Palfest closed by armed Israeli policemen BY BRENDA HEARD

26 May 2009 – Palestine Think Tank


British author Michael Palin at the Second Annual Palestine Festival of Literature

When Right Succumbs to Might

“The only democracy in the Middle East.” It has become a cliché amongst supporters of Israel, a phrase as common with parliamentarians as it is with propagandists. These supporters excuse themselves from turning a blind eye to Israeli violations of international law by claiming that they are not taking sides, but that they are defending the very principles of democracy. They are ostensibly defending one of the basic tenets of democracy—the freedom of a people to think and speak for themselves.

It boggles the mind, then, how one can explain away the recent actions of the so-called Israeli democracy. On 23 May 2009, in a public display of ridicule, a dozen armed Israeli policemen entered the Palestinian National Theatre in East Jerusalem and ordered the closure of the Second Annual Palestine Festival of Literature.

Although a full programme had been publicly announced on 16 April 2009, the Israeli Ministry of Internal Security waited until moments before the Festival opening to dictate that the “event could not be held because it was a political activity connected to the Palestinian Authority.” Participants were ordered to leave and Israeli police were posted on the street outside.

The Palestine Festival of Literature, or “Palfest,” is an academic, literary event. It aims to bring writers and artists from around the world to Palestinian audiences. Part of a UK registered charity, Palfest is supported by UNESCO and the British Council, among others. Palfest is the essence of transparency: its website offers minute detail of its organisational makeup. A full list of literary participants can be found here. A full festival programme can be found here. Still photos here. There is nothing devious afoot here, nothing to be construed as a threat to “Israeli internal security.”

Yet Palfest was forcefully and publicly snubbed. Not to be undone, the Festival was by chance able to re-group at the nearby French Cultural Centre. But not before the forces of Israeli “democracy” made their point. As one participant described:

“The sight of the expelled participants and audience as we filed down East Jerusalem’s main street, some people carrying dishes of canapes, to the new and hastily organised venue at the French Cultural Institute might have seemed merely odd or amusing. In fact, it was a vivid reminder of Israel’s fear of anything which might suggest that Palestinians are as cultured, civilised and deserving of respect as their Israeli neighbours.”

This sort of action mocks the very foundations of democracy. Yet we encounter such noble statements as the pledge of loyalty given by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 21 July 2008. He stated that Britain was a true friend to Israel, one “who shares an unbreakable partnership based on shared values of liberty, democracy and justice.” Many British citizens would beg to differ. Watch the video below and ask yourself if the attitudes expressed are values you would share, values you would condemn the lives and liberties of the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples to uphold. (police enter the festival at approximately two minutes into the video.)

source: Friends of Lebanon

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