, out of their shelter, out of their safe place, or what they believed was a safe place!
Abeer was panicked, she could not stop thinking that it might be our building next!! What if? What would we do? Where would we go? How would we continue our life? Would we get out of it safely? What about our daughter, Salma? Would we will be able to protect her? What life would mean without our home?
Do you hear my cry? You may do.
But you don’t see my tears

I wrote back:

Yes, Hossam, I can hear your cry.  I can feel your anger.  I can feel your depression and your inability to continue to work.  Nobody is indestructible.  Nobody is a total hero.  And I wonder whether anything is helped by my solidarity, my listening, my thinking that I understand?  Is anything helped by me posting this latest message?  I hope so because that is what I am about to do!  Just to cry out into the space of world, just to sing out our anger, just to stamp our feet on this old earth, just to hear some kind of echo and know we are not completely alone. Of course words by themselves are useless but they are never by themselves.  These words are between you and me and the world can listen.

Love and strength and life and joy to Abeer and Salma



And in the war 20/08/2014


20 August 2014


Yesterday I received an email from Hossam and Jamal saying that they could not guarantee they could to bring together their company for the work leading up to Sunday 14th September but were working on it.  Our launch event for our War and Peace: Gaza-London project is on that day at 4pm at Rich Mix in London. They said they would do everything they could to be there for the skype exchange.  As hostilities started again last night I got this SMS from Hossam:

No agreement, my dear. Nothing clear.

And then this morning, this email message with the following attachment:

Dear Jonathan
Yesterday we were almost sure that war ended, at the last hour everything collapsed, war continues!
Attached something I wrote
Be well and pray for our safety

… and in the war

… and in the war, like in every war, sadness prevails….

… and in the war, like in every war, you don’t watch the news, you are the news …

… and in the war, like in every war, you look for safety and some bread …

… and in the war, like in every war, you cannot alleviate the fear of your children, as you are as afraid as they are …

… and in the war, like in every war, you want to escape, but there’s no way out …

… and in the war, like in every war, faces are gloomy and you may not ask why, you know why …

… and in the war, like in every war, wherever you go destruction surrounds you ..

… and in the war, like in every war, you postpone all your plans…

… and in the war, like in every war, you cancel your holidays …

… and in the war, like in every war, you miss your friends who live nearby but you cannot visit them..

… and in the war, like in every war, no time for 5 o’clock tea …

… and in the war, like in every war, you don’t walk your dog every day as you used to do …

… and in the war, like in every war, you don’t go to the cinema anymore …

… and in the war, like in every war, no time for music …

… and in the war, like in every war, war continues.

But this war is not like any war!

In this war, the powerful army is supported by everyone

In this war, the ICRC (International Red Cross) can’t help as the powerful army prevents them from helping

In this war, children are the favorite target

In this war, the powerful army enjoys bombing civilians’ shelters

In this war, hospitals are targeted

In this war, every single person is in misery

In this war, no one is not in pain

In this war, the pain stings everyone to their bones

And last word is to my dear Tolstoy:

‘We are still looking for peace.

Dear Tolstoy, we do really want peace

May peace come one day.

May peace prevail soon?

Dear Tolstoy, so far, darkness prevails over Gaza.’



Letter to Theatre for Everybody 16/08/2014


16 August 2014

Another letter from Jonathan Chadwick included here for the record:

Dear Hossam and Jamal,

The conditions provided by the ceasefire are making me think about the work we are planning to do together on Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  But also I am thinking about what Hossam said about the peace negotiations in Cairo in his last message.

The governments of the world (apart from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru who have withdrawn their embassies from Israel) have failed the Palestinians.  While the governments of the ‘international community’ have failed, the people of the world, in considerable numbers, have responded with heartfelt protest and solidarity, and a schism seems to have appeared between people and their governments. In the future this may offer grounds for hope.  The governments have, with notable exceptions, accepted that what is happening is a war between Hamas and Israel and their response is based on the right of Israel to defend itself.  This contradicts international law.  See article by Noura Erekat.

The negotiations in Cairo are another part of the war process.  The Israelis will take as little notice of the agreements made as they did in 2012 or in any made before that.  For them, and surely also for the Palestinian negotiators, the war – the war of occupation and resistance to it – will continue whatever the outcome of their deliberations.  The situation is even more clear now than it was a month ago.  For Palestinians to get justice and freedom, Israel will have to be defeated.  This defeat may not be a simple and straightforward military defeat.  It won’t necessarily involve the destruction of Israel.

There is not one instance of a successful military occupation faced by the resistance of the occupied people.  See article by Marwan Bishara. Maybe the Israeli occupation of Palestine will prove to be the exception.  I hope not.

So how does our work on War and Peace seem relevant now?  Our project has lots of aims.  We want to use cultural exchange to undermine the blockade.  We want to use theatre to make better the lives of people especially in Gaza but also here in the UK.  Creating things together, cultural exchange, involves thinking together and feeling together.  So can this work on the Russian novel help us think about our situation?

In the novel there are many levels.  There is the story of the loves and lives of the main characters centred on Pierre, Andrei and Natasha.  Our attention is drawn to the relationship between individual destinies and historical movement.  I wonder how this seems to you now?  Will we see freedom and justice for Palestinians, that is an end to the occupation, in our lifetime?  What about for our children and grandchildren?

There is also the story of war and peace.  This is to some extent is connected to Tolstoy’s historical-philosophical investigation of human motivation.  The war between the Napoleonic army and the coalition between the Prussians, Austrians and Russians in the first half of the book culminates in the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.  Then there was the Treaty of Pressburg which took the Austrians out of the war and strengthened Napoleon’s German allies and effectively led to the end of the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian empire.  The peace consisted in an agreement about territory and control.

Tolstoy draws a distinction between this war and the war in the second half of the book.  This war involved the invasion of Russia.  It was like an occupation.  In this instance the Russians refused to make peace.  They would not countenance a peace until the invading armies had been driven from Russian territory.

It was during this war and the war in the Spanish Peninsula that ‘guerilla’ warfare was used so effectively against the invading and occupying army.  It was because of these changes in the nature of war that Carl Clausewitz wrote his celebrated classic work On War. He wrote this work in the early decades of the 19th century while of course Tolstoy didn’t write his novel about these same wars until the 1860s.  Clausewitz work is famous for its emphasis on the ‘moral’ dimension of war. In other words he speculated that wars were not won simply by military means. It is in this book that he came up with the famous assertion that ‘war is a continuation of politics by other means’.

In previous conversations we have noted that now in Palestine the Israelis have conducted peace as a continuation of war by other means.  In other words they have used peace negotiations (or the so-called ‘peace process’) as a way of extending their occupation which they do through theft of land and building settlements.  The withdrawal of their settlements from Gaza was accompanied by an extension of settlement building on the West Bank.  The blockade policy is an attempt to divide the Palestinian people and to isolate armed resistance.  This is clearly described in this article by Mouin Rabbani

Evidently, the moves towards a unified Palestinian ‘government’ set the context for the Israelis attack on Gaza.  The difficulties this presents to the Israelis are highlighted, incidentally and in the form of a kind of delusional wish, by a senior Israeli spokesman asserting that the Palestinians on the West Bank were rising in support of the Israeli offensive against Hamas. See the exchange between Dan Gillerman and Rafeef Ziadeh on Al Jazeera on the 7 August 2014

By the way, it’s worth reading Rafeef Ziadeh’s argument for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel  This movement could be important in ending the occupation, that is, the defeat of Israel as the occupying power.

Do you think working on War and Peace will mean us thinking through some of these questions?  Good thinking seems to take place when clear comparisons are made between one thing and another.  Will it help us understand more clearly the situation of people in Gaza and here – and, of course, the relationship between us?

Art can do lots of different things and we have been concerned in our partnership with how theatre can be made useful.  This is what I have always found inspiring about your decision at the advent of the Intifada in 2000 to turn your theatrical capabilities away from producing plays and performances to working with young people who derive therapeutic benefits from participating in drama.

We have always been concerned in Gaza Drama Long Term with creating spaces in which creativity and the imagination can take flight.  Is our work on War and Peace and our attempt to use this work as entertainment that inspires original and creative thinking still valid for you?

I know that there will be enormous difficulties in bringing together the company of creative artists for the two-week workshop leading up to our joint events in Gaza and London on Sunday 14th September.  I think we have now raised enough money to make this work financially possible but is it humanly possible and is it still desirable and necessary?

I should say, if it is not clear from what I have said above, that I am really keen to continue our work on War and Peace.

Best love,


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