- Posted at 4:22 pm
- Posted at 2:50 pm
- Posted at 2:38 pm
- Posted at 5:13 pm
- Posted at 2:57 am
- Posted at 1:48 am
- Posted at 5:15 pm
- Posted at 3:47 pm
- Posted at 1:33 am
- Posted at 12:24 am
By Lina Attalah
GAZA – We wrapped up a full day in Gaza yesterday. I am trying to handle my obsession with the sea by not photographing it too much. But then it’s in everyone’s mind and the recurrent saying here is, “We don’t know what we would do if it wasn’t for the sea.”
Our day unfolded with a counter-story to that state of exception that is always looming around Gaza as a site of conflict. For someone to whom Gaza has been systematically inaccessible even though it’s a bordering neighbor, you can only imagine it as a state of exception.
But to stroll in the old market, chat with vendors about what they sell, what comes “illegally” from the tunnels with Egypt and what is permissibly acquired through the Israeli crossing, a sense of normalcy prevails. That normalcy of being under siege, at times actively countering it by working with a thriving insurgent underground economy and at others succumbing to it by buying and selling Israeli products. That normalcy of being Israel’s war playground, and claiming, confidently, that you have developed an expertise in recognizing the difference between shelling and sonic booms.
In conversations, there is more than normalcy. There is the untold story of Gaza. In our first encounter with Gazan youth at the workshops, we talked about how the media around Gaza, both in production and consumption, doesn’t transcend the crisis. Perhaps it is understandable because crisis is prevalent, visible and haunting. But crisis is a hegemonic moment that manages to sustain itself at different times masking other conversations, events and possibilities.
In the workshop, we asked, if we are the media producers, the main constructors of narrative, what would we write from and about Gaza. A group spoke of Gazan rap as a political statement and a counter-culture, interrogating questions of taste and social acceptance. Another spoke of speculative urban design of the city as he is interested in developing 3D models for buildings. A participant suggested to turn herself into a tourist and write a day in the life of Gaza as a traveler. Another wanted to look inward at the class structure in Gaza and how it is intersecting in everyday life. Another wanted to look into the possibility of grassroots media guerrillas, the seeds of which perhaps lie in the sporadic conversations in online social media spaces, which have the seeds of a discourse autonomously engineered from below. My journalistic self quickly imagined how these ideas can become a line-up for a one-off publication from Gaza, a thought hacker for both Gaza and the world.
By evening time, the whole city was cheering for the golden boy of Gaza, Mohammad Assaf, who is making it to the finals of the Arab Idol singing contest. Gaza was singing and alive, and I fell asleep to the faded out sounds of the party.
Romanticizing crisis by talking about normalcy at the time of siege and occupation is currency and dangerous. But talk about normalcy is only about making space for the array of possibilities populating our consciences and sub-consciences. Talk about normalcy is about championing the everyday as a site of alternative arrangements to the oppressive status quo. It is about glorifying the “ordinary man… the common hero… the untold wanderer” to use the language of Certeau.
At my own times of negligible crisis, I recall Sonallah Ibrahim’s line in his Oasis prison diaries, “make space for laughter.” Gaza, the gateway to the sea, knows how to do that.
Lina Attalah was the chief editor of Egypt Independent, a Cairo-based news website and print newspaper.
This Month in Birzeit
International Radio Playwriting Competition
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE BRITISH COUNCILWe are pleased to announce that The British Council in partnership with BBC World Service is launching the “International Radio Playwriting Competition”. The competition is now in its 23rd year and has been incredibly successful in enabling voices from around the world to be heard.Further more, may we ask you to announce this competition in your organisation and other organisation that may be interested in applying and give the opportunity for Jordanian students/writers to be part of this competition.About the Competition:· The competition is open to any writer who is not normally a resident of the United Kingdom.· Applicants are invited to write a radio play of approximately 53 minutes in length on a subject of their choice.· The play must be the original, unpublished work of the person or persons submitting it.· The play must be written in English but can be translated by a third party (we are not able to offer any assistance with translation costs). Translated work must be identified as such, and the translator must be credited.· The competition opens on 1 May 2012 and closes on 31 July 2012Prizes:There are two main prizes given: to the best play written in English as a first language and to the best play written in English as a second language. The two prize winners will each receive £2000 sterling and a trip to London to see their plays being recorded and to attend a prize-giving evening.
Break the Siege: Go to Gaza
The siege imposed on Gaza by Israel isn’t just a siege on products and movement, it is also a cultural and psychological siege.
Our governments are helping that siege.
After the Revolution, the Egyptian government’s role should be in ending the siege, not ignoring it. And we as people have to do more than simply state our opposition and watch it happen. We can help break the siege ourselves. It doesn’t take much.
Going to Gaza is not impossible.
You don’t have to go with medicine and food. Go with art, with music, a cultural programme. Go with a concert or workshops or a reading – your presence alone makes a difference.
A lot of people are working under the idea that you need an Israeli stamp to enter Gaza. It’s not the case. In Gaza, the occupying army are present behind the wall, on the borders of her territory. They make their presence felt with floodlights on the 3km fishing limit at sea, with drones in the air.
We spent five days in Gaza without seeing a single Israeli soldier.
How to Travel
Gather a group of people. We were 37. It’s better, of course, if you’re less. Around 6 is ideal
Photocopy your passports
Get in touch with a university there, or any group that does similar work to you. Make a plan with them about the kind of activities you can do there. If you don’t know anyone there we can help you out.
After making your plans, apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Egypt for travel permits. Write a letter explaining why you’re going and when and attach to the letter a photocopy of your passport.
Send it by fax to +20 (0) 257 49682. The Ministry gave us our permits 15 days after making the application. Allow up to three weeks.
On the road and at the border, expect a lot of questions. Make several copies of the letter from the Ministry – it will be useful.
The group you’re meeting should send you a letter of invitation and should leave your names on the Palestinian side of the border.
This is the way we travelled.
The Palestine Festival of Literature was the start. Our friends there are waiting for more groups to come help them break the siege.
If you need our help with anything, please get in touch with email@example.com
The Palestine Festival of Literature -‐ #PalFestGaza 2012
The Palestine Festival of Literature held the closing event of its 5th edition, PalFest Gaza, on Friday May 11, at the Rawabet Theatre in Cairo. A number of authors spoke about the experience of visiting Gaza, the audience watched video-‐ clips of the visit and young Palestinians made contributions from the floor. The event closed with a brief performance by Eskenderella.
PalFest had returned to Cairo late on May 10, after a full 5-‐day programme in Gaza. PalFest held literary seminars at the universities of al-‐Aqsa, al-‐Azhar, Gaza and the Islamic University; writing workshops in 5 schools and visits to 2 cultural centres in refugee camps: the Asriyyeh Centre in Jabalia Camp, and the Rachel Corrie Centre in Rafah. PalFest met with representatives of civil society, Trade Unions, feminist organisations and the BDS Campaign. Authors visited the sit-‐in of the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and expressed their solidarity. Prisoners – and some of their families – are on hunger strike demanding improvements in the conditions of their imprisonment and to be treated as prisoners of war.
PalFest held a literary panel event at the Golden Media Centre. Moderated by Professor Haidar Eid, Professor of Post-‐Colonial and Post-‐Modern Literature at al-‐Aqsa University, it featured Khaled el-‐Khamisi, Ahdaf Soueif, Youssef Rakha, Jamal Mahjoub and Alaa Abd el-‐Fattah.
PalFest also held a concert at the Rashad al-‐Shawwa Centre. Over a thousand people came to listen to three Palestinian bands followed by the Egyptian “Eskenderella” who played Palestinian resistance and Egyptian protest songs and then songs from the January 2011 revolution. The audience knew the songs, sang along, demanded favourites and greeted the band with chants of “Down, Down with Military Rule” and cheers for Egypt. Warmth, and a spirit of commitment to the Arab revolution were very much in evidence.
On the last day, PalFest was prevented by security forces from completing its event at Dar el-‐Basha. Threats and some violence were used, and authors and audience vacated the venue and retreated to their hotel where they continued the performance.
Later in the evening the Gaza Chief of Police, Brigadier Tayseer al-Batsh and his Deputy, visited PalFest at the hotel to present them with a formal apology. Brigadier al-Batsh explained that what happened had been an individual error and did not represent the views of the government nor the attitude of Hamas. He said that he had already ordered an investigation into the incident. The following morning PalFest received a visit from the Minister of Prisoners, Jerusalem and Refugees, who repeated the apology. PalFest has accepted the apology, but has stipulated that none of the
young volunteers and friends of PalFest should be harassed or questioned. Both the Brigadier and the Minister gave their formal assurances and their personal word that this would not happen.
“How we miss you in Gaza! Thank you for not focusing on material aid. Thank you for respecting our minds”
“The Palestine Festival of Literature in Gaza is what gives me hope in life”. Rowan
“The feeling that someone remembers you and loves you and stands in solidarity with you lifts your morale sky-high … no matter who gave them permission to enter. You cannot imagine how much difference this visit will make to us here in Gaza.”
“We were living a dream in the last 4 days; Gaza felt so different. Come back to us soon”.
“I just said goodbye and I feel I’ve left part of myself with them. We learned a lot from them in these last few days, the question is: did they learn anything from us?” Tamer Humam
PalFest sets great store by its visit to Gaza. This was an extraordinary experience which taught us a great deal. We value the warmth and welcome we were given by the Palestinians. Visiting Gaza was one of the founding dreams of the festival. Now that this dream has been realized, the importance of this journey has become clear: we saw with our own eyes the cruelty of the siege imposed on Gaza; a multi-faceted siege the like of which the world has not experienced before. PalFest is hopeful that with this initiative it has opened a path in front of others who believe in justice for the Palestinians and in the importance of cultural connections between them and the world. We hope that others will take similar initiatives.
The 5th Palestine Festival of Literature (2012), taking place in Gaza for the first time, was shut down by the police on Wednesday evening. Three hours later, the Chief of Police visited the participants to officially apologize, stating it was an “individual error”
The closing event, in Dar al Basha, a historical house in Gaza City, was ordered to close down by police forces. Though the festival organisers had co-ordinated extensively with the Ministry of Culture the police cited “lack of a license” as the reason.
The participants and audience members all left the venue together, and boarded the festival bus and returned to the hotel, where the event was continued in the café.
Three hours later, the Chief of Police, his deputy and a colonel in the Interior Ministry visited the hotel. They officially apologized, stating that they have opened an investigation into what happened, that all the festival volunteers would be safe, and that personal effects that had been left behind in the confusion would be found and returned. They stated that PalFest would always be welcome in Gaza.
As planned, the festival will leave Gaza tomorrow in preparation for its closing event in Cairo on May 11th.
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.
Press Conference: Wed May 2nd
The Egyptian participants of the 2012 Palestine Festival of Literature will be holding a press conference in front of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on the Nile Corniche
The 2012 Palestine Festival of Literature is scheduled to start in Gaza in six days
The Festival followed official guidelines precisely and applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on April 18th, for permits for 43 writers, artists and companions to enter Gaza. The Festival was told that it could take up to ten days to process the permits. Two weeks have now passed but the permits have not yet been issued
Present at the press conference will be: Ahdaf Soueif, Samia Jaheen, Sahar ElMougy, Alaa Abd El Fattah, Amr Ezzat and Ghada Abdel Al.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The 2012 Palestine Festival of Literature
Alaa Abd el-Fattah