Let’s talk about Palestine, giving the podium to an artist who lives in occupied Palestine. He’s Maher Shawamreh, a dance teacher and director of the school of art in Ramallah. In the interview with us he explains how dance communicates peace by extending the soul, and in this way reaching beyond the walls built by intolerance and war.

Maher Shawamreh: Through dance we communicate all cultures of the world

by Antonietta Chiodo,  English Translation by John Catalinotto

He speaks of his love for the arts he teaches daily with the support of his colleagues the Orient & Dance Theatre. His students are children and teenagers. Communication takes place through the vibrations of the body and music. Maher, a man who grew up in a state of siege, managed to create in this modern era the ability to dissolve words and bring peace to life on the stage with the ability to unite different cultures and languages.

As a teacher and highly developed artist he has been allowed in recent years to get a foothold in the West through his shows, and can boast of collaborations with artists from various countries. His ability to draw comparisons and to make use of the arts has enabled him to continually outdo himself regarding technique, using bodily communication to convey freedom to the audiences.

When did you start your engagement with dance and what made you realize that was your life’s path?

As a young man I studied electrical engineering. My career in contemporary dance officially started in 1996. In 1999 I started to do some shows in various regions of Palestine and other countries. I supported myself by working in the workshops. A few years later I started doing more ambitious interpretations, supported by works by works of artists at the high level of Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani. Then I became definitely aware that I could no longer escape or be distracted from dance. It had taken hold of my life and filled my thoughts. To make it clearer, let me explain that dancing is not life itself, but it is my journey in search of my identity. Through dance I became part of the universe and came into contact with God (Allah). Nowadays I realized that dance is a cure, a miracle drug.

Why in human history have artists proven the most valuable ambassadors of peace?

Humans communicate with each other in different languages, in French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish … it is our job to understand each other to the end and apply outselves to the search for different semantic content. Art is a universal language and does not need a specific grammar to be understood. Dance is body language. Awakening sensations and vibrations, dance merges nature and soul. In this way it establishes a communication with the spirit, moved by Allah. At that point you realize that God loves you and through that message you find your inner peace. At the moment in which a body dances, Allah puts the universe in motion. Creating transforms itself into a movement, giving life to a permanent dance. The dance and music give rise to immortality for those who interpret it as well as for those who observe them.

How would you imagine a dance show with Western artists and Palestinians? What music would you choose?

As I mentioned before, dance is the extension of the word of Allah through the body and produces our sensations. We can share this in all the languages ​​of the world. By listening passively, we can touch our souls. We can reflect on ourselves dancing without feeling any fear. Also, dance allows us to simultaneously share different cultures and languages. That’s what I try to convey through my art. I love to dance with live music, moving not only my body but also my soul. The audience that watches my dance convinces me that dance has no boundaries. In fact, it includes the land, the olive trees, the eagle, the rocks, the sea … an elderly woman. It would be necessary to express ourselves freely in the central square of a market to overcome our own personal inner deficiencies through artistic expression. That’s my art expressed in words.

With what secret did you help your students overcome their fear of failing?

My students should be content with themselves and erase everything from their concious thoughts when they dance. Only in this way will they eliminate tensions. I learned to separate from my stress, fleeing far away. When I enter the room and see the first student, all my feelings become positive. And I exist only in that single moment. Through dance, the rage that is intrisic to human beings tends to lose itself in the movements, finally managing to completely dissolve. Dance is capable of creating tolerance. Dancing is like escape for the soul from life and from the world around us.

Have you ever been afraid that one of your students could be taken away by Israeli soldiers?

No, we are not afraid, we were born under occupation.


Originally posted AT


‘Ein Siniya’s population in the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, was 114. Today in 2015, ‘Ein Siniya’s population is 885 persons strong. Given every act of the Israeli military occupation for the last five decades has been designed to get Palestinians to leave Palestine, ‘Ein Siniya is a living testament to our resilience and determination to not only remain on the land, but to grow despite all odds.

Restoration of Buildings vs Memories

By Sam Bahour

Home of Jamil Al Husseini, ‘Ein Siniya, Palestine (Photo credit: DHIP)

Home of Jamil Al Husseini, ‘Ein Siniya, Palestine (Photo credit: DHIP)

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. I’ve lived in Palestine for 21 years and passed by the village of ‘Ein Siniya hundreds of times, but can’t recall ever actually visiting it, that is, until today.

‘Ein Siniya is a small Palestinian village in the West Bank’s Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate, 10 kilometers north of Ramallah, northeast of Jifna, the village renowned for its apricots. It lies in a valley surrounded by olive and fig terraces. Its population has grown from 701 persons in 2007 to 885 today, a whopping 12% increase. It was the home of Faisal Husseini, the legendary Palestinian leader who spent his life defending Palestinian rights in Jerusalem. ‘Ein Siniya is what one would call a sleepy, laid-back village, but today it came alive and I was there to witness this refreshing awakening.

I arrived to ‘Ein Siniya driving behind a minibus from The Danish House in Palestine that was transporting people who were heading to the same venue that I was. Turning off the main road into the village, we turned right and then took the first left. The first thing I noticed is what one usually sees in all Palestinian villages, a group of children. This group was a cheerful one of young girls seemingly excited at all the odd traffic crawling up their street. A few hundred meters up the hill, on the right, was the historic home that we were coming to visit, the home of Mr. Jamil Al Husseini.

Standing in front of this huge, run-down home was actress Faten Khoury. She was oddly standing halfway in the street, not to be missed. She was frozen in a pose, staring at the long, stone staircase that hugged the backside of the building and led to the first floor of this abandoned, eerie home. She held a suitcase in one hand and a white photo album in the other. As we exited our cars and the bus unloaded, many stopped to talk to Faten, but she would not budge. She just stared up the staircase, clearly leading us to where we were to go, without saying a word.

Upstairs we entered through an old, traditional doorway, narrow and with a heavy steel door. We then walked across a sheet of metal flooring, placed on an old outside terrace that led to a large room. Along the way there were rooms to our right, the first had two young girls, in traditional costume, sitting on the floor kneeling bread dough. The next room had a young man, also in traditional dress, manually milling freshly picked olives with a stone. At the end of the terrace walkway we entered a larger room, possibly what was once the family’s living room.

Emilie Simonsen (Photo credit: Mohammed Abbas)

Emilie Simonsen (Photo credit: Mohammed Abbas)

As we found our seats, more and more people flowed in, young and old. Emilie paid no attention to all the buzz in the room; she just kept doing her thing. Sitting behind me was a row of the most beautiful young girls from the village. The sat diligently waiting, trying to understand who were all these strange people who all of the sudden arrived out of nowhere. I asked them where they were from and what they were all waiting for? Without hesitation, one replied, “We are from here, ‘Ein Siniya, and we await the skit, there is going to be a skit here. Where are you from?” I replied, “Al-Bireh, near Ramallah,” thinking they would only know the larger city near mine. One of the girls, around 9 years old, answered, “I know where Al-Bireh is; it’s where the Al-Bireh Secondary Girls School is located.” I was clearly not needed for these girls to navigate their geography.The room was full of people sitting on the ten or so rows of chairs. In the front of the room was a table, with a foreign lady sitting alone. She had her headphones on and reverted back and forth between diligently typing away on her laptop and putting on a pair of white gloves, before picking up an artifact, pieces of a colorful broken ceramic dish, which she used a small brush to meticulously brush the edges of the dish pieces off. We later learned this she was Ms. Emilie Simonsen, a Danish actress visiting Palestine, playing the role of a historic restoration expert.

Not before long, there was only standing room left. Then entered an older, well-dressed man. He was ushered to sit in the first row. This was the owner of the house, Jamil Al Husseini. It was then announced that the show was about to begin. The room fell silent.

Actress Faten hesitatingly entered the room, still holding her photo album as she placed her luggage to the side. She then spent the next ten minutes thrashing around the room, talking to herself, reminiscing about days long gone. She recalled her father’s descriptions of his home back in Palestine, this home. She walked through the rooms, shocked that, although she never lived in this home, she felt like she knew every nook and cranny—the wooden window frames, the arched windows that separated the rooms, the porch, the now-broken vase sitting on Emilie’s table waiting to be logged in her laptop, the tiled floors, and so on. She spoke of the home as if she could see all its long-gone residents still there. Actually, as Faten reminisced, a group of young actors and actresses from Ashtar Theater were playing out the home’s original family members, as if they had come back to life. As Faten moved from one room to another, she slammed a door, startling Emilie, the foreign actress.

Emilie abruptly stopped bushing the artifact in her hand, threw off her white gloves and removed her headphones to jump up and scold Faten for being in the house. Emilie explained that the house was very old and is being restored and no one was allowed in. Faten replied, in vain, that this was her family’s home and she could envision all the memories as if they were alive. Emilie was unable to see this, being only privy to the material artifacts that she was brushing and logging into her laptop. As photos of past times, when the home was full of life, were displayed on the stone wall of the living room, Faten, frustrated with Emilie’s inability to feel the living past of the home, summed up the stance: “You are only interested in the restoration of the buildings, not the memories.” The audience was moved. I had a serious outbreak of goose bumps.

Emilie Simonsen (L), Ashtar team, Faten Khoury (R) (Photo Credit: Mohammed Abbas)

Emilie Simonsen (L), Ashtar team, Faten Khoury (R) (Photo Credit: Mohammed Abbas)

Following the skit, the floor was open for discussion. The first to speak, remaining true to our culture, was the owner of the home. He thanked everyone for coming and welcomed us to his home, a heavy-on-the-heart welcome given the condition of the building, but an exceedingly warm welcome taking into consideration that it was now filled, once again, by village boys and girls, adults, and everyone else, most importantly Jamil himself, the homeowner.A few minutes later, the skit ended. It took this talented team of actors and actresses merely twenty minutes to strike a deep chord in each of us. Lost homes, time passed, history maintained through oral storytelling, refugees coming home, today’s material world seeking to merely see the stones and not the families who lived in the homes or what happened to them, or where they went, or how they died. In those short, twenty minutes, a number of deep feelings that every Palestinian has was touched.

When I spoke during the discussion period, I challenged the young ones in the room. I told them I’m going to write this article about the event and want them to send me their reflections so I can include them. Immediately after the event, the entire group of young girls who were sitting in the row behind me came up to me. One of the girls, Bisan, an unquestionable future leader, garnered enough courage to speak to me on their behalf. With her red cheeks and beautiful smile, she said they wanted to ask how they can send me what they write. I gave them my business card and told them my email is listed. One of the girls asked if she can send hers to me on Facebook, or Face, as she called it. Another sign of the times. They were so excited, they made the rest of a normal day great.

I barely got home that evening when I found this message from Bisan:

‘I am Bisan Jabr Ahmed, I was in ‘Ein Siniya theater and I’m ten years old. I felt that this play expressed our Palestinian heritage and took me back to the old days, how our parents used to live, while now everyone is busy with Face. How in the old times my parents and I worked together in our home and how we cooperated and how we disagreed.’

She then asked me to let her know next time I come to ‘Ein Siniya. Bisan and her generation are thirsty to live, while the military occupation that keeps its boot on their necks make it hard for them to even breathe.

Then a few hours later, I received this message:

‘I am Sama’a Khater. I’m nine years old. I loved the skit which was played in ‘Ein Siniya. Although it was short, it expressed the feelings of people in old days, and made me feel very sad.’

The idea to bring Palestinian oral histories to life has been the passion and project of actress Faten Khoury for years. With the support of The Danish House in Palestine and many generous others, she was able to link with the professional Danish actress Emilie who works in Denmark to revive history through theater. This skit was a pilot for a much larger project that Faten is working on, the creation of a Theatrical Museum of Oral History. I support this project wholeheartedly and made it my firm’s current corporate social responsibility project. Please help bring it to life if you can by visiting www.aim.ps/aim-csr.html and making a donation.

Bottom line, ‘Ein Siniya’s population in the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, was 114. Today in 2015, ‘Ein Siniya’s population is 885 persons strong. Given every act of the Israeli military occupation for the last five decades has been designed to get Palestinians to leave Palestine, ‘Ein Siniya is a living testament to our resilience and determination to not only remain on the land, but to grow despite all odds. I, for one, commit to redoubling my efforts to ensure that Bisan and her friends will all have a future worth living for.


Read in Arabic HERE              Visit Sam’s Blog HERE




Anti-Apartheid Dance and Songs Meet Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company in Protest at Brooklyn Academy of Music

On busy Lafayette Avenue outside Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), 80 New Yorkers gathered last night to dance and sing in protest of Batsheva Dance Company’s performances in BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival (photos). Batsheva’s appearance is part of the “Brand Israel” initiativedesigned to distract from the facts of Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, and its denial of rights to Palestinians the world over. The demonstration was organized by Adalah-NY and endorsed by 15 other local human rights organizations including the BDS Arts Coalition, Brooklyn For Peace, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and the Ya-Ya Network.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs touts Batsheva as “perhaps the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture.” Batsheva is funded in part by that government office as well as by the Ministry of Culture and Sports. While Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin has criticized Israeli abuses of Palestinians, Batsheva Dance Company continues in its role as a prominent cultural ambassador of the Israeli state.

The demonstration began with a dabke (traditional Palestinian dance) lesson led by Adalah-NY member Riham Barghouti, with musical accompaniment by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra followed by songs from Dave Lippman. Chants highlighted the disconnect between the Batsheva dancers’ virtuosity and their company’s political role, including, “Their range of motion cannot hide / Their support for apartheid” and “Batsheva gets no ovation / Ambassador for occupation!”

Protester Carlos Pareja, an independent media maker, said, “I support drawing attention to the abuses against the Palestinian people. We can’t have only the ‘nice’ face of Israel, which is what we often see here.” Barghouti echoed that point, telling the crowd, “Today, only a few months after the most brutal of all Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip—which killed over 2100 Palestinians including 500 children and leveled whole neighborhoods, leading Amnesty International and others to accuse Israel of war crimes—yet again BAM has invited the Israeli dance company Batsheva to whitewash Israel’s crimes.”

Interactions with Brooklynites were mostly positive, as curious people tookflyers and asked questions about the activities. Passersby and BAM ticket holders alike stood and watched the high-energy Freedom Debka Group and the Columbia Palestinian Dabke Brigade, two Palestinian dance troupes. The protest ended with two moving dances by Cetiliztli Nauhcampa Quetzalcoatl, a Mexica danza group, who offered “dance and prayers for dignity and solidarity” with Palestinians during their performance. Dancer Karen Lopez explained afterward, “We are indigenous people who have been displaced and seen our traditions threatened with destruction. We are always there in solidarity and resistance with other displaced peoples, including Palestinians.”

Wednesday night’s protest is part of the global movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. The Palestinian civil society call for BDS includes boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions complicit in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights. Adalah-NY is also organizing a protest next Tuesday, November 18, at the concert of the Touré-Raichel Collective, which features another premiere Israeli “cultural ambassador,” musician Idan Raichel.

More photos from the protest can be found here.


Photos © by Bud Korotzer, Commentary by Adalah-NY





























Pete Seeger, a personal friend and comrade died yesterday at the age of 94, just months after the passing of his wife of 70 years, Toshi.


Despite his advanced age, he did not live long enough to see the free world that he envisioned throughout his active political life.


He was more than just a Folk Singer, he was a singer for the folk. Those of us that had the opportunity and blessing of knowing him will miss him dearly. His legacy and music will live on for eternity which will ease our sorrow a bit, and will serve as a  continual reminder that his work is undone and we must continue with it.



Bella Ciao Dear Comrade



The New York Times published the following obituary today … (including photos)


Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94


Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.

His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.

Mr. Seeger was a prime mover in the folk revival that transformed popular music in the 1950s. As a member of the Weavers, he sang hits including Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” — which reached No. 1 — and “If I Had a Hammer,” which he wrote with the group’s Lee Hays. Another of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” became an antiwar standard. And in 1965, the Byrds had a No. 1 hit with a folk-rock version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” Mr. Seeger’s setting of a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. Decades later, Bruce Springsteen drew the songs on his 2006 album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” from Mr. Seeger’s repertoire of traditional music about a turbulent American experience, and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural. At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday, Mr. Springsteen introduced him as “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.”

Although he recorded more than 100 albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.

Mr. Seeger saw himself as part of a continuing folk tradition, constantly recycling and revising music that had been honed by time.

During the McCarthy era Mr. Seeger’s political affiliations, including membership in the Communist Party in the 1940s, led to his being blacklisted and later indicted for contempt of Congress. The pressure broke up the Weavers, and Mr. Seeger disappeared from television until the late 1960s. But he never stopped recording, performing and listening to songs from ordinary people. Through the decades, his songs have become part of America’s folklore.

“My job,” he said in 2009, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”

Peter Seeger was born on May 3, 1919, to Charles Seeger, a musicologist, and Constance de Clyver Edson Seeger, a concert violinist. His parents later divorced.

He began playing the ukulele while attending Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school in Connecticut. His father and his stepmother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, were collecting and transcribing rural American folk music, as were folklorists like John and Alan Lomax. He heard the five-string banjo, which would become his main instrument, when his father took him to a square-dance festival in North Carolina.

Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.”

Planning to be a journalist, Mr. Seeger attended Harvard, where he founded a radical newspaper and joined the Young Communist League. After two years, he dropped out and came to New York City, where Mr. Lomax introduced him to the blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly. Mr. Lomax also helped Mr. Seeger find a job cataloging and transcribing music at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.

Mr. Seeger met Mr. Guthrie, a songwriter who shared his love of vernacular music and agitprop ambitions, in 1940, when they performed at a benefit concert for migrant California workers. Traveling across the United States with Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Seeger picked up some of his style and repertory. He also hitchhiked and hopped freight trains by himself, trading and learning songs.

When he returned to New York later in 1940, Mr. Seeger made his first albums. He, Millard Lampell and Mr. Hays founded the Almanac Singers, who performed union songs and, until Germany invaded the Soviet Union, antiwar songs, following the Communist Party line. Mr. Guthrie soon joined the group.

During World War II the Almanac Singers’s repertory turned to patriotic, antifascist songs, bringing them a broad audience, including a prime-time national radio spot. But the group’s earlier antiwar songs, the target of an F.B.I. investigation, came to light, and the group’s career plummeted.

Before the group completely dissolved, however, Mr. Seeger was drafted in 1942 and assigned to a unit of performers. He married Toshi-Aline Ohta while on furlough in 1943.

When he returned from the war he founded People’s Songs Inc., which published political songs and presented concerts for several years before going bankrupt. He also started his nightclub career, performing at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. Mr. Seeger and Paul Robeson toured with the campaign of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party presidential candidate, in 1948.

Mr. Seeger invested $1,700 in 17 acres of land overlooking the Hudson River in Beacon and began building a log cabin there in the late 1940s. In 1949, Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman started working together as the Weavers. They were signed to Decca Records by Gordon Jenkins, the company’s music director and an arranger for Frank Sinatra. With Mr. Jenkins’s elaborate orchestral arrangements, the group recorded a repertoire that stretched from “If I Had a Hammer” to a South African song, “Wimoweh” (the title was Mr. Seeger’s mishearing of “Mbube,” the name of a South African hit by Solomon Linda), to an Israeli soldiers’ song, “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” to a cleaned-up version of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene.” Onstage, they also sang more pointed topical songs.

In 1950 and 1951 the Weavers were national stars, with hit singles and engagements at major nightclubs. Their hits included “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and Mr. Guthrie’s “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh),” and they sold an estimated four million singles and albums.

But “Red Channels,” an influential pamphlet listing performers with suspected Communist ties, appeared in June 1950 and listed Mr. Seeger, although by then he had quit the Communist Party. He would later criticize himself for having not left the party sooner, though he continued to describe himself as a “communist with a small ‘c.’ ”

Despite the Weavers’ commercial success, by the summer of 1951 the “Red Channels” citation and leaks from F.B.I. files had led to the cancellation of television appearances. In 1951, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigated the Weavers for sedition. And in February 1952, a former member of People’s Songs testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that three of the four Weavers were members of the Communist Party.

As engagements dried up the Weavers disbanded, though they reunited periodically in the mid-1950s. After the group recorded an advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Mr. Seeger left, citing his objection to promoting tobacco use.

Shut out of national exposure, Mr. Seeger returned primarily to solo concerts, touring college coffeehouses, churches, schools and summer camps, building an audience for folk music among young people. He started to write a long-running column for the folk-song magazine Sing Out! And he recorded prolifically for the independent Folkways label, singing everything from children’s songs to Spanish Civil War anthems.

In 1955 he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he testified, “I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature.” He also stated: “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”

Mr. Seeger offered to sing the songs mentioned by the congressmen who questioned him. The committee declined.

Mr. Seeger was indicted in 1957 on 10 counts of contempt of Congress. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to a year in prison, but the next year an appeals court dismissed the indictment as faulty. After the indictment, Mr. Seeger’s concerts were often picketed by the John Birch Society and other rightist groups. “All those protests did was sell tickets and get me free publicity,” he later said. “The more they protested, the bigger the audiences became.”

By then, the folk revival was prospering. In 1959, Mr. Seeger was among the founders of the Newport Folk Festival. The Kingston Trio’s version of Mr. Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” reached the Top 40 in 1962, soon followed by Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “If I Had a Hammer,” which rose to the Top 10.

Mr. Seeger was signed to a major label, Columbia Records, in 1961, but he remained unwelcome on network television. “Hootenanny,” an early-1960s show on ABC that capitalized on the folk revival, refused to book Mr. Seeger, causing other performers (including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary) to boycott it. “Hootenanny” eventually offered to present Mr. Seeger if he would sign a loyalty oath. He refused.

He toured the world, performing and collecting folk songs, in 1963, and returned to serenade civil rights advocates, who had made a rallying song of his “We Shall Overcome.”

Like many of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “We Shall Overcome” had convoluted traditional roots. It was based on old gospel songs, primarily “I’ll Overcome,” a hymn that striking tobacco workers had sung on a picket line in South Carolina. A slower version, “We Will Overcome,” was collected from one of the workers, Lucille Simmons, by Zilphia Horton, the musical director of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., which trained union organizers.

Ms. Horton taught it to Mr. Seeger, and her version of “We Will Overcome” was published in the People’s Songs newsletter. Mr. Seeger changed “We will” to “We shall” and added verses (“We’ll walk hand in hand”). He taught it to the singers Frank Hamilton, who would join the Weavers in 1962, and Guy Carawan, who became musical director at Highlander in the ‘50s. Mr. Carawan taught the song to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at its founding convention.

The song was copyrighted by Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Carawan and Ms. Horton. “At that time we didn’t know Lucille Simmons’s name,” Mr. Seeger wrote in his 1993 autobiography, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” All of the song’s royalties go to the “We Shall Overcome” Fund, administered by what is now the Highlander Research and Education Center, which provides grants to African-Americans organizing in the South.

Along with many elders of the protest-song movement, Mr. Seeger felt betrayed when Bob Dylan appeared at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival with a loud electric blues band. Reports emerged that Mr. Seeger had tried to cut the power cable with an ax, but witnesses including the producer George Wein and the festival’s production manager, Joe Boyd (later a leading folk-rock record producer), said he did not go that far. (An ax was available, however. A group of prisoners had used it while singing a logging song.)

As the United States grew divided over the Vietnam War, Mr. Seeger wrote “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” an antiwar song with the refrain “The big fool says to push on.” He performed the song during a taping of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in September 1967, his return to network television, but it was cut before the show was broadcast. After the Smothers Brothers publicized the censorship, Mr. Seeger returned to perform the song for broadcast in February 1968.

During the late 1960s Mr. Seeger started an improbable project: a sailing ship that would crusade for cleaner water on the Hudson River. Between other benefit concerts he raised money to build the Clearwater, a 106-foot sloop that was launched in June 1969 with a crew of musicians. The ship became a symbol and a rallying point for antipollution efforts and education.

In May 2009, after decades of litigation and environmental activism led by Mr. Seeger’s nonprofit environmental organization, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, General Electric began dredging sediment containing PCBs it had dumped into the Hudson. Mr. Seeger and his wife also helped organize a yearly summer folk festival named after the Clearwater.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s Mr. Seeger toured regularly with Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son, and continued to lead singalongs and perform benefit concerts. Recognition and awards arrived. He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, and in 1993 he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award. In 1994, President Bill Clinton handed him the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest arts honor, given by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999, he traveled to Cuba to receive the Order of Félix Varela, Cuba’s highest cultural award, for his “humanistic and artistic work in defense of the environment and against racism.”

In 1996, Mr. Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence. Arlo Guthrie, who paid tribute at the ceremony, mentioned that the Weavers’ hit “Goodnight, Irene” reached No. 1, only to add, “I can’t think of a single event in Pete’s life that is probably less important to him.” Mr. Seeger made no acceptance speech, but he did lead a singalong of “Goodnight, Irene,” flanked by Stevie Wonder, David Byrne and members of the Jefferson Airplane.

Mr. Seeger won Grammy Awards for best traditional folk album in 1997, for the album “Pete,” and in 2009, for the album “At 89.” He also won a Grammy in the children’s music category in 2011 for “Tomorrow’s Children.”

Mr. Seeger kept performing into the 21st century, despite a flagging voice; audiences happily sang along more loudly. He celebrated his 90th birthday, on May 3, 2009, at a Madison Square Garden concert — a benefit for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater — with Mr. Springsteen, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Emmylou Harris and dozens of other musicians paying tribute. In August he was back in Newport for the 50th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival.

Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, days before the couple’s 70th anniversary. Survivors include his son, Daniel; his daughters, Mika and Tinya; a half-sister, Peggy; and six grandchildren, including the musician Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who performed with him at the Obama inaugural. His half-brother Mike Seeger, a folklorist and performer who founded the New Lost City Ramblers, died in 2009.

Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”


Another tribute can be read HERE


Darwish will live on this way among his people. Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008, yet his spirit remains present even in the absence of his being.

The poetry of absence: remembering Mahmoud Darwish five years on

Sonja Karkar*

Portrait of Mahmoud Darwish illuminated by candles

Mahmoud Darwish wove the poetry of politics and protest with the wonder of life and love.

 (Jamal Nasrallah / EPA)


Exiled. Stateless. Displaced. Dispossessed. Uprooted. Refugee.

Each word shatters the myth of human progress and our essential humanity. Mahmoud Darwish’s anguished, poetic narrative of his and his people’s exile is the defining expression of that continuing human tragedy that callously, violently turned Palestine into Israel with no place — then or now — for those who belong.

Darwish (1941-2008) described exile thus: “Absent, I come to the home of the absent,” and when he was asked who he is, he responded, “I still do not know.”

His answer can best be understood in his words “Perhaps like me you have no address” while more questions follow and linger heavy with pathos over the human condition:

What’s the worth of a man
Without a homeland,
Without a flag,
Without an address?
What is the worth of such a man?

As an internal refugee in Israel, Mahmoud Darwish’s status was bizarrely given legal recognition as a “present-absent alien.” And then, after 25 years in exile, moving from one foreign city to another — Moscow, CairoBeirut, Tunis and Paris — he came to see his journey as an epic voyage of the damned: neither here nor there.


To him it was all about dignity. With his poetry, Darwish created a space of belonging that had been lost to him in the reality of his life — an existential reality in which he said “I cannot enter and I cannot go out.”

It was in that space that he wrote his famous early poem “Identity Card”:

Write down I am an Arab
You stole the groves of my forefathers,
And the land I used to till.
You left me nothing but these rocks.
And from them, I must wrest a loaf of bread,
For my eight children.

In that very space of belonging, his fellow exiles flooded in, embracing their Palestinian identity and heritage with the honor that had been returned to them. Mahmoud Darwish had encouraged them to “be present in absence.”

In an interview with Newsweek in 2000 he said poems “can establish a metaphorical homeland in the minds of people. I think my poems have built some houses in this landscape.”

Yet, even as Darwish’s poetry was fueled by his exile, earning him the title of the poet of Palestinian resistance, the genius of the man is in the way he was able to weave the poetry of politics and protest with the wonder of life and love and hope and bring the people with him on the journey of his own aesthetic development that was so important to him the poet.

Fragile dream

In his poem “I Waited for No One” he told those who might feel that hope is but a fragile elusive dream to:

… look behind you to find the dream, go
to any east or west that exiles you more,
and keeps me one step farther from my bed
and from one of my sad skies. The end
is beginning’s sister, go and you’ll find what you left
here, waiting for you.

Perhaps it was his quest for the humanity in all of us that brought him to the attention of literary circles around the world. Here was a Palestinian who, despite the human rights cruelly denied him and his people, was able to see the same ebb and flow of life in the victim and oppressor alike — where love and hate, reason and fear, compassion and tyranny, life and death are no different.

His poetry stroked the human ego even as he admonished it. His words often sung of love and helped the burdened souls soar to places that only his imagination could take them. He challenged people to look inside themselves, to see themselves as they would have others see them.

It is through him that the world is able to peer through a window of Palestine and be drawn not only into the human catastrophe it helped create, but to see the Palestinians as no less human than themselves.

Non-Arab audiences saw in his poetry that forgiveness, reconciliation and a moving forward are all possible when the Palestinians are treated with respect and dignity that is their due, neither more nor less than is due to others.

Darwish’s art was born and nourished out of his exile. Darwish said: “The man who is in harmony with his society, his culture, with himself, cannot be a creator. And that would be true even if our country were Eden itself” (“A poet’s Palestine as metaphor,” The New York Times, 22 December 2001).

Nevertheless he lamented, “How difficult it is to be Palestinian, and how difficult it is for a Palestinian to be a writer or a poet … How can he achieve literary freedom in such slavish conditions? And how can he preserve the literariness of literature in such brutal times?” (“The laureate of all Arabs,” The Guardian, 12 August 2008).


Despite these misgivings, Mahmoud Darwish did build on his literary accomplishments.

He was not just a poet revered by the Arab world. His books and poetry have been translated into more than 22 languages.

He won numerous awards, including the 1969 Lotus Prize from the Union of Afro-Asian Writers; in 1983, the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize; in 1993, France’s highest medal, the Knight of Arts and Letters; the Netherlands’ 2004 Principal Prince Claus Award in recognition of his “impressive body of work.”

Even Israel considered introducing his work into the high school curriculum in 2001, until then Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared that “Israel is not ready” for Darwish’s work (“Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine’s poet of exile,” The Progressive, May 2002).

But, it was the 2001 Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom carrying a $350,000 award that brought Darwish’s extraordinary talent into the United States, where he had been virtually unknown. On accepting the award, he said, “I also read the prize at a political level, as perhaps representing a better understanding of the role I have played in my country.”

Poetry has been and is a living, breathing form of expression in the whole Arab world, something that has been lost in the West, if indeed it ever existed in the daily life of Western culture.

It is recited in the form of greetings, advice, warnings, accolades, compliments and for just the sheer pleasure of hearing and saying the words, of being able to finish the lines forgotten, of delighting in remembering a line or two or being praised for being able to recite an hour’s worth of poetry.

Darwish will live on this way among his people. Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008, yet his spirit remains present even in the absence of his being.

*Sonja Karkar is the founder of Women for Palestine, a Melbourne-based human rights group and co-founder of Australians for Palestine, an advocacy group that provides a voice for Palestine at all levels of Australian society. She is the editor of the website http://www.australiansforpalestine.com

Written FOR


In what can only be described as contempt for the child, Israeli authorities closed an East Jerusalem puppet festival. The reason given was its activities were being organized under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.”
Theater director Mohammed Halayiqa condemned the decision as “disgraceful”, saying the PA had no involvement in the International Puppet Festival which was funded by donations from abroad and aimed at children.
The move is being protested by various sections of the Israeli community ….

Ariel Doron, the voice of Elmo on the Israeli version of the popular children’s television show, and Yousef Sweid, who plays an Arab Muppet on the show, created a Facebook group namedPuppets4All calling on Israel to permit the festival.  

Two other Israeli “Sesame Street” puppeteers, along with a number of fellow Israeli actors, uploaded photos to the Facebook group holding puppets and signs protesting the closure.

“I think every boy and girl deserves to see puppet theater,” said Doron. “There is no sense to this.”

In actuality, there is no sense to zionism, period.


Two reports can be read here …

One from AP,

The other from AFP.


Bethlehem (Aramaic for House of Laham, the Canaanitic God of Sustenance) area is decked in colors and the best and most beautiful lights are the smiles on the faces of our children.  On Saturday evening, we attended a Christian service that was a joint service with the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The Palestinian children bell choir was uplifting.   Children led the lighting of the candles at churches, the singing, and the choirs and they outnumbered adults in most activities.  We were blessed by visited homes of poor children of different faiths. On Monday 3500 members of marching bands/scouts (most youth under 18) led parades near the apartheid wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem towards the Nativity square. Some of the marching youth were Muslims.  The marching band from Gaza (Christian and Muslim) was not allowed to participate by the Israeli occupation authorities.  Earlier in the day, children in the square formed a large peace symbol and the words “LOVE ALL” with their bodies in front of the massive Christmas tree in the square.  The United Nations Work and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) had banners asking people to remember the suffering children in Gaza and Syria. 
Above text written by Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD


Hopefully, this year, we can all be thankful. Looking forward to the day when all of humanity can celebrate as one big family.
Following is our yearly offering for this very special day 
If you get the urge to sing along….. here are the lyrics….
This song is called Alice’s Restaurant, and it’s about Alice, and the
restaurant, but Alice’s Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song, and that’s why I called the song Alice’s
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on – two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn’t live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin’ in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin’ all that room,
seein’ as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn’t
have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it’d be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.


“I am not under the illusion that our street art or the unarmed demonstrations are going to end the occupation tomorrow morning. None of these things isolated from the rest of it is going to end the occupation. But they build a system of resistance. They are all part of a larger web of popular  resistance.”

Taking back Palestine’s streets: exclusive interview with underground Jerusalem graffiti artist

Maath Musleh *

“There’s no voice greater than the voice of the intifada” (Image courtesy of the artist)

Graffiti has been a tool of the Palestinian liberation struggle for decades; during the first intifada in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Palestinians painted graffiti on all the walls as a means of protesting the occupation. Graffiti artists were met with brutal suppression if caught.

Young Palestinians are carrying on the legacy of art as a form of resistance today. On 12 January, an unknown group penetrated the heavily-fortified heart of West Jerusalem overnight and painted graffiti bearing political messages on walls, doors, construction sites and other surfaces. Most of the paintings pictured a woman’s face masked with a kuffiyeh, the traditional Palestinian checkered scarf. Below some of the images was the word “revolt” in Arabic.

The group hit the walls of Jerusalem again five days later, and issued an anonymous statement vowing to carry on their action to send messages to the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

In the following weeks, other groups took up the spray can torch in various cities including Haifa and Jaffa.

And in June, the Jerusalem activists took a daring step by painting graffiti on the doors and walls of governmental buildings as well as the doorways of Israeli houses in Jerusalem and Palestinian houses occupied since the ethnic cleansing of 1948. They sent the same messages calling upon Palestinians in general, and Palestinian women in particular, to revolt. They also painted “Remember Gaza” across the wall of one of the buildings in big letters.

Underground graffiti artist speaks out

A member of the group, a confident young Palestinian feminist activist who operates under the pseudonym “Laila,” spoke to The Electronic Intifada on condition of anonymity. Laila has been active in street art in Palestine before the creation of the anonymous Jerusalem group, focusing on painting both the walls of West and East Jerusalem.

“Some of the street art I have done was in what has now become West Jerusalem in Jewish-dominated areas,” said Laila. “Some other stuff I have done is in East Jerusalem where messages have been more about feminist messages to [Palestinian] women, mostly to wake up and not be drowned out by the patriarchal nature of our society.”

The Jerusalem graffiti group started operating since the beginning of this year.

“We are a group of Palestinian youth, both men and women, active on the ground in the popular resistance movement,” explained Laila, adding that there is a mix of backgrounds and perspectives within the group. “We cannot be categorized into one unique box; we are quite diverse,” she said. “What bring us together is our activism and our deep desire to continue the resistance movement and to be active as much as possible.”

The members of the group met during demonstrations taking place in Palestine. In the past year, they have been actively participating in the popular resistance in the West Bank and prisoners’ hunger strike solidarity actions. Although they have not known each other for very long, they managed to build a level of trust amongst each other. “I think each one of us realizes there is a lot of trust within the other person,” said Laila.

For the time being, the group has no plans to expand. “First we have to work small and focused until we are able to mobilize more people,” said Laila.

“This is Palestine and we’re still here”

According to Laila, the group’s street art activism in West Jerusalem aims to mark the streets with the existence of the Palestinian people and make Israelis feel uncomfortable.

“We want to remind them these were Palestinian neighborhoods, this is Palestine and we are still here,” said Laila. “It is kind of taking back our streets and not allowing the status quo to continue.

“I am not under the illusion that our street art or the unarmed demonstrations are going to end the occupation tomorrow morning. None of these things isolated from the rest of it is going to end the occupation. But they build a system of resistance. They are all part of a larger web of popular resistance.”

The Jerusalem group has so far undertaken three actions this year, all carrying similar messages. Laila said, “The three actions were in different parts of the city [Jerusalem]. We wanted to take the same message and spread it around the city. Some of the paintings were painted over within 48 hours. We wanted to make it a point: by repainting them … even if you do, the problem will not go away and we are still here.”

It is still too early to know if the work of this group will expand into different areas or using different tools. “We are planning. There will be something new in the coming weeks, so stay tuned,” Laila said.

Laila does not think of her activism as just a means to end occupation; she hopes that her work could encourage change within Palestinian society.

“The end goal is also to create a different society and a different way in which we function in it,” said Laila. “For example, when I think about the role of women within the popular resistance movement, I think about the fact that it is important that women also have an equal role within creating a new Palestinian society. Will they be part of the leadership? Will they be part of the action? Will they be part of building the structures and institutions of the society?”

Support of unarmed resistance

The unarmed popular resistance that has mushroomed in recent years in opposition to Israel’s wall and settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank has been hit with the arrows of criticism, accused as inefficient and helping to sustain the status quo. The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee organizes weekly demonstrations against the occupation in several West Bank villages. These demonstrations have not yet produced tangible changes on ground, critics say.

“Since the 1930s, the Palestinians have used multiple strategies and tactics that are all categorized as nonviolent resistance such as strikes, hunger strikes and marches,” said Laila. “For instance, the nonviolent tactics of the first intifada succeeded in mobilizing thousands of people out in the streets.

“The [nonviolent] tactic itself can bring a lot more people together. It allows higher levels of participation in oppose to the armed resistance.”

Laila believes that the unarmed resistance is the way to end the occupation. “I do not want to speak for anybody else in the group because we might not agree on this point,” said Laila. “But I think that unarmed resistance is going to be a lot more strategic and influential.”

And yet even unarmed protest, during which youths sometimes throw rocks at the army, is construed in the international media as violent. Laila believes that this characterization is unfair because the young Palestinians throwing stones at the fourth strongest army in the world are met with live ammunition or rubber-coated steel bullets.

Laila finds a double standard in the Western media. “I think the Egyptian revolution is a great example,” she said. “We saw protesters throwing stones at the army and the police, and yet the media painted it as a nonviolent revolution.”

Some have also criticized the participation of Israeli activists in the Palestinian popular resistance.

“It is important that the strategies and tactics are directed by the Palestinians,” said Laila. “But we are also talking about many Israeli activists who are anti-government and who come in full solidarity. They support the full rights of the Palestinians and justice.”

Future of Palestine

As for the future of Palestine, Laila believes that a two-state solution is impossible. According to her, the idea of a Jewish state has damaged the morality of Jewish Israeli society.

“I want to destroy the current structure and oppression inflicted by the state, not the people,” said Laila.

“There are so many Jews who want to go back to Syria because that is their homeland,” she added. “They want to go back to Tunisia or Morocco because that is where they are originally from. I know Israeli Jews who cried when they saw the bombing of Baghdad in 2003 because that is their home city.”

The graffiti activist believes that all Palestinians in exile have the right to choose whether they want to return to their homeland or be compensated. She believes that the right of return might not be easy but it is not impractical as many Zionists claim. It is a right, she says.

“I do not think anyone will be left homeless; there are a lot of structures,” said Laila. “Instead of thinking about destroying the settlements the day the occupation ends, we should think about how we can use these structures. There are also Palestinian Nakba houses [property depopulated in the 1948 ethnic cleansing] that are standing completely empty and nobody uses them. Why should their owners not have the right to come back?”

Laila is not interested in sending messages of co-existence through her graffiti art. “This is the only place in the world that I know of where reconciliation and dialogue programs and messages of co-existence have existed before actual oppression has ended,” she said. “It is impossible to tell somebody [to] learn to co-exist before their sense of oppression has ended.”

It is Israeli society which needs to reconcile with history, according to Laila. “The Israeli society will suffer an identity crisis before they start realizing what the occupation meant here for all of those years,” she said.

“I do not talk just about the occupation in 1967,” she added. “My village was not impacted in 1967; it was impacted in 1948. My village was occupied in 1948.”

As for the Palestinians, following the so-called Arab Spring, many Palestinian youth groups emerged. Nonetheless, mobilization seems to be slow. Many analysts ask the same question: “When is the Palestinian spring?”

Laila believes that Palestinian society needs more time to prepare for the next phase of their liberation movement. “If it [the revolution] happened tomorrow morning, it would be a disaster,” Laila said. “What we are doing today is preparing. It is utterly important to be ready for the day when it comes.”

*Maath Musleh is a Palestinian journalist and blogger based in Jerusalem currently seeking a master’s degree in political journalism from City University in London.

Written FOR


What is it about the Freedom Theatre that causes its artistic director to be arrested in a night time raid, one co-founder to be held in prison and the other, Juliano Mer Khamis, to be brutally gunned down at the entrance to the theatre last year?
Resistance Through Art in Jenin’s Freedom Theatre

The Bravest Theater in the World


First the good news.  On July 12, Nabil Al-Raee, the Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, was released after more than a month in detention following his arrest at his home in the early hours of the morning in June by Israeli Armed Forces,

Not accused of any crime, but arrested initially on suspicion of ‘illegal activity’ and withholding information about the murder last year of Freedom Theatre co-founder, Juliano Mer Khamis, for the first two weeks of his captivity Nabil was not allowed to have any contact with his lawyer or family, and throughout his detention he was subject to a long set of interrogations.  When the military judge declared in a court hearing that no evidence had been established, the military prosecution put forward a third accusation of him being involved in ‘terror activities’.

The bad news is that Nabil has only been freed on bail, and that he will remain under house arrest wearing an electronic foot chain until his next trial at the end of the month.

Meanwhile former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade Zakaria Zubeid, who  received an amnesty when he renounced violence in 2005  and committed himself to cultural resistance through theatre, has been held without charge by the Palestinian security forces in prison in Jericho since May 13.  Zubeidi, is co-founder of the Jenin Freedom Theatre.  On December 29, 2011, Israel rescinded Zubeidi’s pardon for unstated reasons.

“The theatre is an important project,” said Zubeidi.  “ It can bring the children together under one roof, give them the possibility to dream, develop them and lighten their psychological burden.”`

What is it about the Freedom Theatre that causes its artistic director to be arrested in a night time raid, one co-founder to be held in prison and the other, Juliano Mer Khamis, to be brutally gunned down at the entrance to the theatre last year?

Built on the inspiration and legacy of Juliano Mer Khamis’mother, Arna Mer-Khamis, a Jewish woman who in 1987 went to Jenin and set up a theatre and activity centres for the children of the camp and worked there until her death of cancer in 1995, the initiative to set up the Freedom Theatre as a European-Jewish-Palestinian-Arab venture in the Jenin refugee camp was born of the enthusiasm of two people – the artist Dror Feiler, and Jonatan Stanczak, a Swedish-Jewish peace activist , who set up an association and solicited contributions  after viewing  Juliano Mer Khamis’ excellent film “Arna’s Children”.

“The Freedom Theatre was created with the inspiration of Arna,” said Juliano, whose father was a Palestinian, speaking before he was murdered,  “but even so, despite  the partners of the project’s request to name the theatre after her, I refused.  Arna hated commemoration.  We will not make a personality-cult for her.  We are setting up a theatre in the spirit of her actions.  One of the reasons why we called the project Freedom Theatre, apart from the obvious political connotations, was the intention to create a theatre that would be free from all the elements of the occupation that is imprinted on the population.  Part of the work with the children will be to liberate them from the scars of the occupation, from the social patriarchy they live under, from the oppression they live under at home and outside.”

“The real essence of the theatre is to create a free zone for children so they can create and bring about change.  I think that the best way to influence the behaviour of a child is to create for him a living space without laws, which is the opposite of the reality he comes from.  This is not a pedagogical effort or an attempt to deal with neurological or pathological phenomena. We have no pretensions. Certainly not me.”

“I think that adults, too, need theatre. It’s not enough that they send their children here, we want to work with them.  Because a network of relationships in the camp are based on violence and hierarchy – between the camp and the occupation, between the parents, between the parents and the children and among the children – a way of group work in psychodrama workshops can teach the participants to create different networks of inter-personal relationships.”

The Freedom Theatre has mounted critically acclaimed productions of plays that raise the dilemmas of the individual spirit faced with the soul-crushing imposition of arbitrary power, including an original musical production inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Animal Farm, and a Palestinian adaptation of Waiting for Godot. Several of these productions have toured in Europe and the United States – although Israel has frequently obstructed the international performances by denying actors and technical staff access to consular offices to apply for visas or permission to cross the border into Jordan, the only access West Bank Palestinians have for international flights.  Performances within the West Bank have been harassed by Israeli armed forces surrounding the performance space with troops.

A French circus group, scheduled to perform at The Freedom Theatre, was denied entry into Palestine by Israel.

A leading actor in the Godot play was arrested by Israeli armed forces and held in jail throughout the final two months of rehearsal.

Israeli troops have surrounded the theatre and abducted staff members in the middle of the night.

“This behaviour is mounting to systematical harassment of The Freedom Theatre by The Israeli army.  It is scandalous,” said  co-founder Jonatan Stanczak, who lives in Jenin.  “This proves that the Israeli army and security apparatus is either lost in their investigation or that they have the actual intention of damaging the theatre. It also seems that after the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis The Freedom Theatre is no longer exempted from the kind of oppression the Palestinian society is subjected to in general.”

Since the murder of Mer-Khamis the Israelis have repeatedly summoned Palestinian staff members of The Freedom Theatre to the Salem army base for intimidating interrogations.  All come to the appointments as scheduled and answer the given questions to the best of their knowledge even though they are intimidated and even threatened.

“Usually these interrogations start with ‘We know you are the one who killed Juliano, why did you kill him?’” said Stanczak.

“Since this has happened so many times in the past, I can’t interpret it as anything else than an ongoing harassment of the employees of The Freedom Theatre and their families by the Israeli army.”

“Maybe they thought we would break down when Juliano was assassinated, but we kept on and now they are trying to suffocate us slowly by harassing our employees, members and supporters with various accusations, one more absurd than the other.  This systematic harassment has gone on for a year now.”

The Freedom Theatre is warmly received in the Jenin refugee camp.

“The residents of the camps and the military organizations understand that the occupation oppresses also the cultural-intellectual infrastructure and does not allow the residents to develop,” said Mer-Khamis.

As Ashraf, one of “Arna’s Children” expressed in the film:

“When I am on stage I feel like I am throwing stones. We wont let the occupation keep us in the gutter. To me acting is like throwing a Molotov cocktail. On stage I feel strong, alive and proud”.

The Freedom Theatre will continue the message of Juliano Mer Khamis and his mother Arna to promote freedom – not only for the Palestinian people but for all human beings. We will continue our resistance through art, continue our struggle, continue to do our better than best.

As Juliano would say: “The Revolution must go on!”


Written FOR


Ray Bradbury at a book signing in California in 1997 Steve Castillo/Associated Press

Not everyone gets an obituary when they pass on, but surely not everone gets a three page obituary in the New York Times.  Ray Bradbury got one today attesting to his greatness.
Just over five years ago, my favourite author died.  Kurt Vonnogut also received a three page obit honouring his greatness. 
Ray Bradbury was with us longer and was an integral part of our growing up process. He was able to divert our minds from the evils of the Cold War and McCarthyism. His works left much to the imagination and became very real to us despite being fiction, a fiction much more acceptable than the actual horrors of the day. Our universe was expanded as Mars became a familiar territory to us, again a much friendlier place than Washington, DC
Truly one of the greats. He will be missed.
Following is his obituary from the Times;
RAY BRADBURY | 1920-2012

Brought Mars to Earth With a Lyrical Mastery


Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction whose imaginative and lyrical evocations of the future reflected both the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Michael Congdon.

By many estimations Mr. Bradbury was the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His name would appear near the top of any list of major science fiction writers of the 20th century, beside those of Isaac AsimovArthur C. ClarkeRobert A. Heinlein and the Polish author Stanislaw Lem. His books are still being taught in schools, where many a reader has been introduced to them half a century after they first appeared. Many readers have said Mr. Bradbury’s stories fired their own imaginations.

More than eight million copies of his books have been sold in 36 languages. They include the short-story collections “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man” and “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and the novels “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

Though none of his works won a Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Bradbury received a Pulitzer citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”

His writing career stretched across 70 years, to the last weeks of his life. The New Yorker published an autobiographical essay by Mr. Bradbury in its June 4 double issue devoted to science fiction. There he recalled his “hungry imagination” as a boy in Illinois.

“It was one frenzy after one elation after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another,” he wrote, noting, “You rarely have such fevers later in life that fill your entire day with emotion.”

Mr. Bradbury sold his first story to a magazine called Super Science Stories in his early 20s. By 30 he had made his reputation with “The Martian Chronicles,” a collection of thematically linked stories published in 1950.

The book celebrated the romance of space travel while condemning the social abuses that modern technology had made possible, and its impact was immediate and lasting. Critics who had dismissed science fiction as adolescent prattle praised “Chronicles” as stylishly written morality tales set in a future that seemed just around the corner.

Mr. Bradbury was hardly the first writer to represent science and technology as a mixed bag of blessings and abominations. The advent of the atomic bomb in 1945 left many Americans deeply ambivalent toward science. The same “super science” that had ended World War II now appeared to threaten the very existence of civilization. Science fiction writers, who were accustomed to thinking about the role of science in society, had trenchant things to say about the nuclear threat.

But the audience for science fiction, published mostly in pulp magazines, was small and insignificant. Mr. Bradbury looked to a larger audience: the readers of mass-circulation magazines like Mademoiselle and The Saturday Evening Post. These readers had no patience for the technical jargon of the science fiction pulps. So he eliminated the jargon; he packaged his troubling speculations about the future in an appealing blend of cozy colloquialisms and poetic metaphors.

Though his books became a staple of high school and college English courses, Mr. Bradbury himself disdained formal education. He went so far as to attribute his success as a writer to his never having gone to college.

Instead, he read everything he could get his hands on: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway . He paid homage to them in 1971 in the essay “How Instead of Being Educated in College, I Was Graduated From Libraries.” (Late in life he took an active role in fund-raising efforts for public libraries in Southern California.)

Mr. Bradbury referred to himself as an “idea writer,” by which he meant something quite different from erudite or scholarly. “I have fun with ideas; I play with them,” he said. “ I’m not a serious person, and I don’t like serious people. I don’t see myself as a philosopher. That’s awfully boring.”

He added, “My goal is to entertain myself and others.”

He described his method of composition as “word association,” often triggered by a favorite line of poetry.

Mr. Bradbury’s passion for books found expression in his dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451,” published in 1953. But he drew his primary inspiration from his childhood. He boasted that he had total recall of his earliest years, including the moment of his birth. Readers had no reason to doubt him. As for the protagonists of his stories, no matter how far they journeyed from home, they learned that they could never escape the past.

In his best stories and in his autobiographical novel, “Dandelion Wine”(1957), he gave voice to both the joys and fears of childhood, as well as its wonders.

“Dandelion Wine” begins before dawn on the first day of summer. From a window, Douglas Spaulding, 12, looks out upon his town, “covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.” He has a task to perform.

“One night each week he was allowed to leave his father, his mother, and his younger brother Tom asleep in their small house next door and run here, up the dark spiral stairs to his grandparents’ cupola,” Mr. Bradbury writes, “and in this sorcerer’s tower sleep with thunders and visions, to wake before the crystal jingle of milk bottles and perform his ritual magic.

“He stood at the open window in the dark, took a deep breath and exhaled. The streetlights, like candles on a black cake, went out. He exhaled again and again and the stars began to vanish.”

Now he begins to point his finger — “There, and there. Now over here, and here …” — and lights come on, and the town begins to stir.

“Clock alarms tinkled faintly. The courthouse clock boomed. Birds leaped from trees like a net thrown by his hand, singing. Douglas, conducting an orchestra, pointed to the eastern sky.

“The sun began to rise.

“He folded his arms and smiled a magician’s smile. Yes, sir, he thought, everyone jumps, everyone runs when I yell. It’ll be a fine season.

“He gave the town a last snap of his fingers.

“Doors slammed open; people stepped out.

“Summer 1928 began.”

Raymond Douglas Bradbury was born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., a small city whose Norman Rockwellesque charms he later reprised in his depiction of the fictional Green Town in “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and in the fatally alluring fantasies of the astronauts in “The Martian Chronicles.” His father, Leonard, a lineman with the electric company, numbered among his ancestors a woman who was tried as a witch in Salem, Mass.

An unathletic child who suffered from bad dreams, he relished the tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Oz stories of L. Frank Baum, which his mother, the former Esther Moberg, read to him. An aunt, Neva Bradbury, took him to his first stage plays, dressed him in monster costumes for Halloween and introduced him to Poe’s stories. He discovered the science fiction pulps and began collecting the comic-strip adventures of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The impetus to become a writer was supplied by a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico, who engaged the boy, then 12, in a conversation that touched on immortality.

In 1934 young Ray, his parents and his older brother, Leonard, moved to Los Angeles. (Another brother and a sister had died young.) Ray became a movie buff, sneaking into theaters as often as nine times a week by his count. Encouraged by a high school English teacher and the professional writers he met at the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League, he began an enduring routine of turning out at least a thousand words a day on his typewriter.

His first big success came in 1947 with the short story “Homecoming,” narrated by a boy who feels like an outsider at a family reunion of witches, vampires and werewolves because he lacks supernatural powers. The story, plucked from the pile of unsolicited manuscripts at Mademoiselle by a young editor named Truman Capote, earned Mr. Bradbury an O. Henry Award as one of the best American short stories of the year.

With 26 other stories in a similar vein, “Homecoming” appeared in Mr. Bradbury’s first book, “Dark Carnival,” published by a small specialty press in 1947. That same year he married Marguerite Susan McClure, whom he had met in a Los Angeles bookstore.

Having written himself “down out of the attic,” as he later put it, Mr. Bradbury focused on science fiction. In a burst of creativity from 1946 to 1950, he produced most of the stories later collected in “The Martian Chronicles” and “The Illustrated Man” and the novella that formed the basis of “Fahrenheit 451.”

While science fiction purists complained about Mr. Bradbury’s cavalier attitude toward scientific facts — he gave his fictional Mars an impossibly breathable atmosphere — the literary establishment waxed enthusiastic. The novelist Christopher Isherwood greeted Mr. Bradbury as “a very great and unusual talent,” and one of Mr. Bradbury’s personal heroes, Aldous Huxley, hailed him as a poet. In 1954, the National Institute of Arts and Letters honored Mr. Bradbury for “his contributions to American literature,” in particular the novel “Fahrenheit 451.”

“The Martian Chronicles” was pieced together from 26 stories, only a few of which were written with the book in mind. The patchwork narrative spans the years 1999 to 2026, depicting a series of expeditions to Mars and their aftermath. The native Martians, who can read minds, resist the early arrivals from Earth, but are finally no match for them and their advanced technology as the humans proceed to destroy the remains of an ancient civilization.

Parallels to the fate of American Indian cultures are pushed to the point of parody; the Martians are finally wiped out by an epidemic of chickenpox. When nuclear war destroys Earth, the descendants of the human colonists realize that they have become the Martians, with a second chance to create a just society.

“Fahrenheit 451” is perhaps his most successful book-length narrative. An indictment of authoritarianism, it portrays a book-burning America of the near future, its central character a so-called fireman, whose job is to light the bonfires. (The title refers to the temperature at which paper ignites.) Some critics compared it favorably to George Orwell’s “1984.” François Truffaut adapted the book for a well-received movie in 1966 starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie. As Mr. Bradbury’s reputation grew, he found new outlets for his talents. He wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s 1956 film version of “Moby-Dick,” scripts for the television series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and collections of poetry and plays.

In the mid-1980s he was the on-camera host of “Ray Bradbury Theater,” a cable series that featured dramatizations of his short stories.

While Mr. Bradbury championed the space program as an adventure that humanity dared not shirk, he was content to restrict his own adventures to the realm of imagination. He lived in the same house in Los Angeles for more than 5o years, rearing four daughters with his wife, Marguerite, who died in 2003. For many years he refused to travel by plane, preferring trains, and he never learned to drive.

In 2004, President George W. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, presented Mr. Bradbury with the National Medal of Arts. Mr. Bradbury is survived by his daughters, Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergen, Bettina Karapetian and Alexandra Bradbury, and eight grandchildren.

Though the sedentary writing life appealed to him most, he was not reclusive. He developed a flair for public speaking and was widely sought after on the national lecture circuit. There he talked about his struggle to reconcile his mixed feelings about modern life, a theme that animated much of his fiction and won him a large and sympathetic audience.

And he talked about the future, perhaps his favorite subject, describing how it both attracted and repelled him, leaving him filled with apprehension and hope.


“We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land.”

Israeli theater must be removed from London festival, top U.K. cultural figures say

In open letter published in the Guardian, leading directors cite what they say is Habima’s ‘shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements.’*

In an open letter published over the weekend, dozens of prominent members of the U.K.’s theater and film industries protested the inclusion of Israel’s national theater, Habima, in an upcoming Shakespeare festival, over what the signatories say was the theater’s “shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements.”

The letter, which was published late last week in the British newspaper the Guardian, was signed by such leading cultural figures as film director Mike Leigh, actress Emma Thompson and actor-director Richard Wilson.

In it, the signatories write of their “dismay and regret” over Habima’s planned run of The Merchant of Venice at the Globe to Globe festival, due to take place this May, citing the national theater’s willingness to play at settlement cultural halls despite a boycott by several Israeli actors and playwrites.

“Last year, two large Israeli settlements established ‘halls of culture’ and asked Israeli theatre groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared they would not take part,” the letter said, adding: “Habima, however, accepted the invitation with alacrity, and promised the Israeli minister of culture that it would ‘deal with any problems hindering such performances.'”

By inviting Habima, the letter added, “Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.”

The letter added that it supported the festival’s wish to include Hebrew-language plays in the upcoming event, adding, however, that “by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company.”

“We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land,” it added.

In response to the missive, Habima’s artistic director Ilan Ronen said, “The attempt to portray Habima as a mouthpiece of this or that policy wrongs the creators, the actors, and anyone who is a part of our endeavor.”

“Performing in all of Israel is not the initiative of Habima, as the letter presents, by is a result of state law, to which all public cultural institutes are subject.”

This story is by: Ido Balas


Graffiti by night…..
As the photos show, the art includes the map of Palestine with the Arabic prounoun أنا (“I” or “me”) and an image of a woman wearing a kaffiyeh with the word “revolt.” This image is a reminder of the central role women have played in Palestinian popular struggle. The artists plan to undertake similar actions in coming days and weeks.

Photos: Palestinian graffiti artists penetrate heavily fortified heart of West Jerusalem

Submitted by Ali Abunimah 

Palestinian artists penetrated the heavily fortified heart of West Jerusalem overnight and painted graffiti bearing political messages on walls, doors, construction sites and other surfaces.

The artists struck in two areas, the West Jerusalem city center (near Jaffa Road and King George Street) and the German Colony/Talbiyye area.

The city center is today full of bars and restaurants frequented by Israeli Jews and tourists. Talbiyye was a once prosperous Arab neighborhood. These areas and large swathes of West Jerusalem were ethnically cleansed of their Palestinian populations in 1948 and are now almost exclusively Jewish.

As the photos show, the art includes the map of Palestine with the Arabic prounoun أنا (“I” or “me”) and an image of a woman wearing a kaffiyeh with the word “revolt.” This image is a reminder of the central role women have played in Palestinian popular struggle. The artists plan to undertake similar actions in coming days and weeks.




As Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving feast  today, one of the things they can be thankful for is the fact that their country has one of the richest People’s Cultures in the entire world.  Just one example of this is Arlo Guthrie…. As you prepare for this wonderful day, enjoy the following.  Be thankful you are in the 99%.

If you get the urge to sing along….. here are the lyrics….
This song is called Alice’s Restaurant, and it’s about Alice, and the
restaurant, but Alice’s Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song, and that’s why I called the song Alice’s
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on – two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn’t live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin’ in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin’ all that room,
seein’ as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn’t
have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it’d be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.



The attack comes just a few months after unidentified gunmen, apparently Palestinians, shot dead Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Palestinian-Jewish actor who ran the theater.

Mer-Khamis’ mother founded the camp in the 1980s in order to support children in the refugee camp. Mer-Khamis documented the theater and its destruction by the Israeli military, during the first intifada, in his film Arna’s Children.


Jenin Freedom Theater raided

By Jared Malsin


Israeli special forces raided the Freedom Theater early on Wednesday morning, according to workers at the  cultural institution in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank and the Israeli army.

The theater said the following in a press release:

Special Forces of the Israeli Army attacked The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee
Camp at approximately 03:30 this morning. Ahmed Nasser Matahen, a night
guard and technician student at the theatre, woke up by heavy blocks of stone
being hurled at the entrance of the theatre. As he opened the door he found
masked and heavily armed Israeli Special Forces around the theatre.

Ahmed says that the army threw heavy blocks of stone at the theatre, “they told
me to open the door to the theatre. They told me to raise my hands and forced me
to take my pants down. I thought my time had come, that they would kill me. My
brother that was with me was handcuffed.”

The location manager of The Freedom Theatre, Adnan Naghnaghiye, was arrested
and taken away to an uknown location together with Bilal Saadi, a member of
the board of the Freedom Theatre. When the general manager of the theatre,
Jacob Gough from the UK, and the co-founder of the threatre, Jonatan Stanczak from
Sweden, arrived to the scene, they were forced to squat next to a family with four
small children surrounded by about 50 heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

Jonatan says: “Whenever we tried to tell them that they are attacking a cultural
venue and arresting members of the theatre, we were told to supt and they
threatened to kick us. I tried to contact the civil administration of the army to
clarify the matter but the person in charge hung up on me.”

The Israeli military confirmed the raid, according to Ma’an News Agency.

The attack comes just a few months after unidentified gunmen, apparently Palestinians, shot dead Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Palestinian-Jewish actor who ran the theater.

Mer-Khamis’ mother founded the camp in the 1980s in order to support children in the refugee camp. Mer-Khamis documented the theater and its destruction by the Israeli military, during the first intifada, in his film Arna’s Children.




Teaching children in the Theater he founded…..

By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Humanity mourns.  We are shocked.  Juliano Mer-Khamis, a friend and fellow peace activist, was murdered in Jenin.  The masked killer/s whoever they were were cowards whose madness will not deter those of us who continue to work for justice and peace for all. If they thought they could kill coexistence and love in the holy land by killing a symbol and a great activist, they are mistaken.   Juliano symbolizes what many of us have worked for: a  transformation of our homeland into a pluralistic democratic state where every human being regardless of his religion (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) would be treated with dignity and respect.  Fundamentalist notions of superiority were at odds with this message. His killers will not get their way and justice will prevail.  But Juliano’s loss is a shock to all of us. 

Juliano was a superb human being who embodied the best qualities of activism and dedicated leadership for human rights, justice and peace.  He was my age and I first met him a few years ago when we brought him for the Connecticut screening of the film Arna’s children, the story of his mother and the Children of Jenin Refugee camp.   On numerous occasions over the past few years I visited Jenin Freedom Theater that Juliano cofounded and that injected so much beauty and hope into the lives of the people at Jenin Refugee Camp. See


Juliano took the characters of compassion and caring of his Israeli Jewish mother (she herself worked to challenge Zionist supremacy and fundamentalist idiocies for decades) and gentile love of land and people and pacifist characters of his Palestinian father.  He exemplified everything that I and millions of others aspired to: coexistence, tolerance, nonviolence, peace, love, passion for life, richness in diversity and so much more.  He had a two year old child and his wife as I knew was pregnant or may have just delivered their second child.  His absence will be felt but I for one will work to ensure that his work continues and accelerates.  The best answer to violence is to intensify our work and build on the vision thus never allowing these forces of hate to destroy the future.  As to who killed Juliano: all humans are guilty.. our inability to rise as a species beyond violence is largely due to our apathy and indifference to the suffering of fellow human beings.  It is telling that many political leaders (from Hamas, Fatah, Israeli leaders) remain silent on the murder of Juliano when they so readily spoke at other convenient political junctures.  Those who are apathetic are just as guilty as those fundamentalist racists who ordered this killing or pulled the trigger to shoot fellow human beings.  I for one will have a lot of pain in my heart for Juliano, for Bassem, for Jawaher, for Rachel and all the other friends we lost along the way.  We must make sure that their murders do not go in vain and the best thing we can do is increase our efforts to continue the path and bring others to this path.  Killers must know that 10 will rise in place for every peace activist they kill.  Those of us active in the same cause of coexistence and peace must intensify our work. 


Gideon Levy remembers Juliano Mer-Khamis: An Arab, a Jew, a human being

Juliano Mer-Khamis was one of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them.

By Gideon Levy

A little over a month ago, Juliano Mer-Khamis stood on the stage of his Freedom Theater at the edge of the Jenin refugee camp.

Directing his remarks at the young, noisy group of children making its first-ever visit to a theater, he said: “This is a dangerous show, with subversive messages. Whoever talks will be thrown out of the hall.”

A hush came over the audience. For the next 75 minutes, I watched one of the loveliest, most stylish, political plays I had ever seen.

None of the children interrupted the show, with the exception of one infant who burst into tears at the sight of the servant hanging on a rope.

The Freedom Theater presents “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll. Directed by Juliano Mer-Khamis, with Udi Aloni as playwright.

I first saw Mer-Khamis in another time and another place. It was in the late 1980s, when he stood for a number of days in the front yard of the Israel Fringe Theater festival in Acre, his naked body dipped with oil as part of a one-man show that knew no end. Years later I caught “Arna’s Children,” a brilliant film which he co-directed with his dying mother, Arna Mer, the founder of the theatre in Jenin and the daughter of the doctor who cured malaria in Rosh Pina. It is arguably the most moving film ever created about the Israeli occupation.

Since then, I have met him on numerous occasions, always in the camp. This tall, strapping, handsome man who oozed charisma, a Jew and an Arab on account of his parents – perhaps a Jew in the eyes of the Arabs and an Arab in the eyes of the Jews – decided to devote his life to Jenin, where he lived as an Israeli and as a human being. One of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them.

The seven bullets extinguished the light of courage that he radiated. “Jule was murdered,” a trembling voice belonging to a refugee camp resident on the other end of the phone told me. My voice also trembled.


The Jenin Freedom Theater Today…..

“Arna’s Children,” a brilliant film which he co-directed with his dying mother, Arna Mer, the founder of the theatre in Jenin and the daughter of the doctor who cured malaria in Rosh Pina. It is arguably the most moving film ever created about the Israeli occupation.


Had Ian McEwan heeded those that urged him not to attend the opening of Jerusalem’s International Book Fair, and refused to accept the prize, his statement would have been much louder and more meaningful than the words he uttered.

Ian McEwan accepting the Jerusalem Prize in the capital on Feb. 20, 2011.

Photo by: Tomer Appelbaum

Accepting Jerusalem Prize, McEwan slams Israeli policies

At opening of International Book Fair, British author criticizes ‘confiscation, land purchases and expulsion.’

British novelist Ian McEwan, this year’s recipient of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize, used the opening of the the 25th Jerusalem International Book Fair last night to sharply criticize Israel’s policies of “confiscation, land purchases, and expulsion in East Jerusalem,” and a national policy that grants a “right of return to Jews but not to Arabs.”

Speaking at the capital’s Binyanei Ha’uma convention center, and in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Culture Minister Limor Livnat and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, McEwan delivered an acceptance speech that was greeted with polite but tense silence.

At the same time, the 62-year-old McEwan, whose 11 novels include “Atonement” and “Amsterdam,” said he felt “somewhat overwhelmed” to have been judged worthy of the Jerusalem Prize, which is awarded every two years to a writer whose work deals with the “freedom of the individual in society” – as long as he or she agrees to travel to Israel to pick it up.

“I couldn’t escape the politics of my decision,” said McEwan, referring to the pressure brought to bear on him since the prize was announced a month ago, to bow to the international boycott campaign against Israel. He added that he had come in order “to learn and to engage.” McEwan noted his amazement at how “the matzav” – using the Hebrew word for “the situation” – seems to be “always pressing in” here, declaring that “when politics enters every last corner of existence, something has gone profoundly wrong.”

The fair, which has taken place every two years since 1963, offers a forum for publishers and writers both from around the world and Israel. This year, some 600 publishers from 30 countries are represented in Jerusalem, including, for the first time, a delegation from Angola, it was announced at the opening ceremony.

The fair will be open to the public starting today and continues through Friday morning; admission is free. Aside from the hundreds of stands belonging to publishers and retailers that fill the convention center – which visitors can stroll past and get lost among – there will also be a number of special events featuring guests, including a variety of conversations between Israeli and foreign writers at the Literary Cafe (McEwan, for example, will be talking with Israeli novelist Meir Shalev this evening at 8 P.M. ). There will also be a program for visiting editors from 16 different countries, including China and South Korea.

Peres, Livnat and Barkat also addressed the invited audience at the opening ceremony, with the mayor acknowledging that Jerusalem “has conflict, big-time.” He boasted of the city’s “pluralism” and “openness,” and of his conviction that the “renaissance of arts” taking place in the capital is acting to “mediate tensions.”

Minister Livnat announced the establishment of a new NIS 500,000 fund to finance the translation of 10 or more works of Hebrew literature each year into English and other languages. She also expressed support for a proposed law that aims to guarantee the ability of “writers, artists and publishers to live in dignity,” by limiting the extent to which new titles can be discounted during the first years after their publication.



The last thing the BDS Movement needs is fence sitters, or in the case of Israel/Palestine, Wall sitters.

Where there is a Movement, either you support its aims and purposes or you don’t. Two cases in point of those who don’t are discussed here….

Pete Seeger…. Lifelong humanitarian and friend of Palestine…. BUT a few months ago he was invited and took part in a virtual concert organised by various zionist groups. He was asked not to participate by close friends of his, fellow activists for the most part, but his response in the end was “dialogue and non-violent actions are the only way to solve conflicts”.

As is stated in the linked post about Seeger, my personal feelings for the man prohibit me from condemning him, but I do condemn this particular decision of his. When there is a Movement that one claims to support, one respects the decisions of that Movement, one does not go off on a tangent and act independently on the issues. Either you’re with us or you’re not! In this particular case, Seeger was not!

Second case is British novelist Ian McEwan. He is presently in Israel to receive the main prize at the Jerusalem International Book Fair. McEwan, as well, was urged by Israeli activists to turn down the prize and refuse to come to Israel at this time. The logic he used to attend is summed up in this sentence… “If you didn’t go to countries whose foreign policy or domestic policy is screwed up, you’d never get out of bed.” That was taken from a Reuter’s report found HERE.

On Friday, in a ‘show of solidarity’ with the Palestinian Cause, McEwan took part in the weekly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah. Fellow Blogger Noam Sheizaf  posted the following on his Blog Promised Land….

Novelist Ian McEwan plays for both teams in East Jerusalem

The British author visited the Sheikh Jarrah protest – but also intends to receive the Jerusalem Prize for Literature from the patron of the city’s settlers, mayor Nir Barkat

Authors Ian McEwan and David Grossman at the Sheikh Jarrah protest (photo: Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah)Authors Ian McEwan and David Grossman at the Sheikh Jarrah protest (photo: Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah) 

The celebrated British author Ian McEwan joined today the weekly protest in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families have been evacuated from their homes to make room for Jewish settlers.

Ironically, McEwan arrived to Israel to receive the Jerusalem Prize for Literature from the hands of the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat. Mayor Barkat is one of the driving forces behind recent attempts to expand Jewish settlements and housing projects into Palestinian East Jerusalem. Currently, he even refuses to carry out an Israeli court order demanding the immediate evacuation of a house in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, illegally built by rightwing settlers. Many grassroots activists blame Barkat for the rising tension between Jews and Arabs in the city.

Before flying to Israel, McEwan rejected calls from a group called British Writers in Support of Palestine to turn down the Jerusalem Prize. In his replay he wrote:

“There are ways in which art can have a longer reach than politics […] Your ‘line’ is not the only one. Courtesy obliges you to respect my decision, as I would yours to stay away.”

The protest in Sheikh Jarrah started a year and a half ago, following the evacuation of two Palestinian families from their homes. Since then, more eviction orders have been issued, and construction began for a new housing project for Jews at the site of the old Shepherds Hotel, also in Sheikh Jarrah. Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah, which leads the protest in the neighborhood, has recently organized demonstrations in other parts of the city where Palestinians are threatened by eviction orders and by new municipal plans, among them in Silwan.

As is stated in the title of this post, either you’re with us or you’re not! YOU CAN’T PLAY FOR BOTH TEAMS!

Now more than ever before, with the United States coming out officially against the settlement freeze, your support for the BDS Movement is needed 100%…. not 50%!


Recently held was the Palestine Festival of Literature. One of the participants traveled from New York to the West Bank Occupied City of Nablus.

The works of Remi Kanazi are known to all active in the Palestinian cause. Despite living in America, he is Palestinian, just waiting for the RIGHT TO RETURN. As a Palestinian, Gaza is foremost on his mind at this time. Presented here is a video of a poem he presented at the Festival….

A Poem For Gaza

A short bio: Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and the editor of Poets For Palestine. His new collection of poetry & CD Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine is due out in late January. For more information, visit www.PoeticInjustice.net.


You can Tweet Remi @
twitter: @remroum



Gaza: A Child’s Point of View


Video features Palestinian children’s drawings depicting their fears of the Palestinian Israeli conflicts. 

The total collection of artwork by the Palestinian children is available for a gallery or museum show. We would be delighted to discuss the possibilities for a venue to exhibit these incredible artworks.



To arrange an exhibit of the works shown, Contact: achildsview1@gmail.com

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