THE EMIGRANT in GAZA – Appeal for Support

Support our new production project in Gaza.  Please send it on to your contacts.  

THE EMIGRANTS

an adaptation of Stanislaw Mrozek’s play by Theatre for Everybody specially for young (18-30 year olds) audiences.

We are launching the development of a creative project in Gaza: Theatre For Everybody’s adaptation of THE EMIGRANTS by Stanislaw Mrozek.  The Arabic translation is by Hossam Madhoun and the adaptation for Gaza of this modern classic will be directed by Naeem Nasr.

I am writing to you because you are a long-term supporter of Az Theatre’s collaboration with Theatre for Everybody in Gaza and/or you have pledged your support for the Gaza Cultural Centre Coalition’s work to build a new cultural centre for Gaza. Both these projects were on hold during the onset of the Covid-19/SARS 2 pandemic.  Only a few days ago the first community transmitted cases of Covid-19 have been discovered in Gaza.  Although this is extremely worrying we are determined to proceed with our work.  We are seeking your support.

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Please click here to read the joint appeal by civil society organisations about the situation in Gaza

About THE EMIGRANTS

This play by the acclaimed Polish emigré writer is about the illusions and smashed dreams of two emigrants to the ‘rich’ world.  Its style is absurdist and slapstick, tragic and comic by turn. For Gaza’s young audiences Theatre for Everybody’s adaptation will be an urgent piece of work. THE EMIGRANTS will address the centrifugal forces at work in Gaza. 35,000 Palestinians left the Gaza Strip between 2014 and 2018 and didn’t return.  Young people have been known to set off in boats never to be seen again.  If you are in a prison you must think of escaping but the Gaza prison is of a very particular sort and what awaits the emigrants may not live up to their dreams.

We are planning to extend the reach of this work to publics in the UK and in other international venues through events at which young people in Gaza can engage in conversation with groups around the world.  If you are interested in running such an event please contact us at the email address below.

We need your support

We can creatively engage with 1000 young people in Gaza, the direct beneficiaries and it will cost £18,000. Some of this money can be raised through arts funds but we rely on individual donations

We are setting up a project development fund with the aim of raising £6000 through individual donations.  So we are making this appeal to you:  

If you like this idea and want to see it happen, show your support by giving us a donation.  It doesn’t matter how much or how little.  We would rather see 10 contributions of £10 than 1 of £100.  It is people’s support that counts. If you contributed £18 you would be ensuring the participation of a young person in Gaza. If you can give more, great!

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Read more about the context, the play, the concept, the company, the writer and the creative team. 

Our project

Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody have worked together on creative projects in Gaza since 2009 and were partners in the War Stories project from 2002.  After numerous projects focusing on young people in Gaza we produced Gaza: War & Peace, the first Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel, playing to hundreds and hundreds of young people in Gaza in the Al Mishal Cultural Centre that was destroyed by Israeli bombardment in August 2018. We gained the participation of many hundreds of people throughout the world in a dynamic outreach programme that employed online video public events, climaxing in HERE THERE EVERYWHERE at the P21 Gallery in London on November 2017.

THE EMIGRANTS will be an advocacy project for the rebuilding of the Cultural Centre in Gaza. The Al Mishal Cultural Centre was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in August 2018. Alongside all our statements and publicity on this project we will promote the idea and vision of a new cultural centre for Gaza. The initial contributions for the rebuilding of the Cultural Centre are still in the bank except for money spent on research amongst the arts community in Gaza.  We also have a few people who make monthly contributions for which we are so grateful!  Read more about the Gaza Cultural Centre Coalition

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Emigrants project description

This is information about a new project we are initiating

Proposal for a theatre production – Theatre for Everybody

The Emigrants by Stanislaw Mrozek in a special Gaza adaptation. 

Introduction:

The siege 

Palestinians in Gaza are ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory and the outside world. Movement restrictions imposed by Israel since the early 1990’s and intensified in June 2007, following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, have severely undermined the living conditions and the health and education systems. The isolation of Gaza has been exacerbated by restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on its only passenger crossing in Rafah. Thus, for example, thousands of students have lost the opportunity to complete education overseas. They have also deprived by the internal Palestinian division. Although the blockade and related restrictions contravene international humanitarian law as they target and impose hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed, the international community have remained silent. Major escalations of military attacks by Israel in the past years have resulted in extensive destruction, thousands of causalities and major internal displacement.

Unemployment 

In Gaza it continues to rise. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment in Gaza reached 52 percent in 2018, an increase of almost eight percent since 2017 and of more than 20 percent since Israel imposed the closure in 2007. Since Hamas took over the control on Gaza on 2007, it has ruled Gaza with a harsh dictatorial regime.  Speaking out and self-expression has led to prison.Posts on Facebook or twitter criticising Hamas have led many young people to spend many days in prison suffering  humiliating investigation and torture. 

During the last few years, and in particular after the war of 2014, a new phenomenon has appeared in Gaza. For the first time suicidal incidents among young people are on the increase.  Gaza’s young people turn to suicide in growing desperation.

In March 2019, hundreds of Palestinians participated in protests against rising prices and in opposition to Hamas in various locations in the Strip. These were the ‘We Want the Right to LIve’ protests. Hamas security forces cracked down harshly, beating protesters and arresting hundreds. Demonstrations have since petered out.

The Rafah Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt was opened under the Palestinian Authority in November 2017 for the first time in a decade, permitting Gazans take a plane to Turkey for vacations. However, many residents — mainly young and educated — saw that as an opportunity to escape the impoverished enclave, they were smuggled onto boats and sent to Greece, from which they travelled to other European countries — chiefly Germany, Sweden and Belgium.

Though the perils of the journeys ahead of migrants are well known, many Palestinians are still determined to leave the Gaza Strip, where life is no longer bearable. 35,000 Palestinians left the Gaza Strip between 2014 and 2018 and didn’t return due to the financial crisis there and lack of hope and the absence of any visible horizon of change. 

Many young Palestinians have lost their lives on the way to ‘salvation’, as they might see it. For example, among dozens of migrants killed in June 2019 when a boat capsized off the shore of Turkey were 13 Palestinians escaping Gaza.

Arriving in Europe has not necessarily solved the problem for these thousands of young people. In Belgium alone, 20,000 young men requesting refuge are stuck in refugees’ centres for years waiting for reply from the authorities.  Many could not complete their education. Thousands are working in the illegal economy. Life is not at all what they expected and they lose years of their young lives without any goal or achievement. 

The project: 

Theatre for Everybody is planning to produce The Emigrants to audiences of young men and women, university students and others. In the first phase there will be 5 performances including interactive participatory sessions.  Each performance will have 150 attendees.  In venues in Gaza City and Khan Younis.

The play is a chance for the young attendees to correct stereotypes about Europe and the West in regard to emigration.  It will show an alternative story and how emigration may be far from being the solution to their problems.   

The play is translated into Arabic by Hossam Madhoun and the adaptation will be made by the company under the direction of Naeem Nasr.

Theatre for Everybody will work in close cop-operation with Universities and Youth Associations.

The play:

The Emigrants takes place on a New Year’s Eve in an unnamed West country in the basement lodgings of two immigrants. One is a political exile, an intellectual who gets his money from a mysterious source. The other is a ditch digger who is saving money to return to his ‘homeland’.
The poor, disadvantaged worker hangs around in the splendid city watching the appearances of luxury without being able to buy the pleasures he sees. He yearns to return home to show off his success to his family. The years pass and he does not return but he remains confident that he will return one day. 

His room-mate talks in a language characterized by the dominance of philosophical and political concepts and terms. He spends generously on the worker. Later, we discover that the goal is to make the worker the subject for a study of an individual whose interests do not exceed his immediate individual needs. When the worker discovers this intended examination he feels insulted and this makes him revolt against his project. He tears up the money that he has dedicated his life to saving.

Theatre for Everybody Group

Origins

Theatre for Everybody Group is the outcome of years of work toward creating an alternative theatre in Gaza Strip. For too long theatre in Gaza has been prerogative of Jerusalem and West Bank. Cut off from the world during the long years of occupation, theatre in Gaza was dormant. But within the silence there were yet murmurs.  With strong desire and conviction, ten young people got together to share and learn the art of acting, directing and performing. They invited qualified artists and colleagues from Jerusalem to conduct workshops, training programs and organized productions. They established “Al-Janoub Theatre Troupe.” They started in 1994 a fruitful cooperation with Ashtar Theatre School and with Theatre Day Production. Both offered them intensive training sessions. With Ashtar Theatre School, they made one play and the collaboration with Theatre Day Production lasted for two years during which two plays produced. In 1996, six of the original group of ten branched out to establish “Gaza Theatre Lab.”  

Then, gradually, some differences appeared between Theatre Day Production and members of Gaza Theatre Lab. It was a question of methods of works but more deeply of philosophy. In 1997, Theatre for Everybody was born. The founders (Jamal Al-Rozzi, Hossam Al-Madhoun, and Marianne Blume) wanted before everything to maintain their independence and decided, despite all the difficulties, to find cooperation and financial aid for their projects.

What we are?

We are theatre makers and we want to take part in the society through art. We believe in theatre as an artistic production as well as a way to bring awareness in the society toward all the main problems. We believe that through plays, we can contribute to change the attitudes, to shake the preconceived ideas or at least to bring out the problems (social and psychological). Through entertainment, through shows, we do not lecture people, we just stimulate them, we question them about themselves, about their beliefs and their behavior. Our theatre is committed to the life in all its fullness but not directly political: we do not deliver messages. The artistic quality of our work is constantly our goal: the challenge for the coming years remains to create an audience and to make from theatre a daily cultural need as well as a usual event. A theatre considered as a tool to build the society is our concern but we would like to reach the point that a play could be chosen because of its artistic value. 

Productions: 


2015 War and Peace (theatre play on Tolstoy)
In cooperation with Az theatre – London
Performed in Gaza
Performed in London on 6th august (film) and Gaza, with skype link with the audiences of Gaza and London

2010 – 2011 The Tree, based on Guernica of Fernando Arabal
Director: Jamal Alrozzi
Performed in Gaza

2008 – 2009 “Through the Tunnel”
A play on the life’s of Gazan people under the siege and embargo imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip (daily life stories)
Director: Naem Naser
Actors from Gaza and Belgium
Performed in Gaza, Belgium, France and Luxemburg

2006 “The Wall” – Theater for Everybody production
A play on the segregation wall built by the Israeli occupation in Palestine
Director Sofian Albobsi (Belgium)
Actors: (from Gaza – Jerusalem and Belgium) Naem Naser, Kamel El-Basha, Philippe Domulin, Rami El-Banna, Gorgina Asfour
Performances: Belgium

2005 “Water Water” – Theater for Everybody production
A play on the water problem in Palestine
Director: Jamal Al Rozzi
Actors: Hossam El-Madhoun, Majda Abu Sharikh, Baha Elyazji, Mohammed Hissi.
Performances: Gaza Strip

2004 “Blue Gold” – International production on the problematic of water
Directors: Claudine Arts – Belgium and Subadh Batnaik – India
Actors: from Belgium, Palestine, India, and Rwanda
Performances: France, Belgium and Luxemburg

2003 “Hayat” – Theater for Everybody production
A play on the problem of malnutrition among pregnant women and children
Director: Jamal El-Rozzi
Actors: Hossam El-Madhoun, Mohammed Abu Karsh, Majda Abu Sharikh, Elena Abdo
Performances: Gaza Strip

2003 “Out of the Pcture” – Theater for Everybody production
A play on the right of disabled people to education
Directors: Philippe Domuline and Claudine Atrs
Actors: Jamal Al-Rozzi, Hossam El-Madhoun, Rami Al-Salmi, Emad Al-Rozzi, Rania Al-Katari
Performances: Gaza Strip

2002 “Checkpoint” – Theatre for Everybody production
Play on the checkpoints build by the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories and its impact on the daily life of the Palestinian people.
Directors: Marianne Blume, Claudine Arts and Philippe Domuline
Actors: Naem Naser, Jamal Al-Rozzi, Hossam El-Madhoun, Najah Awadallah, Rami Al-Banna
Performances: France, Belgium and Luxemburg and Gaza
1999-2000 “One thousand and one flowers” – Theater for Everybody production
Director: Naem Naser
Actors: Jamal Al-Rozzi – Hossam Al-Madhoun – Mofyd Sweedan
Performances: 152 shows at Gaza Strip

1998 The Lively Death – Theater for Everybody production
By Athol Fugard (South Africa)
Director: Naem Naser
Actors: Jamal Al-Rozzi – Hossam Al-Madhoun – Marianne Blume
Performances: Amman International Theatre Festival (April 1998)+ Jerusalem Theatre Nights Festival (June 1998) + Gaza Strip.

1997 Lailat Al Omr – Palestinian/Belgian production
Improvisation: Theater for Everybody and Gaza Theater Lab.
Text writer: Hossam El-Madhoun
Directors: Philippe Dumoulin and Claudine Arts (Belgium)
Actors: Jelan El-Shikh – Naem Naser – Jamal Al-Rozzi – Hossam Al-Madhoun – Mohammed Abokarsh
Performances: Gaza Strip for “Gaza mental health program” + in Belgium and France during the “Festival Du Theatre Action”.

1996 Welcome to Hell – Palestinian – Belgian Production
Director: Phillippe Dumoulin (Belgium)
Actors: Ali Abuyasin – Naem Naser – Jamal Al-Rozzi – Hossam Al-Madhoun – Mohammed Hamdan – Mohammed AbuKwick – Rasmi Damo
Performances: Gaza (September 1996) France, Belgium and Luxemburg (2000)



Other activities:

2000 – 2015
Drama therapy programs for children, adults, and people with disabilities

1997 – 2005
Drama trainings and workshops for children and youth

2002
Partners in War Stories long term research and workshop with theatre groups from UK, France, Romania, Algeria, and Serbia

2005
Participate in Theatre in Place of War, long-term research initiated by Manchester University / Drama institution

2005
Participate in Drama in civil intervention international conference, Exeter University, UK

Festivals :
Festival Du Theatre Action, Belgium, 1998 – 2000 – 2002 – 2004 – 2006
Al-Fawanees International Theatre festival, Amman, Jordan, 1997 – 1998
Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Theatre Nights festivals 1998

The Team:

The Director: 

Naem Naser 

27 years’ experience in theatre and drama as a director, actor and trainer 

Founder of Masafat theatre group 

Participated as an actor in 27 theatre productions 

Director of more than 30 theatre play for adults and children 

Worker with Theatre for Everybody group as a director and an actor in several plays 

Participated in theatre festivals in Egypt, Jordan, France, Romania, Belgium and Luxembourg 

Naem is also Musician and Oud player, Naem has composed many songs and produced several music tapes, mainly for theatre shows

Naem the founder of Arab Music national band in Gaza 

The Actors: 

Jamal Al-Rozzi 

More than 30 years’ theatre actor, trainer and director

Participated in more than 30 theatre productions for adults and children

Participated in developing theatre texts through improvisation 

Trainer of acting skills 

Drama therapist 

Theatre production manager 

Participated in theatre festivals in Egypt, Jordan, France, Romania, Belgium and Luxemburg 

Participated in a long term research in drama in place of War with Manchester University 

Participated in Art for promoting social change conference with Exeter University 

Beside his involvement in theatre:

Jamal is considered a key person in the field of disability since 30 years, he is the executive manager of the National Society for Rehabilitation responsible for the coordination of persons with disability working group in Gaza Strip 

Jamal is also a board member of PNGO (Palestinian NGO’s Network)

Hossam Almadhoun 

25 years’ drama activist as actor, director and trainer, in drama in civil intervention, in education and drama therapist 

Participated as an actor and director in more than 20 productions for children and adults 

Trainer of acting skills 

Drama therapy specialist 

Theatre production manager 

Translator of 7 theatre plays from English to Arabic

Participated in theatre festivals in Egypt, Jordan, France, Romania, Belgium and Luxemburg 

Participated in a long term research in drama in place of War with Manchester University 

Participated in Art for promoting social change conference with Exeter University  

Beside his involvement in theatre:

Hossam is a leading professional in the field of child protection, manager of Child Protection Program at Ma’an Development Centre 

Trainer in child protection and ‘child protection in emergency’ 

A member of the child protection working group under the umbrella of UNICEF

A member of the child protection networks in Gaza Strip 

Member of ‘child protection in emergency’ platform

Hossam had a 7 years’ experience in heading an international organisation working in the field of water and sanitation and food security 

The writer: 

Sławomir Mrożek (29 June 1930 – 15 August 2013) was a Polish dramatist, writer and cartoonist. In 1963 Mrożek emigrated to Italy and France and then further to Mexico. In 1996 he returned to Poland and settled in Kraków. In 2008 he moved back to France. He died in Nice at the age of 83. 

What people said about the online readings of SOMEBODY ELSE and THE FIELD

SOMEBODY ELSE 

by Jonathan Chadwick

online reading presented on Thursday 17th April 2020

with Laura Lake Adebisi and Ruth Lass

Alice is a refugee. She has been badly brutalised. She and Margarette, who has spent her working life as an actor, are living together as a part of a scheme called ONE TO ONE.  The scheme ‘matches’ refugee women with women who have volunteered to take mentoring roles.  The apartment they live in is on the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Unable at first to speak and move, Alice eventually proves that she can help Margarette perhaps more than Margarette can help her.

‘Wonderful play, astonishing performances, a new medium for these new times – a deep bow to you all’

‘a complex, lyrical and profound play and..a very moving and profound performance’

‘Thank you so much for such a powerful play! The bird and the angel, you were fantastic! Bravo!

‘It had great emotional truth and each actor zoomed in at us, as if we were the other character.  The intimacy of that was extraordinarily right for this time of lockdown’

‘I was with you in that house by the Mediterranean.  I swam, I was a fish, an actress, a daughter, a woman.  It was magic. Your two voices mixed and were so close and so far away”

THE FIELD 

by Jonathan Chadwick

online reading presented Thursday 23rd April 2020

with

Amed Hashimi, Mikhail Sen, Ruth Lass, Laila Alj, Laura Lake Adebisi, Annie Firbank and Lloyd Trott

Three people, two of whom are theoretical physicists working at a hadron collider, arrive in a field and decide to buy the adjacent house and have a child. Elsewhere a young woman, distraught at the death of her sister, plants a tree and meets a singer. Rebellion, floods and financial collapse precipitate a social revolution.

‘It was a great reading.  I liked the mood, the pace and the anticipation of it’

‘An intense experience. I was completely drawn in.’

‘I like the mix of revolution and counter-revolution, culture and counter-culture’

‘Marvellous actors!’

‘All this weaving between different sciences and questioning about what it is to be, and all these diverse temporalities, these various loves, these different perceptions of existence, constitute a poetic and disturbing work’.

‘We are awed and so impressed by your extraordinary capacity to weave together so many threads in one play and by the actors’ skill in pulling it all off and handling such a rich and complex text with such aplomb and all of you for managing that on zoom! Deepest admiration and gratitude to the whole amazing crew’

The Field -online reading Thursday 23rd April 7.30pm (UK time) – see invitation

THE FIELD

a play by Jonathan Chadwick

Three people, two of whom are theoretical physicists working at a hadron collider, arrive in a field and decide to buy the adjacent house and have a child. Elsewhere a young woman, distraught at the death of her sister, plants a tree and meets a singer. Rebellion, floods and financial collapse precipitate a social revolution.

with

Amed Hashimi, Mikhail Sen, Ruth Lass, Laila Alj, Laura Lake Adebisi, Annie Firbank and Lloyd Trott

online reading Thursday 23rd April 2020 from 7.30pm* for 8.10pm start (UK time)

*Participants can arrive from 7.30pm and get to know how we are using the zoom technology. If they wish, they can then take part in ‘public applause for health workers’ at 8pm (for UK residents) and then be ready to start the online reading at 8.10pm

If you want to attend this online reading on Thursday 23rd April at 7.30pm/8.10pm please click on the zoom invitation below at that time and enter the password.

Your microphone will be muted when you arrive in the space. We ask you to turn your video off and select Gallery View and ‘hide all non-video participants’. There will be a discussion afterwards.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/8239997145?pwd=YjR5OE10VDVwN2xqZm1PUCtIZzRGdz09

Meeting ID: 823 999 7145

Password: 034675

Further information: info@aztheatre.org.uk

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Somebody Else – online reading Thursday 16th April 7.30pm

SOMEBODY ELSE

a play by Jonathan Chadwick

online reading

Our reading on Thursday 16th April 2020 at 7.30pm was successful with approximately 40 people participating. Here is one review in International Times by Jan Woolf:

“I concentrate instead on live streaming and the feeling of collective consciousness, singling out a play reading ‘Somebody Else’ by Jonathan Chadwick with actors Laura Lake Adebisi and Ruth Lass about the relationship between a refugee and her helper.  It had great emotional truth and each actor zoomed in at us, as if we were the other character. The intimacy of that was extraordinarily right for this time of lock down and really made the best of Zoom. Unlike the National Theatre’s live streaming, which I’ve experienced as theatre coming through the wrong medium. Stage theatre, like love, needs pheromones”

with


Laura Lake Adebisi

Ruth Lass

Alice is a refugee. She has been badly brutalised. She and Margarette, who has spent her working life as an actor, are living together as a part of a scheme called ONE TO ONE.  The scheme ‘matches’ refugee women with women who have volunteered to take mentoring roles.  The apartment they live in is on the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Unable at first to speak and move, Alice eventually proves that she can help Margarette perhaps more than Margarette can help her.  

If you want to attend this online reading on Thursday 16th April at 7.30pm please click on the zoom invitation below at that time.

We ask people who attend to have their microphones on mute and their video turned off during the reading.  There will be a discussion afterwards.

Jonathan Chadwick is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: SOMEBODY ELSE online reading

Time: Apr 16, 2020 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/8239997145?pwd=YjR5OE10VDVwN2xqZm1PUCtIZzRGdz09

Meeting ID: 823 999 7145

Password: 034675

This online reading is one of two.  We are exploring the use of zoom as a medium for dramatic work.  Watch out for the online reading of THE FIELD by Jonathan Chadwick on Thursday 23rd April at 7.30

Questions and follow up: info@aztheatre.org.uk

www.aztheatre.org.uk

People of Gaza in yet another time of crisis – Part 2 Friday 17th April at 4.30 GMT+1 Join Us

Follow-up online event talking to people in Gaza about the impact of Covid-19

Friday 17th April 4.30 GMT +1

Join us. Send this invitation on.

We’ll be talking to Hossam Madhoun, Abeer Abu Seif, Salma, their daughter, Jamal Al Rozzi and friends in Gaza at this event.

Just click the zoom link below at the date and time above if you wish to attend and enter the password:
Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/182172777?pwd=UVNMVE54aVdRYnc3dWxZRE9USlpXdz09

Meeting ID: 182 172 777
Password: 479088

  • Hossam is the Director of a Child Protection Programme for a large NGO
  • Abeer is an administrative manager for a key international medical aid provider
  • Jamal is the CEO of a major rehabilitation NGO
  • Salma is studying Law at University in Gaza

Our last gathering on Friday 27th March inspired a lot of interaction between teachers, mental health workers, lawyers in and outside Gaza.  Many people signed a letter to the Director of the World Health Organisation.  
There will be a discussion at the end of the event to discuss continued activity in support of people in Gaza.

CLICK HERE for World Health Organisation updates

Notes from our online gathering on Friday 27th March

45 people from all over the world joined our online conversation with Hossam Madhoun and his daughter, Selma, in Gaza on Friday 27th March.

Many initiatives were discussed. Action around the issue of education and the availability of resources was one focus.

Making a coherent response through sending letters demanding that Israel lift its blockade was another.

see below for links referred to in the online conversation

Here is a ‘model’ letter which you might adapt:

To whom it may concern

Regarding the likely impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on the people of Gaza and the necessity of ending the blockade of the territory by Israel

We demand that our political representatives make urgent representations to the Israeli Government to end the blockade of the Gaza Territories since it exacerbates the potentially catastrophic impact of the Coronavirus on the population there.

The blockade by land, air and sea has, over the past decade and a half, severely weakened the ability of the Gaza population to deal with the impact of the virus especially as it has involved the blocking of medical equipment, medicines and building materials.  Large sections of the population have no access to clean water and this is made worse by the severity of the electricity cuts, supply is on for only 4 hours per day. The medical services have also been incapacitated by three large-scale armed conflicts in the past decade.  The economic situation remains disastrous with 45% unemployment (60% amongst under 25year olds), 70% of the people are food insecure.  The territory is one of the most densely populated in the world with 2 million inhabitants in a total area of 365 square kilometres/141 square miles, 70% are refugees.  13,000 people are homeless.

People in Gaza will find the recommended required strategies of social distancing for prevention and self isolation in the case of infection almost completely impossible.

There are only between 60-100 ventilator/respirators in Gaza.  The Israeli Government announced that it was sending hundreds of testing kits.  It has sent 200. 

The United Nations has declared the Israeli actions in and around Gaza to be illegal since they constitute ‘collective punishment’ of an entire population. 

We call on our political representatives to demand that the Israeli government face its responsibility as the occupying power and lift the blockade. 

Hossam Madhoun, Child Protection Programme Organiser for a large NGO in Gaza and Co-Director of Theatre for Everybody sent this information about the Coronavirus in Gaza:

The Gaza Strip in the Days of Corona – Update March 28, 2020

Notes from Hossam Madhoun after online gathering of 45 people organised by Az Theatre on Friday 27th March

  • Every person who comes into Gaza is required to go into quarantine.
  • There are three quarantine centers that are currently full (~1400 people)
  • There are approximately 2000 people in quarantine at home. The numbers grow exponentially (as in the rest of the world)
  • The Hamas announced that it is planning on building additional quarantine centers.
  • The conditions in the centers are difficult:
  • Many people in a room (up until 8)
  • Low level hygiene
  • Lack of food
  • Unprofessional care
  • 118 tests have been undertaken that were marked ‘suspicious’ (unclear what this means)
  • There are 9 known cases as of today. There is a fear that the real number is much higher
  • There is a serious shortage of hygienic materials, gloves etc.
  • In the past, Israel transferred hand sanitizers, but stopped providing this due to needs here in Israel
  • These products can be purchased in India, but the shipment will take at least one month.
  • The WHO has sent tests, but there are not enough (less than 1000)
  • There is money (from the Emirates and Qatar among others). The problem is finding a source for supply
  • There are not enough medical staffs. The Hamas is trying to increase the staffs. Meanwhile, they have added 80 people to the medical and para-medical teams.
  • There are 59 respirators in Gaza. Twenty of them are used by people who do not have the virus. In any event, the number of respirators is much too small to handle an outbreak of the pandemic.
  • The parts of the existing respirators are dual-purpose and, therefore, hard to attain.
  • Gaza is competing with all the countries in the world over the respirators, gloves and safety suits. Gaza is usually at the bottom of the list.
  • There is one factory in the West Bank that is producing the suits, so there is some hope that Gaza will be able to purchase them from there. However, Israel is also trying to purchase suits from that factory.
  • The situation in the hospitals is better than it was a year ago/half a year ago. Most of the hospitals are directly connected to the power station in the Gaza Strip. They also have electricity 24 hours a day. However, there are hospitals that have electricity 14 hours a day (or on for 8 hours, off for 8 hours)
  • The power stations are working better than they did in the past – all of the turbines have been replaced and they are no longer dependent on an Israelis source; they receive fuel from Qatar.
  • The water situation has not changed; it remains very bad. There is no possibility of drawing water from the coastal aquifer. Most of the population depends upon water donations and on mineral water.
  • Even with the improvements in the electricity supply to the sewage facilities, there are still many problems concerning waste and sewage treatment.
  • There are many cases of illness due to the water situation.
  • It is unclear whether there are fewer breathing problems because there is less need to use generators.
  • The Gaza Strip needs, now more than ever, to depend on local production. The fishing industry has become an important source of food and income.
  • Israel returned fishing boats to Gaza that they had previously taken away; however, most of these boats are not in a usable condition. Organizations have asked permission from Israel to let in boat motors, fiberglass and ropes for fishing in order to rejuvenate the fishing industry.
  • Concerning agriculture – there is a demand that Israel allows in ‘dual-purpose’ materials that can increase the ability of Gazan farmers to meet the dietary needs of the population. One of the fights now is over letting in fertilizer.
  • 80% of all the products are bought from Israel. This is the reason that Israel (in addition to the blockade) remains the key for Gaza to be able to increase its production of products for the local population. 20% comes mainly from Egypt.
  • Hamas announced that it is stopping marketing its agricultural products to Israel and the West Bank. The economy in Gaza is dependent upon income from selling its products outside its borders. The reason for forbidding this export is tied to the desire to prevent increasing prices in Gaza. This decision has internal logic, but it will not be able to last in the long-term.
  • Organizations asked Israel to allow Gaza to market processed food products to the West Bank (canned goods, olive oil, spices etc.). As of today, Israel only allows exporting of these products to countries outside of the region.
  • All of this is relevant only if it possible to still work (that is, there is no lock-down/quarantine).
  • There are major communication problems in the Gaza Strip. There is a great need for equipment. Without this equipment, Gaza could find itself without the possibility to have internet, which has become the main way in the world to continue to provide education, engage in hi-tech and to market products, due to the Covid-19 virus. Israel has never allowed 3rd or 4th generation of networks into the Gaza Strip. Organizations have demanded that Israel change these restrictions so that society can function.
  • The Erez terminal is closed most of the from both the Israeli and Gaza side. Everyone who enters Gaza goes into quarantine. All of the movement of workers from Gaza into Israel has stopped. There is no arrangement for workers to remain in Israel during this crisis.
  • The Rafiah crossing is open, but there are rumors that it will close soon.
  • Kerem Shalom and Salah-el din are the only crossings that are open now (for specific merchandise – construction materials and gas for cooking)
  • Small numbers of critical patients can still come into Israel from Gaza for treatment.
  • The Ministry of Health has established a committee in Gaza to deal with the lack of doctors, hospitals and equipment. However, they cannot supply what they need.
  • If products are purchased, they can enter via Kerem Shalom.
  • Help for Gaza is dependent on Israel explicitly allowing such help to be given (border crossings, treatment ship, etc.)
  • There is a Palestinian-Israeli committee that works together on certain issues, but it only works in the West Bank. There does not appear to be an Israeli official in charge of managing the Corona crisis in Gaza. We should try to learn if there is an Israeli politician who is willing to work on this crisis.
  • The Gaza Strip and the West Bank remain separated from one another (due, in part, to the Israeli government’s policy). Therefore they cannot work together on this issue, even if they wished to do so (which is unclear). The economic systems are separate. For example, Gaza farmers cannot simply sell their produce in the West Bank.
  • Israeli organizations are calling for lifting the blockade on Gaza, due to this crisis.
  • It is important that Israel allows Gazans – especially medical staff – go to the West Bank so that they can get training, as well as get a little time off. It is also important to be able to let patients out so they can get needed medical treatment.
  • It is important for Israelis to learn from Gazans what is happening here – in terms of Covid-19 and in general. A campaign is needed that will convince Israelis that the outbreak of the virus in Gaza is also ‘our problem.’
  • There is a need to find movers and shakers who have the clout and the money and the network to make a difference in Gaza (e.g., Bill Gates). It is important to get this story into the media and keep it there.
  • Gaza is now facing a real humanitarian crisis. It is no longer ‘theoretical.’ This message needs to get out to the world.

Here are links that were referred to during the online conversations:

OCHA: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/covid-19-emergency-situation-report-1

THEATRE FOR EVERYBODY: https://www.facebook.com/TFEPalestine/

GAZA IN CONTEXT: http://www.gazaincontext.com/

WE ARE NOT NUMBERS: https://wearenotnumbers.org

WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/crises/opt/en/

WHO TWITTER: @WHOopt 

DONATE: https://www.maan-ctr.org/

PSC ACTION: https://www.palestinecampaign.org/digital-day-of-action-for-palestine/

#LiftTheBlockade

Please contact info@aztheatre.org.uk for further information



 

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Rebuild Gaza cultural centre project

The Al Mishal Cultural Centre in Gaza was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on the 9th August 2018.

The Al Mishal Centre was the only working theatre left in Gaza.  It was the venue of choice for theatre companies there and housed many arts projects.  It was the centre of the cultural and artistic community in Gaza.  READ MORE

Working with our friends in Gaza we immediately protested against this destruction and now we have pledged to rebuild a cultural centre for Gaza.

Our working group: Jamal Al Rozzi Theatre for Everybody, Gaza), Iman Aoun (Ashtar Theatre, Ramallah), Jonathan Chadwick (Az Theatre, London), Caryl Churchill (Playwright, London, Hossam Madhoun (Theatre for Everybody, Gaza), Jessica Litwak (HEAT Collective, New York), Shalva Wise (Activist/Producer, New York).

Az Theatre (London) is working closely with the HEAT Collective (New York) to share our project.

We are producing a film that will show the depth and breadth of culture and arts in Gaza and promote our project.  The film will be made in Gaza.  UK based theatre and film director, Caitlin Mcleod is working with the the team in Gaza, UK and USA

We are planning a global architectural contest that activate imaginations and skills internationally working with the creative community in Gaza.  We aim to work through an international network of arts and community centres to promote our project.

The story so far……

  • August 2018 UK theatre practitioners sign a letter to The Guardian to protest the destruction of the Al Mishal  READ THE LETTER
  • Az Theatre launches an appeal for support and money.  We have raised £5500. All of which money will be spent in Gaza to make the film.
  • International activists launch a ‘pledge of support’ letter.  SEE THE LETTER.  PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT

DONATE !

Intersectionality and HERE THERE EVERYWHERE: Gaza-London. What Next?

‘Shukran! So great to feel connected to Gaza. Peace through art. Keep going. Keep spreading peace and love.’ Comment by participant at the HERE THERE EVERYWHERE events

From 7th -11th November 2017 Az Theatre curated an exhibition and ran a series of events at P21 Gallery in London. The occasion was the presentation by our partners, Theatre for Everybody in Gaza, of their stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace.  The exhibition brought together work by Tanya Habjouqa (photographer), Taysir Batniji (Video artist), Hazem Harb (performance video artist), Palestine History Tapestry Project, Laila Kassab (painter) and the Palestine Regeneration Team.  The events video-linked publics and experts in London with: the ‘War & Peace’ company in Gaza; with contributors to the book, Gaza as Metaphor; with mothers in Gaza attending a workshop organised by the Maan Development Agency; with school teachers (including the National President and members of the executive of the National Union of Teachers section of the National Education Union); with women activists from Gaza and from Jazir province in the autonomous Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (aka Rojava); with human rights activists and specialists in the study of genocide; with filmmakers who worked on a film about the first intifada (1987-1990) in Gaza; with students of Shakespeare; with the filmmaker of Ambulance, a film about paramedics in the 2014 Gaza war, with paramedics, psychotherapists and mental health specialists, public health experts, environmentalists and poets.

We decided to run such an extensive programme of work in order to help break down barriers between people working in different fields and to offer to other constituencies the kind of immediate working contact that Az Theatre has developed with Theatre for Everybody during our Gaza Drama Long Term project.  This is a ten-year (2009-2019) partnership aimed at undermining the blockade of Gaza through friendship, solidarity and creativity.  This decision was inspired and furthered by the idea of intersectionality.

I would like to make clearer why this idea is important to me.  As I do so I have to admit that I am not knowledgeable about, or well-read in, black feminist thinking nor in critical race theory from which this idea developed.  That’s not to say that I will never be but I don’t want to wait until I’m adept before talking about how this idea has struck me.  I first came across it in Angela Y Davis’ book Freedom is a Constant Struggle.  In this book Angela Y Davis talks about how limiting it is to describe struggles like that of the Palestinian people for justice, or that of indigenous people to protect their land against incursions by multinational oil corporations, or that of black people in many parts of the world against police and judicial violence, as being disconnected from each other.  Intersectionality insists on the specifics of a given movement and opens up that which links it to other movements.  For example, in a leaked document from a conference organised by an Israeli government-related think-tank it is clear that this ability to connect the Palestinian cause with other social movements was a matter of considerable concern for those committed to sustaining the Zionist project.  The report from the conference in April 2017 specifically identifies ‘intersectionality’ as a threat and described it as a major factor in the failure of the Israeli state to counter the BDS movement. The success of the Palestinian solidarity movement was to a major extent attributed to the fact that this struggle had been adopted as ‘symbolic’ in the struggle of many groups and movements for justice and freedom.

Being able to see how the issue of Palestinian freedom relates to a widespread series of interconnected concerns, including ‘humanitarianism’ and the constitution of the ‘international community’, is realistic from the point of view of current political imagination.  Giving full weight to the actuality and detail of what Palestinians are engaged with, whether they are in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Israel, in Jordan, in Lebanon and in the other countries of the world to which they have been dispersed, is completely in tune with seeing the impossibility of considering their situation in isolation.  Of course their situation is special but it becomes indescribable if similarities, resonances and connections are pushed out of the picture.  Of course this is true of many, if not all, of the issues that connect with that of the Palestinians. This is more than saying that they are not alone from the point of view of active solidarity and there is no need to insist – although this may a certain times be useful – that this unity is built on the identification of a common enemy, be it ‘neo-liberalism’ or ‘corporate capitalism’ or ‘neo-imperialism’.

Our events in November were not specifically designed to address questions at this level of generality but they offered an invitation to shift the narrative, to alter the field of play.  By addressing people here in London and in Gaza as artists, teachers, parents, environmentalists, filmmakers, activists, paramedics, public health experts, Shakespeare students, poets, human rights activists, architects we were constructing an alternative conception to that which would describe people only as Palestinians (or as English or white or black) therefore seeming to impose identity as a kind of fate presenting people as passive victims.  Intersectionality offers us the opportunity of seeing the connection between different movements and struggles as well as seeing the complexity of how we are as human beings.  It is the dynamic interaction between the connectivity linking issues and movements and the vision of human beings as relational creatures, making ourselves and each other through a multiplicity of relationships, encounters, groups and institutions, that makes intersectionality so welcome.  I am grateful for this idea that can clarify and advance specificity and difference while holding and embracing connection and generality.

For me there are two uses of ‘intersectionality’. One is to gain insight, from its connective capability, into political and social movement(s).  The other is to gain insight, from its cohesive capability, into more fully imagining human beings.  Of course even more intriguing is what might be the connection between these capabilities.

The general political discourse of our society is almost hopelessly limited to relating the worth of a policy to its immediate benefits for a given sector or group of people.  The reduction of politics to a narrow idea of economics is a signature of neo-liberalism.  This ideology also articulates a rigidity in the relationship between the governors and the governed.  At the same time it obscures the interconnections between ‘home’ policy and ‘foreign’ policy.  For example, let’s imagine that a government is elected whose main election promise is to restructure the relationship of the UK to Israel/Palestine.  The new policy is designed to bring pressure on Israel to conform with international law and the United Nations resolutions relating to its activities.  The UK would commit itself to impose sanctions unilaterally and to open channels of support and communication with the worldwide Palestinian community on the basis of the right of return.  The government would encourage civil society solidarity contacts with all constituencies and sectors of Palestinian and Israeli society that were active in pressurising the Israeli state to conform with international law, ending the occupation of territories outside the internationally agreed partition borders of 1948.  Although the demands behind this policy are perfectly reasonable it is clear that such a policy initiative in the present circumstances is impossible.  A lot of other factors in the circumstances would have to change and, unlike, say, re-nationalisation of the railways or de-privatisation and increased public finance for the health service, which appear to be policy options that are programmatically unlinked, a change in policy towards Palestine/Israel appears unlikely unless there are other consequential changes such as decoupling the UK from US Middle East regional strategies, re-organising military and ‘security’ co-operation with ‘traditional’ allies in the EU/NATO, distancing the UK from the ‘axis of evil’ neo-conservative strategic agenda of the US.  A change in policy towards Palestine/Israel would alter the conversation between the UK, Russia and China.

However such a change would have to have engaged with popular opinion in the UK.  How could a popular consensus for such a change come about without it being connected to policy changes relating to issues closer to home?  Whereas the issue of Palestine/Israel may not be a lynchpin of wider policy change it is related to questions of racism, democracy, environmental sustainability, economic development and growth, freedom of movement, human rights and social justice. Given a little thought it is clear that this policy would have to be a part of a wide-ranging alteration that would break the UK’s relationship to the neoliberal consensus of the ‘international community’.  The risk would be, unless a critical number of other nation-states also changed their policy the UK would be isolated and there may be some kind of speculative attacks on the currency, the imposition of sanctions and attempts through the international security and intelligence ‘community’ to undermine the UK government.

My argument is that this change would only be fully possible if there was something amounting to a paradigm shift in ‘home’ and ‘foreign’ policy.  However I’m not saying that activism on the Palestine/Israel issue should be suspended until all the necessary co-ordinates are in place for overall political change.  I am simply pursuing the political wisdom enunciated by Nelson Mandela’s insight that: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” .  I am searching out the definition of the connection of our freedom with that of the Palestinians. Neither is it necessary to say that that the Palestinians’ struggle for justice is the unique emblem of the struggle for human freedom nor is it true to say that the oppressor, in all instances, is the same, as if there is some central source of domination that, if discovered and expunged, will bring love, joy and peace to the Earth.

It is not always wise to focus too strongly on what might appear to be a common enemy.  However, there remains the question of whether ideologies, in order to be cohesive, have common underlying thematics that can link, though affinity and correspondence, a multiplicity of human activities, attitudes, mentalities and beliefs.  Without believing that systems of belief move in perfectly-formed phalanxes it is possible to see how ideas and institutions have coherent internal rhymes and external structural symmetries.  I have generally expressed this unifying coherence by referring to ‘an image of the human’.  This basic idea of humanity is problematic because it can give the illusion of an absolute essence, an irreducible quality that announces itself as ‘the human’.  These views of the human can be and must be subjective, reflexive and circumscribed.  For example, definitions or even perceptions of ‘the human’ can be subtended by ‘the subhuman’ or ‘the superhuman’.  It is clearly no good appealing to the delusions of common sense in this instance.  There may be as many definitions of ‘the human’ as there are human beings. Let’s say that an historically and culturally circumscribed ideology is held together by ‘an image of the human’ and one of the ways in which they operate is by providing representations (attitudes, beliefs and events) through which people can recognise themselves, and can even engender a sense of belonging. The most obvious example of this is homo economicus, the ‘image of the human’ that lies at the core of neoliberalism, in other words, the notion that human beings are rational, self-interested, utility-seeking entities.  Of course we know that the operationalisation of this idea drives people to exhibit the features that affirm and continue to sustain the system and that this happens, like in any social system, by the internalisation or ‘living through’ of those values.  This I believe brings us close to understanding the connection between the two aspects of intersectionality that I referred to.

What is it that makes a human being see in another’s oppression the lineaments of their own?  This is the sinew and lifeblood of solidarity between people and it is a deep recognition that so often moves people into action for change, not because of what is happening to them but because of what is happening to somebody else.  Political and social institutions are the crystallisations of these urges in people.  What seems to happen is that institutions and social structures are constantly refreshed and re-enforced but also can become bereft of credibility and no longer accord with how people see themselves, not only individually but collectively.  Of course in periods of change there are defining issues which express a much more general movement and it seems unlikely that the issue of Palestine/Israel will assume this crucial defining role in any social movement in the UK.  However, this idea shouldn’t be discounted.  Things are strange.

For example, the announcement by Donald Trump that the US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel seems at first sight like a ghastly imposition of raw power and a major setback for the cause of peace and justice. I don’t welcome it. But since Trump is generally associated with white supremacist racist views and some of his supporters have expressed anti-jewish views and because the ideological base from which he has emerged is a ruling establishment that have historically united a discrimination against jews with a discrimination against black people, his ‘offer’ to the Israelis may even to them seem like a poisoned chalice. Trump is uniting the opposition against him.  Of course this is dangerous because it also means that his supporters become cornered, their animus intensifies, their fear of loss increases and the corner they are in looks similar to the corner that the US is knocking itself into ‘on the world stage’.

At times it feels as if we are living through an epic the subject of which is the passing away of a whole way of life or system of human organisation.  This story often reminds me of Shakespeare’s Richard III.  This play depicts a figure who is at the threshold of the inauguration of the Tudor dynasty, the final unification of the English ‘kingdom’ after the civil wars of the preceding period, the wars that pitched different factions of the landowning classes with their warlord leaders against each other in the struggle for dominance.  Since Shakespeare was concerned with a celebration of the Tudor regime which was founded through the victory in battle by the grandfather (Henry VII) of the monarch that dominated his times (Elizabeth I) his depiction of the key figure (Richard III) of the old regime was like devil who through his outrageous and ostentatious wickedness eventually united all against him so that, with his destruction, all the evil that he had gathered into himself was also destroyed.  The movement of the play based on a kind of primitive ritual drama of exorcism has a physiological metaphor at its centre and it is as if by Richard’s death on the battlefield of Bosworth Field (deserted even by his horse, his own mother turned against him halfway through the play) a poisonous boil is lanced and the body politic is cured. Richard flagrantly embodies and personifies all that was wrong, corrupt, dishonest, venal and murderous in the old regime and by his removal a political and social rebirth could take place.

If only political movement were as simple and enjoyable as this brilliant play. Our social and political history has been haunted by the desire for this simple drama, wherein the execution of the king (whether in public or behind closed doors) delivers renewal.  It has proven to be an illusion and this illusion has hidden the emergence of real problems. It has usually turned out that the institutional mold far outlives the individuals that enact them. I say this as somebody that would like to see the abolition of the monarchy.  Anyway, the point I’m making is that the arrival of leaders like Trump (Italy, being a more advanced society, came up with Berlusconi some time ago) is a sign of the desperation of the ruling elites of a political order that is on its last legs.  Trump appears so like the paper tiger that Mao Zedong described as personifying imperialism. That his nemesis might be the regime that Mao played such a key part in creating may haunt his dreams, if he has the imaginative capacity to dream clearly.

Unity will not come solely from opposition to Trump.  All I am pointing out is how policies on issues that are not obviously central to a given constituency can have symbolic importance and can act as a conduit connecting up the relationship between ideologies and strategic outcomes.  I believe intersectionality gives a powerful optic into this connectivity and sheds light on the nature of political regimes.  But also it offers us a pluralistic way of looking at ourselves and our fellow human beings, not as singular predictable representative entities but as complex beings intersected, that is to say made, by different and various interactions.  This is what makes it possible for me to say at certain moments that I am a Viking but also at another to say I am a Palestinian (certainly no less credible than when John Kennedy told the crowds ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’).

I am happy that AzTheatre organised the HERE THERE EVERYWHERE events at P21 Gallery.  Working with visual arts opened up a dimension in our work that relates to imagining what can be brought together in a creative space.  The Gallery is keen to further the work we started.  The next phase of the Gaza Drama Long Term project has as yet to be decided upon.  The performances of War & Peace in Gaza that have been received with such enthusiasm will be coming to an end soon.  We are all thinking about what to do next.