All set for 2012 Palestine literature festival in Gaza, except permits from Egypt

Back in 2009, Israeli occupation forces raided the Palestinian National Theatre in eastern occupied Jerusalem to shut down the opening night of the Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest), forcing participants out into the street.

In 2011, the festival had to contend with a tear gas attack by the Israeli army.

Undaunted, the annual roving festival which began in 2008 goes on. This year’s festival is scheduled to take place in Gaza from 5-9 May – if only Egypt provides the permits for writers, bloggers and artists – including Ahdaf Soueif, Alaa Abd el‐Fattah, Suad Amiry and many others to enter the besieged territory.

Even after, Mubarak protesters are still being killed and Gaza is still under siege

Today, The Guardian reported:

Egyptian authors, bloggers, journalists and revolutionaries are calling on their government to issue permits for them to enter Gaza and participate in the Palestine festival of literature, which is scheduled to start on Saturday in the embattled territory.

A press conference had been scheduled for today in Cairo to push the government to issue the permits, but it was postponed due to the massacre of protestors near the Ministry of Defence, according to a statement on PalFest’s website:

Due to the events in Abasseyya it is with great regret that the Palestine Festival of Literature will postpone today’s press conference. Fourteen months on from the fall of Mubarak protestors are still being killed on the street and Gaza is still being starved. We are committed to reaching Gaza, but cannot stand and request permits from the government while such violence plagues the streets. Please help us keep the pressure building up. We will announce our next step soon.

Earlier, PalFest organizers said in a press release that they had “officially applied to Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for travel permits into Gaza. Sunday 29th April was the date we were scheduled to have a response, but there has been none yet.”

Ahdaf Souief spoke about PalFest in a brief YouTube video in Arabic and appealed for the permits to be granted:

Striving to reach Palestinians wherever they are

PalFest organizers explained:

It has been a longstanding aim of the festival to travel to Gaza. Since it started in 2008 PalFest has taken the form of a travelling festival – moving to audiences constrained and divided by Israel’s military occupation, establishing creative links between Palestine and the rest of the world and pitting the power of culture against the culture of power.

PalFest has tried several times in the past to reach Gaza from the Occupied Palestinian Territories but has never been able to because of the restrictions put in place by the Israeli Occupation. Gaza has been under siege and isolated from the rest of the world since 2007.

The festival includes public readings, performances and hands on workshops with Palestinian students, artists and writers.

A sign of growing solidarity

According to Dr. Haidar Eid, a principal organizer of PalFest in Gaza, the festival represents a sign of growing solidarity with Palestine:

For the first time, PalFest will conduct activities in besieged Gaza, where Palestinians continue to resist Israel’s illegal blockade which has transformed the occupied Gaza Strip into the world’s largest prison camp. PalFest is a sign of the growing solidarity across borders in our struggle against racism and oppression. Intellectuals and writers played a key role in ending Apartheid in South Africa; likewise, Arab cultural figures are visiting Gaza this year to show solidarity with Palestinian academics and artists in support for their call to increase the global BDS campaign against apartheid Israel.

On behalf of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), we deeply appreciate the Arab writers’ principled and consistent support for the Palestinian civil struggle for justice and peace in Palestine.

Ways to learn more

Update

Earlier today (Thursday 3 May 2012) the Festival announced that its participants have been granted permission to travel to Gaza.

The Palestine Festival of Literature is pleased to announce it has been granted permission to travel to Gaza by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Palfest will depart for Rafah on Saturday morning. In Gaza the Festival will run a series of free public events and workshops.

PalFest will hold its closing event in Cairo at the Rawabet Space for Performing Arts. The event will take the form of a report back from the participants on what they saw and heard and discussed in Gaza. The PalFest Team says: “We believe in the fundamental unity between Egypt and Palestine and hope that these events will forge new connections between the people of Gaza and Cairo”.

The Rawabet event will be at 8pm on Friday May 11, and all are welcome.

تعلن احتفالية فلسطين للأدب (بالفست) بارتياح عميق، أن وزارة الخارجية المصرية قد منحتها تصريحات سفر ودخول إلى غزة لجميع أعضاء الاحتفالية.

سنتوجه الاحتفالية الي رفح صباح السبت ٥ مايو، لتقيم سلسلة من ورش العمل والفعاليات الثقافية.

وقد أعلنت الاحتفالية عن إقامة الليلة الختامية لـ”بالفست ٢٠١٢”، عند عودتها إلى القاهرة، في مسرح روابط في وسط البلد، الجمعه ١١ مايو في الثامنة مساء ، وذلك حرصا منها على تأكيد الوحدة الجوهرية الثقافية والاجتماعية بين شعب مصر وأهلغزة. والدعوة عامة للجميع.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.