Letter to Theatre for Everybody 16/08/2014


16 August 2014

Another letter from Jonathan Chadwick included here for the record:

Dear Hossam and Jamal,

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

The governments of the world (apart from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru who have withdrawn their embassies from Israel) have failed the Palestinians.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best love,


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