Pledge of Support letter for the Gaza Cultural Centre Campaign

PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT for the Gaza Cultural Centre Campaign.


Organised by a group of artists and activists in Gaza, Ramallah, London and New York, this appeal is supported by Caryl Churchill (Playwright, UK), Harriet Walter (Actor, UK), Iman Aoun (Actor, Co-Director: Ashtar Theatre, Palestine), Omar Al Qattan (Chair: A M Qattan Foundation, UK), Wallace Shawn (Playwright, US), Jamal Al Rozzi (NGO Chief Executive Officer, Co-Director: Theatre for Everybody, Palestine), Jessica Litwak (Theatre Director, HEAT Collective, US), Ali Abu Yasin (Actor/Director, Palestine), Shalva Wise (Producer & Organizer, US), Jonathan Chadwick (Theatre Director, Az Theatre, UK), Hossam Al Madhoun (Child Protection Programme Manager, Co-Director: Theatre for Everybody, Palestine), Deborah Eisenberg (Writer, US), International Committee for Artists Freedom (UK)

We, the undersigned, are shocked at the total destruction of the Said Al Mishal Cultural Centre in Gaza on August 9th, 2018 by a targeted Israeli military airstrike.

We stand with those in Gaza and the wider community who describe their great rage and deep pain at the obliteration of this symbol of Palestinian culture and identity, and as they mourn the destruction of one of the few large venues for theatre and music in besieged Gaza.

Since its establishment in 2004, Al Mishal served as a home for hundreds of plays, ceremonies, exhibits, musical performances and community events. The centre also included recreational activities for children who have been affected by three successive wars in Gaza, including a dabkeh dance school for hundreds of local children. It is a devastating loss for the already isolated community.

We pledge our support to continue the Al Mishal’s role through this international campaign to rebuild a cultural centre for Gaza.

The Gaza Cultural Centre Campaign organisers are committed to developing and working with an international action committee rooted in Gaza’s creative community.

We urge all those concerned with the importance of creative culture to pledge their support to this effort. We mean this to be a demonstration of the strength of our feeling and as a commitment to be active in the project of rebuilding a cultural centre for Gaza.

Statement by Palestinian Performing Arts Network. PPAN Statement here

See list of supporters here

Email: to pledge your support


  1. This pledge requests your name, email, occupation, and country of residence. This information will only be used for future correspondence about this project and will not be shared with anyone.
  2. You can pledge your support as an organisation or an individual. Your name (individual or organisation) will appear in public.
  3. The custodians of this support network’s list of members are Az Theatre   (London) and The HEAT Collective (New York).
  4. For further information about the destruction of the Al Mishal Cultural Centre:

Email your support:

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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


Hossam talks about the Great Right of Return protests in Gaza

The demonstrations and protests are totally peaceful, demonstrators do not have any weapons. They set car tyres on fire and the smoke only harms them. They throw stones at nobody as there are no solders nearby. Some try to reach the fence to hang up the Palestinian flag. Many are going for patriotic reasons, many kids are going just to watch. Many people are cooking for the demonstrators, many are practicing creative activities, playing football. The majority are protesting passively, some young men, youth are trying to reach the fence to take it down.  But people in tents well away from the fence have been shot by the Israelis.

People here are running out of hope. With the rapid deterioration of the situation in Gaza new phenomena have started to appear that we never ever witnessed before. Child labour and children begging at traffic lights, homeless families, escalating rates of attempted suicides among young people between 14-35 year olds, robberies and attacks on stores, all of which we never ever witnessed in Gaza before. With borders closed from all sides, with 64% unemployment amongst young people under 35 years old, with no horizon of any hope, it is easy to assume that most of those young people going to the border every Friday are not moved by patriotism but by hopelessness.

Originally it was the idea of civil society peace activists who started to communicate their ideas on Facebook.

The original idea was to start to educate the Palestinians about peaceful resistance, to convince people here of the value of peaceful resistance, and to spread their ideas among Palestinians everywhere and not only in Gaza.

They knew that this would take time and they were in no hurry. They wanted to reach a day where Palestinians in Gaza, in West Bank, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Syria were coming to the border with Israel to protest peacefully and ask for the realization of the United Nation General Assembly Resolution 194, stating the right of return for the people dispossessed from their homes in 1948.

They wanted first to generate support for the idea from all the solidarity campaigns all over the world; they wanted to make sure that there would be  collective peaceful marches and that they were properly covered by media.

As usual, Hamas and other hypocritical factions jumped on the idea and adapted it to their own purposes, for nothing other than distracting the attention of the people from Hamas’ obligations to the people of Gaza and their responsibility for reconciliation with Palestinian Authority.

Last October Egypt moderated between the PA and Hamas to put an end to 12 years of separation and division.

After signing the reconciliation agreement in Egypt which stated that Hamas will hand over all official institutions to the formal government, nothing happened.

We, as normal people, did not witness any change, and Hamas still in practice has all the power and authority.

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.



HERE THERE EVERYWHERE comes and goes in London but Theatre for Everybody’s production of ‘War & Peace’ continues in Gaza!

What people said about our exhibition and events at P21 Gallery 7-11 November:

“Thank you for the tremendous 5-day event. I am sorry I was not able to come to more days. Gaza needs events like this so that they will not succumb to isolation”.
Swee Ang Chai, Orthopedic Surgeon, Founder of Medical Aid for Palestinians

“I must congratulate you on organising this event with such a passion, care and sensitivity. Well done, it has been an amazing and needed event. We need to keep going and hopefully this can continue. It has been an inspiration”.
Nasser Golzari, Architect

“Congratulations on your mammoth achievement in planning and initiating such a wide-ranging week on Palestine”.
Janet Henfrey, Actor

“It was a privilege to be involved in such a successful week.”
Martin Brown, Former Assistant General Secretary of Equity

“Your week of discussions between London and Gaza have been as inspiring as they have been interesting and thought-provoking.”
Chris Curling, Film Producer

“Your tremendous efforts are highly appreciated by teachers, academics and professionals in Gaza.”
Dr Nazmi Al Masri, Islamic University of Gaza

“I found the discussion fascinating.”
Professor Penny Green, International State Crime Initiative

“Shukran! So great to feel connected to Gaza.  Peace through art.  Keep going.  Keep spreading peace and love.”

“A very moving, rich and valuable series of events emphasising the need for self-determination for the wonderful people of Palestine – congratulations to all!”
Rosamine and Abe

“Congratulations for this great work, I wish I could be there.”
Hazem Harb, Artist from Gaza

There will be a discussion organised by Association of Jungian Analysts with Jonathan Chadwick on the thinking behind the ‘War & Peace’/HERE THERE EVERYWHERE: GAZA-LONDON work on Tuesday 21st November 8.15pm. Book Here.

The photographs are by Tanya Habjouqa.  We showed six of her series, WOMEN OF GAZA, at the exhibition.  If you are interested in buying a print please contact Agata Bar at NOOR  Our project will benefit by receiving 50% of the sale price.



HERE THERE EVERYWHERE: GAZA-LONDON P21 Gallery 7-11 November/Our Programme


7th November – 11th November 2017 P21 Gallery

‘live events space’



All day every day ·      Images from Gaza, video art by Hazem Harb. Design by Louie Whitemore

·      work from Art Under Siege

·      Photographs by Tanya Habjouqa

·      Looped interviews from the artists involved in War and Peace production in Gaza.

·      Video from Theatre for Everybody’s production of War and Peace.

·      Installation by Palestine Regeneration Team

·      Videos from Az Theatre’s and Theatre for Everybody’s Gaza Drama Long Term project

·      Filming by/for film project directed by Mohammed Jabaly

Tuesday 7th November 6.30/8.30 pm Launch event: keynote welcome: Tolstoy, War & Peace and ‘war on terror’. Video link up with Theatre for Everybody’s War & Peace production in Gaza
8.00/10.00pm GAZA AS METAPHOR: impact of a book.

Conversation with Ghada Karmi, actvist, writer and doctor, Dina Matar, (contributing co-editor with Helga Tawil el Souri) from SOAS Centre for Media Studies and in Gaza (through video link up) with Naim Al Khatib, writer, and friends

Wednesday 8th November



Artist educator, Rebecca Snow, in London working with a Gazan artist,runs a ‘family art’ session with parents and pre-school children simultaneously in London and Gaza with a live video link


Teachers in London talk to teachers in Gaza. This encounter is organised with help from the National Union of Teachers. In Gaza: Dr Nazmi Al Masri, Vice President for External Relations at the Islamic University of Gaza


Live video link up between Palestinian and Kurdish activists in Gaza and Rojava/Eastern Anatolia. In London conversation led by Dr Radha d’Souza, activist lawyer and writer. In Gaza: Andaleeb Adwan, Gaza Community Media Centre and Maha Barakat, journalist and activist. In Rojava: TBC.This event is organised in partnership with Peace in Kurdistan


Thursday 9th November
Friday 10th November 6.30pm/8.30pm PEOPLE TO PEOPLE: GAZA & JUSTICE:

Can what the Israeli state is doing in Gaza be described as genocide? Experts and justice-seekers in London, including Professor Penny Green and Gaza talk. This event is organised in partnership with the International State Crime Initiative. Speakers: TBC

8pm/10pm   Film plus PEOPLE TO PEOPLE:   VOICES FROM GAZA Antonia Caccia and Maysoon Pachachi’s groundbreaking film about the first Intifada made in 1989 plus a video-linked conversation between the filmmakers and those in Gaza who participated in the Intifada and the film. This conversation marks a tribute the 30th anniversary of the 1987 Intifada which changed the face of global popular resistance.
Saturday 11th November 12 noon/2pm PEOPLE TO PEOPLE: GAZA & SHAKESPEARE

Students of Shakespeare at the Islamic University of Gaza and in London make a live video encounter. This event is anchored in London by Esther Ruth Elliott and in Gaza by Dr Mahmoud Baroud of the Islamic University of Gaza.


AMBULANCE Mohamed Jabaly’s film about ambulance crews during the 2014 war on Gaza followed by a conversation between paramedics in London and Gaza.


Psychotherapists and people concerned mental health in London and Gaza talk. This event is being organised in partnership with Palestine Trauma Centre and UK-Palestine Mental Health Network


Environmental activists in London and in Gaza talk about the natural consequences of human-made disaster. In London: Dr. Derek Summerfield, psychiatrist, writer and activist. Dr Majdi Ashour, University of Edinburgh In Gaza: Dr. Khamis Elessi, Islamic University of Gaza

8pm/10pm UNFORESEEN project presentation. This event will resume the work of the project designed to link up young creative’s in the UK and in Gaza followed by spoken word and poetry performance



Thoughts and questions about Tolstoy’s War & Peace in Gaza and the war on terror

Thoughts and questions about Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Gaza and the “war on terror”





At an earlier stage in our project when Theatre for Everybody presented their workshop version of their stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace it was reviewed in Al Watan (Yaseen, 2015). The review opened thus:


Only on the Said Al Meshal stage in Gaza does the will to peace win over the insanity of war and its afflictions. But the reality that Palestine is living and many of the countries of our Arab nations is different to this. Completely different! Wars are eradicating people and peoples, and there is not a glimmer of hope of peace. (para. 1)


Tolstoy wrote his novel in the 1860s about the events that climaxed in the invasion of Russia by the French Army, led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812. The novel finishes with Tolstoy’s portrayal of natural family life that he imagines being resumed after the French occupation has been repulsed. What can it possibly mean to demand peace in Gaza today? There are few places on earth at the current time where it is more sorely needed. What might ordinary family life mean in Gaza today? I remember my colleague and friend, Hossam Madhoun, co-director of Theatre for Everybody, remarking that one war every ten years may be almost acceptable but to have three in that space of time is unbearable. You can’t possibly recover from one before the next is upon you.




In Tolstoy’s War and Peace there are two wars and two peaces. The first war is the campaign fought by the Napoleonic army against the Austrians and the Russians in Moravia in today’s Czech Republic. This climaxed in the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 and was followed by the Treaty of Pressburg. The French victory was so decisive that the Austrian Empire capitulated and never recovered. This was the recurrent pattern in European warfare up to that time; there was a military build-up, manoeuvres, skirmishes, a decisive battle and a peace treaty. This ordering of the business of war and peace in the European territories was linked to the consolidation of nation-states and had prevailed since the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War in 1648.

It is at the Battle of Austerlitz that Tolstoy’s fictional character, Andrei Bolkonsky, is almost fatally wounded and for some period of time is missing in action. It is during his absence that his wife dies in childbirth and he becomes a father. His departure for the war, and his aspiration to play a heroic and historic role in it, is described by Tolstoy as being connected to his animosity towards his pregnant wife. There is a drive in him towards war that is depicted as being fuelled by an antipathy towards life. His friend Pierre Bezukhov, after the defeat at Austerlitz, in which he plays no part, is driven to drink in his frustration at Russian military officers’ celebration of victory – although the Russians lost alongside the Austrians – and finds himself fighting a duel to defend Andrei’s honour. Pierre’s pro-Revolutionary – and therefore pro-Napoleonic – views are well known. The son of an aristocrat and a peasant, his basic predisposition is towards progress and peace. This friendship of opposites between Andrei and Pierre is the major relationship, and provides the key underlying dialogue in the novel.

The second war in War and Peace is of a different sort than the Moravian campaign. It concerns the invasion and occupation of Russia. The intention of the French Army was to deliver a decisive defeat on the Russians and negotiate an advantageous peace settlement. Tolstoy describes this second war as being completely different and new. The Russians will not make peace while the French are on Russian soil. After the French invasion, there is a dreadful and bloody encounter between the French and Russian armies at Borodino where Andrei is wounded, this time fatally, though he only dies some months after the battle. Meanwhile Pierre becomes a witness to the battle and the war. Napoleon, his erstwhile hero, has now become, for him, a satanic figure. In his determination to encounter his nemesis and assassinate Napoleon, he stays in Moscow after the French occupation, disguises himself as a peasant, promotes and finances armed partisan resistance, is captured by the French, narrowly escapes execution and is eventually freed by “partisan” forces.

In this war of the second half of War and Peace, the Russians refused peace negotiations and made strategic retreats, leaving an almost deserted and burnt out Moscow to the occupying French forces. As the Russian winter set in and the resources of the Russian land were depleted by plunder, Moscow turned from a treasure trove into a trap. The French army, demoralised and softened by its occupation of Moscow, started its retreat back through Russia towards France without having gained a settlement. It was decimated by the attacks of relatively small groups of “partisan” guerrilla fighters. Tolstoy remarks that it is as if the French were engaging in a duel in accordance with the rules of fencing and the opponent, the Russian people, threw away its sword and snatched up a club. The French are bludgeoned to death.




The Napoleonic project exhibited two extraordinary features. Firstly, it was moved by an ideological aspiration to spread the republican values of the French Revolution. Secondly, it created an army from the whole French population. The levée en masse of the French people was the closest thing at that time to a conscript army. The movement of these masses of troops entailed the plundering of all proximate property and land. As the Napoleonic campaign progressed, economic drivers became more dominant than the ideological revolutionary mission. In his invasion of Spain, Napoleon had already been met with guerrilla fighters derived from civilian resistance to occupation. In the campaign in Prussia his defeat of the Prussian army – an army whose structures of command reflected the aristocratic values of the ancient regime and was no match for the more democratically organised French – was a major shock. What Europe was confronting was total war, military combat that involved whole populations. This new form of warfare derived from the military methodology of European imperialist expansion and was brought back home in the Napoleonic campaigns of 1792-1815. Carl von Clausewitz who fought at the Battle of Jena wrote his classic work, On War (1832/1968), as a consequence of the recognition that he made about the changed character of war. This work is the most universally influential theoretical book about war in the modern period and its most celebrated quotation, “War is a mere continuation of policy by other means” (p. 119) indicates that at the centre of this work is a profound examination and re-thinking of the relationship between military and social organisation. There is every reason to believe that Clausewitz advised the Russian commander, Kutuzov, during the Russian campaign. The intensely pragmatic understanding of the interaction between the terrain, the military commander, the government and the people, characteristic of Von Clausewitz, was first put into practice in the Russian campaign against the French.




Will Theatre for Everybody’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s work give any renewed sense of what peace in Gaza might involve? Do different kinds of peace relate to different kinds of war? The “peace process” that is constantly brought into play by Israel, the “international community” and the Palestinian Authority appears to be a waging of war by other means. The theft of land and the humiliation and harassment of the Palestinian population continues. The dreadful privations due to the siege or blockade of Gaza, a prolonged and sustained violence that deprives people of the means of life and deteriorates the immediate environment in which they have to live, the displacement, the destruction of natural resources and environmental amenities, the deep ongoing problems arising from the use of armaments such as white phosphorous – Gaza is not just a war zone but an experimental laboratory for the Israeli arms industry – as well as the psychological and spiritual stress, the ongoing destruction of inner capacities produced by continual exposure to fear and terror, all continue during the “peace process”. I know from my friends there that fear eats the soul. The most consuming fear is not of one’s own destruction but the dreadful sense of powerlessness to protect those that would, in all circumstances, be most in need of your protection, your children.

At the end of War and Peace, Tolstoy accompanies his description of peace after the French occupation with thoughts about the deeply destructive impact of militarism. He makes a general analysis of “the army”. This form of human organisation can have more or less impact and influence on the organisation of a society as a whole. In a war, it comes to dominate; in peace, it is diminished. His description is strongly linked to his view of human beings in general, a view that he elaborates at various points in the book and in other works. He describes the human as divided between individual being and collective being. These modes of being impact variously on human social organisation. The individual is capable of generating movements of self-development and behaviour based on intuitive recognitions of truth and these movements are subject to human will. As an individual, the human being lives out a sense of self-determination even though the actual control of their circumstances is illusory. In their collective life, human beings are carried along by mimetic interactions where reciprocal expectations of conformity drive them in ways over which they appear to have no control. This is most clearly and fully expressed at the beginning of “Book Three” of War and Peace, at the point where Tolstoy describes the movement between the war of the first half and the war of the second half. He attributes freedom to the individual aspect and destiny, or necessity, to the other, collective, aspect. He expresses these as different perceptions of time: the personal time of the individual – the series of moments that make up a person’s life – and the collective predetermined time, that appears like a landscape and is associated with complex interactive “swarm” behaviour. The army, for Tolstoy, is an institutionalisation of this contradiction in the human being. He describes the organisational structure of the army as a cone, a hierarchy of command and obedience, where the basis on which someone is able to give orders is the distance that they have from the actual activities over which they give them. This separation of authority from activity – a specific case of the division of mental and manual labour – gives rise to power ascending to the pinnacle of the cone where a man (usually) sits. He, at one point, appears to be a genius though at another – from a different perspective – appears to be a satanic figure. For Tolstoy, the army is an abnegation of human responsibility. As this form of organisation becomes more prevalent, the less control – freedom – people have over their lives and actions.

The people of Gaza live in a permanent state of “unfreedom” because they are subject to intensive militarisation both from the state of Israel and from the organisations of resistance that have been generated in opposition to it. There is a commonplace about Israel that, rather than it being a state with an army, it is an army with a state. This fusion of the army and the state, of war and politics, can be seen as the direct outcome of the ideas of Carl von Clausewitz. European nationalism has managed to export itself, in its most extreme form, and inserted itself into the Middle East. In addition, it is not just the physical impact of the violence of war that makes a difference. The conduct of war, especially by aggression and occupation, provokes resistance that replicates its forms of activity and organisation. In other words, war creates violent imitation that makes adversaries more and more alike.

Surely, there is no other society on earth that knows as much about war – and knows as little peace – as those who live in the farms, villages, towns and cities of the Gaza Strip. Rene Girard, to whose ideas about mimetic violence I have just referred, said in his book about von Clausewitz, “To understand war completely is to no longer be able to be a warrior” (Girard, 2010, p. 148). Does Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Theatre for Everybody’s stage adaptation of it move in the direction of an understanding of war that is helpful to people in Gaza?

War and Peace is a thorough imaginative investigation of war, both in general and in particular. From a psychological or spiritual point of view, this investigation is embodied in the relationship between the two main characters, Andrei and Pierre, and their relationship to Natasha, the fiancée of one and the eventual wife of the other. From an historical point of view, it is articulated in the relationship between the war in the first half of the novel and the “new kind” of war in the second half. What is the logic of this historical progression? Is an ongoing historical direction indicated in the difference that Tolstoy articulates between the two wars in War and Peace?




Writing about this in London I risk having a partial view of these processes. After all, the Napoleonic Wars were, despite appearances to the contrary, fought mainly between the French and British. The British were constantly involved in a process of diplomatic manipulation, setting one side against another but hardly making a military appearance, apart from the war in Spain, before the very end, at the Battle of Waterloo, when Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815. The strategy of conducting war through alliances or proxies is familiar. It was the ability of the English banking system to extend loans with unusual flexibility, in contrast to the more rigid French system, that was constantly making a difference in the conduct of the various campaigns. The economics of war, mentioned earlier in relationship to the Napoleonic balance sheet of plunder, is also evidenced in the connection between the Israeli state project and its ability to steal Palestinian land and property, theft with which its army is directly concerned. It cannot escape anybody’s attention that British wealth, the infrastructurally advantageous position of Britain – which is now almost completely depleted apart from residual financial pre-eminence – is entirely due to military and naval power. The wars that took place in the world between the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the start of the First World War in 1914 were predominantly conducted by European powers, plus the United States, against indigenous people whose resistance and endurance has, more or less, been erased from the historical record. These wars had prominent genocidal features. However, the documented history of the development of war is centred in Europe. Since 1945 the Western European powers and the United States have managed to “export” war whilst remaining the major profiting producers of armaments. This gives the bizarre and false appearance of contemporary Europe being a centre of peace. It is as if the whole of the Western world is mimicking the role played by Britain in the Napoleonic Wars, conducting war in other countries by proxy and bankrolling them with armaments. Although Britain has profited from war more than any other country in human history – this role is currently being contested by the US – it has never, since 1066, suffered an invasion. I am not counting the arrival of William and Mary with an accompanying army in 1688 nor the Jacobite armed invasion, launched from Scotland and supported by the French, in 1745. Napoleon, for a while in the 1790s, amassed an army on the French side of the Channel and threatened invasion before deciding to turn his attention eastwards. Almost the same pattern occurred with the threat from the German National Socialist regime under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. He and his army met a fate, similar to that of Napoleon and his army, with his attempt to invade and occupy Russia/the Soviet Union in 1941. The pattern of the European wars of the first half of the 20th Century was set in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1945 with the advent of the Cold War the Western powers went back to conducting colonial wars. However, the Cold War, and the subsequent “war on terror” that in some ways subsumed it, changed the character of war in a way that is similar to that described by Tolstoy in the difference between the Moravian campaign of 1805 and the invasion of Russia of 1812.

The Cold War was a result of the remarkable success of the Soviet Union in the encounter with Germany in 1941-45 plus the extraordinary advance in the destructive capabilities of human weaponry with the development of nuclear explosives. The “war on terror” is a result of a strategy initiated by Israel by means of its influence over United States policy through the neo-conservative group after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. This coincided with the end of the war against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan and the return to their countries of origin of hundreds of trained fighters who had been exposed to the practice and ideas of military political Islam. In the background was the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the formation of the Islamic Republic and this, in turn, was influenced by the formation of Pakistan as a consequence of the British-led partition of India. It is instructive to see how these nation-state forms repeat and echo each other. Particularly important in this respect is to understand the congruence between the Zionist state project and the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) project.




A fundamental impact of the Napoleonic levée en masse, the redirecting of the revolutionary energies of the French people into nation-building and military adventurism, was a reorganisation of the relationship between soldiers and civilians. War and military organisation has played an integral and essential role in the making of nation-states. War is always projected as having definable strategic aims and often the whole effort appears to be imbued with efficiency and purpose. When we turn our attention to what Tolstoy had to say about the way militarisation (preparing for war) is compatible with already existing inclinations in people to form themselves into purposeful groups and act in unison, we can see that war does not just face out towards the realisable objectives that it avows, whether these are defensive or offensive, but faces inwards and engages with the need for people to organise themselves collectively. The standard way a ruling group establishes its hegemony over decisive sections of the population is to generate military activity. In the case of Britain (or the nation-state that was to become Britain after the 1707 union with Scotland) the initial action of the new regime formed in 1688 was to create the coalition army with the Dutch to go to war against France. This was driven by the need to consolidate Protestantism as a key ideological unifier as much as imperial contest. The fact that Britain was, and remains, a kind of theocracy in which religion was used as a test of loyalty and where the monarch was, and is, both the Head of the Church and the military Commander-in-Chief, reminds us of similarities between Britain and Israel. Here it is significant that “chosenism”, the illusion that adherents are God’s chosen people, a kind of extremist racist monotheism, is a central element of the religious ideologies that hold, or have held, these state-building projects together. The key institution of the proto-British regime, the Bank of England, was created in 1694 for the purpose of enabling a public debt to be raised to finance the war against the French. In more recent times Blair’s Iraqi war adventure was a device both to advance the transatlantic alliance as well as a means of gaining the submission of the home population. War-making is the key device in the articulation of “home” policy and “foreign” policy. It is interesting to speculate on the significance of the British governmental reorganisation in the 1790s that established the Home Office and the Foreign Office to replace the Northern Department, responsible for relations with the Protestant states of Northern Europe, and the Southern Department, responsible for relations with Catholic and Muslim states. This articulation of internal policy and external policy continues. For example, immediately after the referendum on membership of the European Union, the UK government led by Theresa May caused there to be a debate in parliament about the development of the Trident system of submarine-based nuclear weapons. In the course of this debate on 18 July 2016, May was asked if she would be willing to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children if she was required to do so; she answered yes and was proud of her lack of equivocation. This proclamation had an organisational objective designed to consolidate a consensus and create cohesion within the nation-state, and it was linked to an affirmation of loyalty to the foreign relations partnership with the US.




War is a form of social organisation that poses objectives that are functions of the cohesion of the society undergoing the process of militarisation and war-making. By looking at war as a social practice, taking account of all the activities, processes and material practices that make it actual, and not restricting the view of it to the unleashing of weaponised hostilities, we can see more easily what its purposes and motivations are. This is particularly important in more nuanced examples of warfare like the Cold War and the “war on terror” where there is less focus on directly destructive activity but where violent impacts are held in suspension. Daniel Feierstein’s (2014) study of genocide adopts this practice-based approach and in doing so he gives proportionate attention to the activity of mass killing by looking at the other practices that make this killing possible. He draws attention to the impacts of these practices on the perpetrating group and makes it clear that the motive of the movement towards genocide is the need for cohesion in this group. He bases his analysis of genocide on Raphael Lemkin’s (the inventor of the word) definition: the imposition of the “national pattern” of one group on another group (Lemkin, 2005, p. 79). This means also that the genocidal process itself defines, clarifies and structures this “national pattern”. Each activity or action in the genocidal process is related directly and instrumentally to the requirement for specific forms of unity within the perpetrating group.

It is as if the war-making and genocide processes are enforced mimesis. The implications of the reciprocal nature of violence are most cogently elaborated in the work of Rene Girard. In Violence and the Sacred (1977), he works out the dynamic connection between organised violence and the sacred. Sacrifice is how the sacred is constructed by violence. In describing the structure of the army Tolstoy points out that it is never the size or mass of the army that determines its success. It is not the sheer quantitative strength. He says there is a factor x that is decisive. He is constantly asking what is the force that moves large human groups, that drives history. Those internalised ideas that take the form of figures, personages, icons, divinities, beliefs and values that people are willing to die for are, of course, also what people are willing to kill for.

War cannot happen without violence. But, for example, the Cold War has shown us that this violence can be virtual; it doesn’t have to be unleashed to be effective. This is similar to the “war of observation” described by von Clausewitz (1832/1968, p. 246) and the “war of positions” described by Antonio Gramsci (1971, p. 495). I’m not saying there was no violence committed in the conduct of the Cold War but the violence that was threatened was different from the violence that was carried out. This is an outcome due to the technology of modern weapons. It is also to do with the prominence of ideology – in other words, the constitution of what is sacred – in contemporary organised violence.

If the mass conscription of the Napoleonic army meant a fundamental change in the relationship between the soldier and the civilian, if what was involved was a militarisation of the whole population, and if the logic of this development reached a new level of intensity in the 1939-45 World War, then how has this logic been carried through into the Cold War and the “war on terror”?

If the Cold War was conducted in order to affirm the cohesion of the capitalist system and present communism and socialism as an alien “other”, the “war on terror” is conducted in order to guard “our way of life” against militant Islam. For the West, this “war” has become the most important way in which consent to the power of the ruling elites is gained and affirmed. Our “way of life” is defined and held together by it. It is a major pillar of our modernity. However, it is overlaid and underpinned by the remnants of the Cold War. Although the preparation for its introduction was carried out in the decade following the collapse of the Soviet system, it was launched in the period after 11 September 2001. At this point the leader of the most powerful nation in the world could, with a degree of credibility, assert that “you are either with us or with the terrorists” (Bush, 2001). This was a global call, a call to the world’s population to take sides. From a political point of view this drew a new line in the definition of loyalty, allegiance and identity. And this line was drawn in the most private spaces of all participating individuals and it had potential impacts on every single living moment and on every action of the populations of the world. The success of this strategy is in no way a foregone conclusion. However, so many events can be spun into the narrative that it describes. The Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis, for example, have been quickly used to re-enforce its basic message.

The most important dynamic in a “war” strategy and the measure of cohesion towards which it is directed is the unity between “home” policy and “foreign” policy. It is clear how well-designed the “war on terror” is for this purpose. It consolidates international alliances and enables international “police” actions where technologies and information can be shared. It is also a way of both fuelling and obscuring racism. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2005) have pointed out that war in our contemporary world takes the form of a global civil war, a war of the rich against the poor. The issues of organised violence, racism, inequality and injustice are now so clearly linked that the ruling elites’ storytellers must make extra efforts to prove that the issue is one of ideology. It is the implicit obscuring of distinctions between active militant operatives, Muslims, refugees, migrants, suspicious-looking people and the poor, that is a crucial part of the terror being generated by this “war” strategy. Also, significant is the move away from “army” organisation and popular conscription and towards mercenary privatised security organisations. Enlistment in the “war on terror” has consisted of calls to engage in shopping and retail activity in defence of “our way of life”. People are commended for bravery and are honoured for carrying on as normal.




What are the problems of resistance in these circumstances? Hardt and Negri advocated “war against war” (2005, p. 67). We know that the radical and personal politics espoused by Tolstoy had a formative impact on Gandhi’s formulation of liberation strategies based on “satyagraha” and civil disobedience. The Palestinian people have themselves come up with innovative resistance movements like the tactics of community resistance and organisation employed in the Intifada of 1987-1993 and also like the mass civil disobedience implicit in the current Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Is what is happening in Gaza an aspect of the “war on terror”? How does this global strategy relate to what is happening there? The armed state that is initiating and perpetrating the organised violence is dependent for its existence on the actions that it carries out in Gaza. They are a part of an array of strategies that isolate and harass separated populations of Palestinians in different ways. As the development of war has progressively obscured the relationship between soldiers and civilians the strategy of “collective punishment” has become more and more practically influential. As soon as a military entity develops from, and then conceals itself within, a resisting population this tool becomes relevant and effective. The emergence of partisan guerrilla warfare simultaneous with mass conscription brought this form of combat to prominence. Collective punishment assumed a notoriously crucial role in the German army’s suppression of resistance in the territories occupied during the Second World War and it was used with devastating effect in gaining the submission of the Jewish communities during this period.

Daniel Feierstein (2002) has published a remarkable analysis of the application of collective punishment by the German occupation forces on the Jewish ghetto in Vilna (Vilnius), Lithuania. It relates to the dilemma faced by Itzik Wittenberg, the commander of the ghetto’s partisan armed group (the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye, FPO), who capitulated to pressure due to the threat of collective punishment and gave himself up to the Gestapo in July 1943. Feierstein’s analysis pointed to the problematic isolation of the FPO from the population of the ghetto and the equally problematic collaborationist role of the Judenrat, the Jewish Police Force. The events he described preceded the disintegration of the resistance movement and the annihilation of the ghetto’s inhabitants. Parallels can be drawn with the Israeli “collective punishment” strategy in the isolation of, and siege carried out on, the population of Gaza. This is especially relevant in the context of the actions taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in effectively supporting Israel’s blockade. Of course the difference is that the armed group, Hamas, is also the political governing power in Gaza and the collaborationist PA is operating mainly outside the “ghetto”.

Collective punishment is generally pertinent to the “war on terror”. The Israelis can create a narrative whereby the whole population of Gaza, in their tacit support of Hamas, are terrorists. Even talking to people who are relatively well-informed it is surprising how this story is internalised as a kind of assumption. The argument would be that the people’s support, and therefore their responsibility, is proven by the absence of any popular uprising against Hamas, the “terrorists”. This “guilt by association” is a familiar aspect of this strategy and of the “war on terror”. For example, when murders are committed by people from the Muslim community and an association between them and a militant Islamist group is established the whole Muslim community is silently (or not so silently) accused.

The collective punishment of the Gaza population is part of a war with strong genocidal features that Israel, driven by the need to hold the Zionist project together, is waging against the whole Palestinian population. The Israeli “national pattern” is being structured as it is being imposed on the Palestinians simultaneously with the co-ordinate destruction of the Palestinian “national pattern”. It is worth asking what are the roots of Israel’s “national pattern” and what genocidal processes may be traced in it. Gaza gets the sharp end of the array of strategies applied to different, deliberately isolated, communities. This isolation process has been programmatically agreed by the PA. The war on Gaza is mainly carried out through blockade. The target of the attack is every aspect of human life in the Strip. The intensity of the attack is disavowed, creating a situation that is then spun as a humanitarian crisis, whereas it is a crisis that has been deliberately created as a prolonged act of war.

What can possibly constitute a strategy for peace or even a “war against war” in these circumstances? Can any human population withstand this level, and duration, of attack? Are not divisions bound to occur in the solidarities that hold social life together in Gaza?




The stage adaptation of War and Peace made under the direction of Erwin Piscator and performed at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin in 1955 that has influenced Theatre for Everybody’s own adaptation is very much a work shaped by the Cold War. It is a dramatic call for peace. It finishes with the death of Andrei from the wounds received at the Battle of Borodino and omits Tolstoy’s description of the “natural” family-life and the “peace” achieved in the marriage of Pierre and Natasha. However, it does suggest that the answer to the difficult questions that it asks, lies in core human activity: “Let us begin at home”, it advises.

The ending offered by Tolstoy of a return to natural domestic peace after the French occupation is based on his assertion that war is an unnatural human activity. In the age of the “war on terror”, especially in a war zone like Gaza, the war is carried right into the heart of the home. The relationship between warrior and civilian is abolished and this brings the warfare closer to genocidal processes. I know this from my friends there; their descriptions of the impact of war tend to centre on the transformation of family relations. A recurrent theme, as already mentioned, is the feeling of powerlessness to protect their children. This engages with a very deep sense of vulnerability. The feeling that the home, and the powerful place women have there as the foundation of peace, has been destroyed. War has penetrated the most intimate human space.

I have no answers. The perspective opened up by Tolstoy is based on the idealisation of women. Natasha, the third key character with whom both Andrei and Pierre fall in love, is a figure of beauty, vitality and peace. This objectification affirms a patriarchal view of humanity. I can see this but I can find no active way of making this idea helpfully active. She is the prize and the object of the activities of the men, the potential mother, an emblem of love. This accords with how war is structured in Western culture. Rene Girard (1977) would have us believe that the impulse towards war lies in mimetic rivalry and envy. The issue of gender and sexuality is at the centre of the pursuit of active peace.

The Piscator stage adaptation ends by placing responsibility for human life not on fate or destiny but on human action. Our fate is not given, it is made by us. I recall the great theatre practitioner Augusto Boal sending us a message of support for Az Theatre’s War Stories project: “Peace yes, but passivity no!” The human action that is being advocated here is not that which lies solely inside us, but rather between us. Is it possible to create a space where human beings can feel, think and reflect on their humanity? Our Gaza Drama Long Term project (Az Theatre, 2017) seeks to extend that space to include people in London and Gaza. Our circumstances, here and there, are so different that it is as if we are looking down different ends of the same telescope. I can think of no better place for responsibility and deep living to be sustained but in the shared space that holds together inhabitants of “war-producing” countries and “war-receiving” countries in a common space of creativity and reflection. The activation of this space between us is the life-blood of the real international community, the people of the world.



Az Theatre. (2017). Gaza Drama long term project. Retrieved from

Bush, G. W. (2001, September 21). Speech to Congress.

Feierstein, D. (2002). The dilemma of Wittenberg: Reflections on tactics and ethics. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Feierstein, D. (2014). Genocide as social practice. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Girard, R. (1977). Violence and the sacred. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Girard, R. (2010). Battling to the end: Conversations with Benôit Chantre (M. Baker, Trans.). East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks (Q. Hoare & G. Nowell Smith, Eds. & Trans.). London, UK: Lawrence and Wishart.

Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2005). Multitude. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Lemkin, R. (2005). Axis rule in occupied Europe. Clark, NJ: Law Book Exchange.

Tolstoy, L. (1957). War and Peace (R. Edmonds, Trans.) London, UK: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1869)

von Clausewitz, C. (1968). On war (J. J. Graham, Trans.). London, UK: Pelican Books. (Original work published 1832)

Yaseen, M. (2015). War and peace: Wrestling in Gaza. Al Watan. Retrieved from




Jonathan Chadwick is Director of Az Theatre. He is a founder member of Paddington Arts, a former Artistic Director of the Vanguard Company at the Crucible, Theatre Foundry, Meeting Ground, and Associate Director of the Theatre Royal Stratford, East London. He wrote and directed for Foco Novo and directed for 7.84, the Glasgow Citizens, the Half Moon in London, the London Film School and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Jonathan has also worked in Australia, Canada, USA and Romania, all at major drama academies. His work on Az Theatre’s War Stories project led him to work with the United Nations Office of Missing Persons and Forensics in Kosovo. In 2011 he became a Master of Science in Ecological Economics at the School of Earth and Environment, Leeds. He started work as an Assistant Director of the Royal Court Theatre London, after being educated at Midhurst Grammar School and Cambridge University.


Al Watan review of Theatre for Everybody’s War & Peace May 2015

Review of Theatre for Everybody’s workshop version of their stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace presented at the Al Meshal Cultural Centre in Gaza City on 9th May 2015

War and Peace fight against each other in Gaza

Only on the Said Al Mashal stage in Gaza does the will to peace win over the insanity of war and its afflictions. But the reality that Palestine is living and many of the countries of our Arab nations are different to this. Completely different! Wars are eradicating people and peoples, and there is not a glimmer of hope of peace.

Our director Na’im Nasr is a tender human being, dreaming wishfully of peace and wants the people of Palestine and the world to be blessed with it. That’s why his wonderful play ‘War and Peace’ expresses a raging desire for peace to come and for the abominable wars to vanish. His hope is in the individual person and it is impossible for his desire to be realised.

Yesterday Theatre for Everybody presented a play based on ‘War and Peace’, the most well-known novel of Russia and the world’s most famous writer, Leo Tolstoy. It was written more than a century ago and speaks about Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation of Russia and the killing and destruction he perpetrated. The cruel Russian winter defeated Napoleon and he left the Russians to enjoy peace.

The play also discussed the French Revolution, its impact on Russia, ruled over by an aristocratic monarchy, and the conflict it created there between those who were convinced by the Revolution’s principles and the Russian feudal class. Soon the reality of the Revolution and those who benefited from it becomes clear. The novel has hundreds of main and secondary characters and would require 40 hours to be performed. But Theatre for Everybody workshopped the play and cut it down to 6 characters and 40 minutes. This was done by the artists, Hossam Al Madhoun (translator) and Na’im Nasr (Director).

It was a wonderful piece of work. Na’im Nasr did a brilliant job directing and acting and he was joined by the cream of our artists and they were: Haya Ashour, Baha’ Al Yazji, Jamal Al Rozzi, Hossam Al Madhoun, and Mohammed Sha’sha’a. They all outdid themselves. They are all experienced and capable and possess a theatrical agility. Their movements were drawn precisely and their performances were skillful. Their entrances and exits from the stage were a pure work of art. They made us imagine they’d left the stage, but they were still on it – but it was as if they were absent. In terms of direction this was something new and distinct. The set was simple but added a great deal to the work as did the costumes and props. The choice of international (world) music was also another reason for the success of the work. Hazem Al Abyadth participated as technical director. The lighting enhanced the action and was used precisely.

My greetings to the wonderful audience who enjoyed the work and lived it from beginning to end – following the unfolding events rapt, involved; their silence was a song of the play’s success. I applaud the committed effort which brought this difficult work to light and into being. And I hope that the funds are found so that the work can be presented for longer.


UNFORESEEN call for videos for HERE THERE EVERYWHERE events

Call to young artists for videos to be shown at HERE THERE EVERYWHERE events P21 November 2017

This is a call to young arts practitioners to submit videos that are:

no longer than 15 minutes long

-any genre: drama, dance, music, spoken word, animation, visual art etc.

-responding, or relevant, to the themes: ‘freedom’, ‘the future’, ‘desperation’

Az Theatre (London) and Theatre for Everybody (Gaza) are forming an online community of young (18-30 years old) creative’s in theUK and Palestine.

We will show selected works at a public viewing plus Gaza-London video link discussion at P21 Gallery in London in November 2017.


Send your submission of work or expression of interest to



Skype calls and prison visits

What I told my friends, Hossam and Jamal, Co-Directors of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza, after our last Skype exchange:

Whenever we speak on Skype I always have the feeling that there is something I haven’t said.  Some crucial piece of information or point of discussion has been missed.  It’s a very strange feeling.  Maybe it is a deep feeling of how we are subject to forces that are beyond our control.  Before we talk I always have this sense of urgency. I think to myself:  I must talk to Hossam and Jamal and clarify this point and organise this event or that event.  I guess I want us to be effective and I’m worried about how organised we can be.  But to talk is the most important thing.  Keep talking.  Keep making exchanges.  Keep throwing up a little bit of light in these dark times.  Are they so dark?  Sometimes I become confused about what our lives consist in.  Hamas, Fatah, the Qataris, the Turks, the Conservatives….We have to live in history as well as live in our houses.   It scares me when one thing doesn’t relate to another.  Here we have as little control as you do.  I don’t know how to make sense of it sometimes and I am left with an overwhelming sense of pity’.

Hossam’s reply:

‘In 1992, I was in prison for 9 months for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and writing graffiti on walls against the occupation. On the 15th of each month there were family visits. It used to start at 10 am to 3 pm. Each prisoner had 30 minutes only. Every prisoner was preparing himself. We struggled to get showers, only 7 showers and 7 WC for 300 prisoners. Each prisoner reserved special clothes for this occasion and they prepared themselves as if it was their wedding. It was the most important day.
My family visited me only twice during the 9 months. They were poor and they were busy trying to secure their living. They just didn’t know, couldn’t know, the value of visiting me in prison.  But these two times, it is not easy to explain, for me, they told me that I am still alive, that I am not left alone, that one day I would get out, that I would be free.  These two visits enabled me to stand strong and tolerate the slow time passing.
Can I tell you, my friend, that when you call me, I have just the same feelings of the visit I was expecting from my family. I know that you are there for me, thinking about me and ready to support  me when I feel despair, when I feel weak, when I feel like giving up. Thank you, my friend, for being part of my life.
By the way, in prison I met the theatre for the first time in my life, or theatre met me there, but this is another story.’