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Video/Story: Israel tries to shut down Palestinian literary festival, but the word about occupation still gets out

Israel tries to shut down Palestinian literary festival, but the word about occupation still gets out

The Palestine Festival of Literature is currently taking place in the occupied territories. The Festival received some unexpected attention when the Israeli occupation forces attempted to shut it down on its opening night. Writing in the Guardian, Rory McCarthy reported, "Police brought a letter from the Israeli minister of internal security which said the event could not be held because it was a political activity connected to the Palestinian Authority." The situation was summed up well in the title of a post on the subject over at jews sans frontieres - "Power of Culture v Culture of Power." Check out this video from Festival organizers of that first day:

One of the participants in the Festival is Michael Palin. Yes, that Michael Palin from Monty Python. You might not know that Palin is a world traveler, and has made television shows and movies on the subject. Although he has been to over 90 countries, he had never been to Israel/Palestine or the Middle East (this was probably the closest he ever got). Some of the authors are blogging from the Festival and I thought this entry from Palin was especially interesting being a first time visitor to the region and someone I didn't associate with the issue:

When I left London I had a very clear idea of where or what Palestine consisted of. This trip has made me understand that though Palestine may not exist as a country on a map, it is a reality in the minds of 5 million people.

Highlights of my journey have been walking with Raja Shehadeh in the hills around Ramallah, and learning much from him of the old land of Palestine, most of which disappeared in 1948, when the state of Israel was created. From Raja I learned some of the history, of the old villages of Palestine which were destroyed after the war in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs were forced from their homes, to become refugees. I also something of the beauty of these stony olive-grove-covered hilles which I wouldn’t have appreciated without Raja.

Last night in Ramallah I witnessed some of the finest, most powerful poetry I’ve ever heard. Suheir Hammad had both herself and the audience electrified by the passion of her work and the marvellous rhythmic delivery. She eloquently and beautifully captured the sense of loss that she feels when she talks of Palestine.

This is a literary festival as well as a hourney, and the quality of the participants – from Jeremy Harding to Henning Mankell and from Deborah Moggach to Claire Messud and Carmen Callil and all of those that have taken part has made me quite poignantly aware of what the occupation means to people and of their determination to speak up for the writers and musicians who feel that the occupation has taken their voice away.

It’s been an eye-opening experience for me, and I feel proud of my fellow writers and travellers who have shared it with me. And proud too, of the Palestinians we’ve met, who care so much and work so hard to keep Palestine alive.

By popular demand from the comments section, here is a video of the Suheir Hammad's performance that Palin references:

PALFEST 2009: Suheir Hammad Performs in Ramallah
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