A View From Gaza: PalFest Gaza 2012 Shut Down

A four-day long chain of events took place in Gaza as a part of PalFest 2012 which has started May 6 to 9. Multinational writers, bloggers, activists, and musicians came to Gaza through Rafah in a way to break the Israeli imposed siege on Gaza Strip for nearly 6 years now.

PalFest organizers had difficulties organizing with the ministries of culture, tourism, and of internal affairs, to make sure everything is legal and with authorization to avoid any issues at all.

The events kicked-off by holding two workshops at both Al-Azhar and the Islamic University of Gaza on writing and blogging in both Arabic and English. PalFest 2012 authors were astonished by the fact that many students attended the workshops. They were more astonished by the fact that most of the attendees were females.

The workshops were followed by a 3-hour session that included speeches, presentations and readings by PalFest authors who later dedicated their time for the audience to ask questions.

The second day of PalFest 2012 witnessed the highest number of attendees as a concert was held in Rashad Al-Shawa. The hall hosted over 900 people who had attended the concert and were impatiently anticipating the Egyptian band, Eskenderella to perform.

Eskenderella’s performance was excellent and the audience was very interactive with the band and they sang along with them, chanted against the regime, and applauded very loud occasionally. The band performed a great collection of songs for the revolution, the martyrs, hunger strikers, anti-regime.

The day closed up with a 4-hour gathering for Palestinian tweeps and bloggers to discuss and talk about the techniques and methodologies activists had followed during the Egyptian revolution and giving them a real-life perspective on life and what is it like in Egypt now as well as explaining things that were unclear or misunderstood for those in Gaza. Unfortunately, the gathering ended up with almost everyone debating, defending, and attacking everybody. Many people had left the gathering for it had become about nothing but politics which wasn’t the desired topic.

On May 8, the third day of PalFest in Gaza, included two workshops in both Rachel Corrie Centre in Rafah and in Assria Centre in Jabaliya similar to the workshops held in the Gaza City-based universities on May 6.

In the last day of PalFest, a session was held in Qasr Al-Basha in the old part of Gaza City. The session included a goodbye performance by Eskenderella as well as speeches, presentations and readings by PalFest authors. The event drifted into politics and suddenly, the electricity was cut. Everybody thought it was the electricity schedule under which, Gaza has been living for years now so they continued the event.

Five minutes later, a suspicious movement was noticed by the hall’s entrance then suddenly, the police storms the hall, confiscated a woman’s camera as she was filming the event and called the event off claiming that there’s no official permit

Meanwhile, the police evacuated everyone as arguments raised between Palfest organizers and the police when the latter physically assault the Egyptian singer Hazem Shahin. Egyptian writer and researcher Amr Ezzat, went to the police asking for the reason the even has been called off. The police told him that his speech is the reason when he said that freedom can’t suppressed under resistance justification.

It’s also been reported that the police was tracking both Amr Ezzat, and Alaa Abdel Fattah on Twitter especially when Ezzat tweeted on Hamas interference in everything saying: ‘They just need enter the toilet with us’

The event conituned at Al-Quds International Hotel in a simpler way. Tareq Hamdan, and Amin Haddad, the Palestinian and Egyptian poets recited some of their poems followed by Shahin playing parts of his songs.

Three hours later, the Chief of Police, his deputy and a colonel in the Interior Ministry visited the hotel. They officially apologized, stating it was an “individual error” and that they have opened an investigation into what happened. They stated that PalFest would always be welcome in Gaza.

A number of Palestinian tweeps tweeted that evening on how what happened isn’t the first and that the police always does it while others apologized to PalFest authors for what happened.

This is PalFest’s official comment on the incident:

The 5th Palestine Festival of Literature (2012), taking place in Gaza for the first time, was shut down by the police on Wednesday evening. Three hours later, the Chief of Police visited the participants to officially apologize, stating it was an “individual error”

The closing event, in Dar al Basha, a historical house in Gaza City, was ordered to close down by police forces. Though the festival organisers had co-ordinated extensively with the Ministry of Culture the police cited “lack of a license” as the reason.

The participants and audience members all left the venue together, and boarded the festival bus and returned to the hotel, where the event was continued in the café.

Three hours later, the Chief of Police, his deputy and a colonel in the Interior Ministry visited the hotel. They officially apologized, stating that they have opened an investigation into what happened, that all the festival volunteers would be safe, and that personal effects that had been left behind in the confusion would be found and returned. They stated that PalFest would always be welcome in Gaza.

As planned, the festival will leave Gaza tomorrow in preparation for its closing event in Cairo on May 11th

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About Nader Elkhuzundar

Nader Elkhuzundar is a commentator on Palestinian affairs and Co-founder of Beyond Compromise (www.beyondcompromise.com). Elkhuzundar occasionally freelances for The Guardian, International Business Times, and others. He's a social media enthusiast and tech savvy with particular interest in new technologies and analytics, and enjoys reading over Arabic coffee and dark chocolate.
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5 Responses to A View From Gaza: PalFest Gaza 2012 Shut Down

  1. Ola Anan says:

    Excellent report ya Nader, I’m quoting parts of it for an article i’m working on for Global Voices, if you don’t mind.

    There is just one tiny mistake in Alaa ‘Abdel Fattah’ instead of ‘Abdel Rahman’.

    • Nader K. says:

      Thanks Ola. I know I had a typo but was too lazy to look for it. Thanks for that. And sure I don’t mind you quoting any part of my article as long as the source is mentioned.

      Looking forward to reading it.

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