i went to the last night of the palestine festival of literature expecting that it would be shut down yet again. a friend of mine in the old city had bumped into one of the actors in al hakawati (the palestinian national theatre) and she told him that they were already planning to move it somewhere else. but when i went there to meet him everything was getting set up so it seemed that this was just a rumor. i arrived an hour early because my friends are in a book discussion group every thursday night so i went to join them as i sometimes do. but five minutes after they got started israeli terrorist soldiers invaded al hakawati. they came in and posted a court order in hebrew and arabic on the door and asked everyone to leave the theatre. my friends decided they would carry on their book discussion group in the courtyard so they sat down outside on theatre grounds. then they were told they also were not allowed to be there. none of the palfest people were there at the time. but the british counselor richard makepeace was there and he changed the location to the british council office down the street. once again literature is rendered illegal in palestine. below are my photographs from the invasion of al hakawati as well as video from palfest and audio of the beautiful and amazing poems read by nathalie handal and suheir hammad.
here is the pal fest video of the theatre being shut down with the makepeace:
and here is another palfest video from the previous day when they went to khalil, which gives you a good sense of the zionist colonization and theft project in that palestinian city:
the theme for last night was “words that inspire us” and the authors with palfest were all to read writings by those who inspire them. ahdaf soueif introduced the evening by saying that “we are pitting the power of culture against the culture of power.” but for me the move once again and submission to zionist orders suggests otherwise. even hosting the reading in the hakawati parking lot would have been a better demonstration of pitting culture against power. most of the writers read rather uninspiring words, and most of them read words that had nothing to do with palestine. one writer, i believe it was victoria brittain, read from suad amiry’s fabulous book sharon and my mother-in-law. carmen callil read something from her book bad faith after explaining that this week has led her to “want to break the rules even more,” including the rule of only reading other people’s words last night. this passage from her book, which i did not record, was about the jews forgetting palestine and something to the effect that remembering is about justice. indeed. but the highlight of the evening was hammad and handal. if only handal had done a reading in another city, too, where most palestinians could hear her writing. here are the amazing poems by handal and hammad for you to listen to.
nathalie handal reads a poem dedicated to mahmoud darwish
suheir hammad reading poem in resonse to her week in palestine
after the festival i went to my friend’s house because he and his family were going back to beit lahem and they offered me a ride. he showed me his family’s house in al quds which received demolition orders because–horror of horrors–they built a veranda. below is a photograph of the destruction of their veranda, which they had to do themselves lest they want to pay israeli terrorists to do it for them. and, finally, below is a view of the old city of al quds with a crescent moon–a view from my friend’s home.