PALFEST 2017 OPENING STATEMENT
The year is 2017 and this is now the tenth annual Palestine Festival of Literature. The year is 2017 and yet we are still living in the 20th century. History cannot move forward, empires cannot be dismantled, until Palestine is free.
None of us can be liberated until Palestine is free.
This we have long believed.
Ten years have passed since PalFest staged its first event at the National Theatre in Jerusalem. Ten festivals, ten tiny interventions in a terrible decade that has witnessed three assaults and a medieval siege on Gaza, the rise of the Arab revolutions and their counter-revolutions, the entrenchment of the Forever War, the evisceration of Syria, the rise of ISIS, Putin, Trump and their vassals.
When PalFest launched, there was a simple faith at its core: that the liberation of Palestine will be inevitable once the world understands the truth of what is happening here.
The transmission of information was the path to freedom.
When PalFest was launched it did not have a Facebook page.
Now the Age of Information has swelled around us, all of human knowledge, all facts and anti-facts, all people and all languages and news reports and histories are an internet connection away.
We got the information – all the information – without the liberation.
What use are art, words, witnesses within the noise of this digital avalanche? How can we carve out meaning again?
What is a witness when crimes are no longer hidden?
In 2008 PalFest declared it would work with our Palestinian partners to “break the cultural siege” on Palestine.
Where is that siege now? What is it? The cultural siege has spilled into an open battle being played out in countries around the world. From campus activism to corporate divestment the battle over Palestine is being fought on countless fronts. The cultural war is being won. And so the response grows fiercer: the torture of Gaza, the strangulation of Jerusalem; the paradoxes of the West Bank all cut deeper, while abroad the siege has slipped into the tongues of the Farages, Le Pens and Orbans and their rising malice. It is more than Palestine, it is an idea that is under siege. An idea of justice – with Palestine at its heart.
There can be no justice without justice in Palestine.
But equally important, and what we must always remember: we cannot be defeated until Palestine is defeated.
What, then, is the role of the artist, the festival, the witness in today’s battles?
We turn to you, our audience, our friends, our authors, with that question.
What is the shape of the world to come and how can we write what is yet to be written?
Palestine is the laboratory of the future: the checkpoints, the sieges, the psy-ops, the architecture, the credit lines, the algorithms – all are commodities sold to future repressions.
What of that future can we still unmake?
What new future can we still imagine?
That is what is under siege today: the possibility of imagining.
PalFest turns ten this year. The world has changed and Palestine is not yet free. So we ask you to join us in imagination, through this week, through the coming years. After our closing night, here, in 2017, we will take a step back, a pause into thought for a year. Our hope is that together we can return in a future year with the right festival to take into battle.