Archives for posts with tag: Brand Israel

In an interview conducted in Jerusalem with the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare for Agence France-Presse, it was proposed to the recipient of Israel’s ‘Freedom of the Individual in Society’ 2015 award that, ‘Here in Jerusalem, the Palestinians could object that their freedom is restricted,’ to which he responded:

I haven’t asked myself the question. I am a writer. I create literature. I come from one of the rare countries in the world that helped the Jews during the war […]. The [Albanian] population has always defended the Jews, under the monarchy, under communism, after communism. That is why I have not thought about that other problem here (that of the Palestinians).

Kadare clearly feels his self-image is not enhanced by any reflections on the suffering of Palestinians, as it is when linking his national identity with the salvation of European Jews. Never has the historical murder of millions been so beneficial to an artist’s brand. In such a context, a contemporary injustice is merely inconvenient:

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The winner of the Jerusalem Prize for 2015 has been announced: 79-year old Albanian author, Ismail Kadare.

If he chooses to accept the accolade, Kadare will be awarded the prize by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, in an invitation-only ceremony on Sunday 8 February which will mark the opening of the Jerusalem International Book Fair. In 2011, author Ian McEwan was the subject of a campaign led by British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP) that took the form of an exchange in the letters page of the Guardian. BWISP expressed ‘profound disagreement with his decision to accept the Jerusalem prize,’ reminding McEwan that ‘the Jerusalem Municipality, which awards the Prize, openly pursues apartheid urban planning policies.’ As British-Palestinian filmmaker, Omar Al-Qattan wrote in response to McEwan’s widely lauded acceptance speech, ‘He refers to the Jerusalem prize, which he accepted despite the pleas of his admirers and colleagues, as a “tribute to a precious tradition of democracy of ideas in Israel”, giving the example of a novella about the destruction of a Palestinian village that was required reading in Israeli schools. He fails to mention, however, that while this precious tradition was maintained, so were the expulsions, military rule, house demolitions, confiscation of land and homes, bombing of refugee camps and so on…. McEwan should at least have had the decency to compare the astonishing achievements of Palestinian artists who have moved the world with their work, with a fraction of the support available to their Israeli counterparts.’

Four years on, Israeli human rights defender Ilana Hammerman has written a piece in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz (29 January 2015), entitled ‘Freedom of the Individual in the Shuafat Refuse Heaps,’ which has been translated into English by Richard Flantz. (h/t Sol Salbe)

FREEDOM OF THE INDIVIDUAL AT THE SHUAFAT REFUSE HEAPS

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[Please see our follow-up post for an update: participants at the meeting organised by Habima include a former director of Mossad, former head of the security section in Shin Bet, and former Director of the Counter Terrorism Bureau of the Israeli PM’s office.] 

The purpose of the open letter is to protest the participation of European theatres in a Brand Israel exercise led by Israel’s national theatre, Habima. The ‘Terror Special conference’ is part of ‘TERRORisms’, a two-year project by the Union of Theatres of Europe, under the leadership of its current president, Habima’s Artistic Director Ilan Ronen.

As Habima has boasted, ‘Membership in the UTE is honor and privilege for Israel’s National Theater, the only member not on the European continent, tying Israeli theater to the center of artistic Europe.’ One look at the current homepage of the U.T.E. website tells one a lot about the disproportionate role that Habima – and Israel – play in its 2014 programme.

* The following theatre companies are listed as participating in the ‘TERRORisms’ project:
Staatsschauspiel Stuttgart, Germany 
National Theatre of Oslo, Norway 
Jugoslovensko Dramsko Pozoriste, Belgrade, Serbia 
Habima – National Theatre of Tel Aviv, Israel 
Young Vic Theatre London, England [an associate member of the project, not attending the Tel Aviv meeting] 
Shiber Hur Company, Palestine [withdrawn] 
Comédie de Reims, France

Letter in French here

Dear members* of the Union of Theatres of Europe:

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