Questions 08/03/2015

How is the work on War and Peace going in Gaza?

Hossam Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi are starting creative rehearsal sessions with director, Naem Naser Hamdan. The basis of the work is Hossam’s translation of the stage adaptation by Erwin Piscator and colleagues of Tolstoy’s novel.

Naem is one of the best known theatre-makers in the Gaza Strip. He studied the oud and worked as music teacher in Gaza and in Libya in the late 1980s.  He studied theatre with Theater Day Productions from 1993 – 1996 and participated in many theatre productions as an actor, writer and director, discovering that he preferred directing. He is one of  the founders of Gaza Theater Lab in 1996 and of Masafat Theater Group in 2000. He worked with Theater for Everybody as actor and director on many production: Welcome to Hell, Checkpoint, The Night of Life, The Island, The Wall.  His latest production is: “When the Sun Rains”, a play based on improvisations and for which he wrote the final text.  The play which is being performed in Gaza now is a kind of the Palestinian Odyssey depicting the story of the migration of our grandfathers in 1947-1948 right up to today’s forced migration by sea of young Palestinians from Gaza.  The first rehearsal session will be on Sunday 8th March.  Wish I could be there.  Wishing them well.

Why did I get involved in Palestine?

I was asked this twice recently.  Once by the security person at Tel Aviv airport. What a good question, I said and started to rattle on about ‘it’s a human issue’ and ‘this is our world’ and ‘questions of justice’.  He looked mildly annoyed and eventually told me that he thought I had a bomb in my suitcase.

The other was when my friend, a Palestinian working for the British Council, and I were rushing across Trafalgar Square in a lunch break.  I wanted to show her some of my favourite paintings in the National Gallery (Bellini and Piero della Francesco).  Same inarticulate answers! Of course she wasn’t in the least bit annoyed.

I can’t be precise.  Primo Levi (who was imprisoned in Auschwitz) said that the genocidal project of the National Socialist in Germany and the occupied territories from 1933-1945 was a cause for us to be ashamed of being human.  Yes, ashamed of our species because of the depth and scale of this historical event. That’s what I feel is the significance of what is happening in Palestine.

What is the meaning of the expression: a crime against humanity?  I suppose it mainly refers to a crime that a national state perpetrates.  And when a perpetrator national state is ‘supported’ by other national states, then all the citizens thereof are implicated.  This is the truth of what Nelson Mandela said: ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.  He probably wasn’t directly referring to UK citizens!  When I hear the phrase ‘international community’ I wonder who this is.  Does Israel belong to this community?  Why don’t they abide by international law?

Are we getting access to Gaza?

Through my Member of Parliament I have tabled a written question about access to Gaza.  I believe that the UK government is colluding with the Israelis in the blockade of Gaza.  They are not providing for cultural and educational contact and are complicit in genocidal definitions of humanitarian aid applied there.  This division between Gaza and the West Bank is intrinsic to the genocidal mission of the Israeli state.

The question was:

Ordinary Written question to: Foreign & Commonwealth Office for answer on 02 Mar 2015 12:00 AM
To ask the Secretary of State what steps he is currently taking, if any,to support cultural exchanges between UK artists and educators and their Gaza counterparts.

The answer was:

Mr Tobias Ellwood: The British Council maintains a full-time office in Gaza, with a staff of three who are involved in supporting UK – Gaza interaction in the fields of culture and education. Access restrictions together with our current travel advice warning against travel to Gaza, makes this work hard. However, despite these difficulties, our ongoing commitment has recently yielded various training events for Gazan educators in the West Bank, and Gazan delegates attending the 2014 British Council regional workshop, on “Cultural Leadership and Innovation”, in Beirut.

The answer was submitted on 05 Mar 2015 at 14:29.

Furthermore a group of MPs have put down an Early Day Motion regarding access to Gaza for Members of Parliament.  It has 48 signatures. Take a look.

Also, a group of MPs have put another motion down relating to natural resources in the sea off Gaza. It is quite usual for genocidal processes to include theft.  Take a look.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK are organising a meeting about Gaza at the House of Commons at 18.30 on Tuesday 10th March.  Find out about this and come along.

What else is happening?

Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody has agreed to strengthen our artistic partnership by creating a collaboration with Al Rowwad.  This is a wonderful project, based in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, continues ‘beautiful resistance’ to the Israeli occupation. Find out how Al Rowwad do this.  We believe it’s really important at this time to strengthen links between the West Bank and Gaza.

Telesur, the Venezuelan international television news and current affairs channel are commissioning film-maker, Mahmoud Abu Ghalwa, to make a short item on our War and Peace project in Gaza.

Collaborating with an activist who worked with Medical Aid for Palestinians I want to follow up a story I heard while I was in Palestine.  During the war in the summer medical staff at hospitals on the West Bank reported that Gaza patients who come to receive treatment are isolated from other patients and routinely swabbed to identify the types and numbers of bacteria that they carry. The result is confirmation that people from Gaza uniformly carry life-threatening, multi-drug-resistant bacteria in numbers beyond what one would expect to see under normal circumstances. The reason that they are isolated from other patients is to prevent the spread of these bacteria.  This may present evidence of a complex and critical deterioration in environmental health and public hygiene in Gaza.  This also may be interacting with the misuse of anti-biotics.  If anybody reading this has an expertise in environmental or public health and can help framing a way of exploring this issue, please contact me.