Sunday, 3 May 2015

Israel Festival hit hard by boycott in wake of Gaza assault, director admits

Israel’s flagship annual cultural festival has been forced to curtail its 2015 schedule because last summer’s assault on Gaza and the growing impact of Palestinian calls for cultural boycott are making it harder to attract international artists.

The Israel Festival’s new director Eyal Sher “does not hide the problems that constrained its production,” the Hebrew-language Israeli publication Mako reports.

“This year’s festival was produced with a shortened schedule against the background of Operation Protective Edge,” Sher says, “and had to face, like many cultural and academic bodies in the country, BDS [boycott divestment and sanctions].”

Operation Protective Edge is the name Israel gave its 51-day ground and air assault on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 547 children, and left much of the tightly besieged territory devastated.

Sher said the festival had to “hold political hasbara dialogues with some of the artists who were invited to this year’s festival and the next one.”

Hasbara – the Hebrew word meaning “explanation” – is the term used for propaganda aimed at improving Israel’s international image and counteracting Palestinian demands for full political and human rights.

He also said the festival – which runs for several weeks starting in late May – faced budget difficulties. But despite the obstacles, some international artists are scheduled to take part, including New York’s Trisha Brown Dance Company, German performance collective She She Pop and French theater group Si Vous Pouviez Lecher Mon Coeur.

Performers from Italy, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Bulgaria and China are also listed in the official program, but none appear to be high-profile international artists. more

Soldiers attack march marking World Press Freedom Day, injure 2 journalists

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has reported Saturday, that Israeli soldiers used excessive force against journalists marking World Press Freedom Day in Bethlehem, injuring the Syndicate’s head, and a member of its general assembly.

The journalists were marching ahead of the World Press Freedom day, celebrated every year on May 3, demanding an end to all violations, and crimes, against the media and journalists, and against the Palestinian people.

The two wounded journalists have been identified as Abdul-Nasser Najjar, the head of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, and its general assembly member Mohammad Lahham. The two were injured in their legs by Israeli concussion grenades.

The syndicate said the soldiers used excessive force against the journalists as they marched towards the northern entrance of Bethlehem, close to military roadblock more

Al-Qassam fighter killed in tunnel collapse

Hamas' military wing Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades said that one of their fighters died in a tunnel collapse on Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip.

In a statement the Brigades identified the fighter as Nihad Awad Khleif, 30, from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

A number of fighters in Gaza have been killed by accidents during military training exercises in recent years, and the tunnel networks, which are largely used for smuggling in the coastal enclave's south and for military purposes in the north, are notoriously dangerous.

The Institute for Palestine Studies reported in 2012 that Hamas authorities had counted 160 deaths inside the tunnels since the Israeli blockade began in 2007, and in August 2014, Al-Jazeera reported that figure to be as high as 400. more