Since the war between Israel and Hamas, events about Palestinian culture have been canceled | ET REALITY


Nathan Thrall had planned to visit several cities this fall promoting his new book, “A Day in the Life of Abed Salama,” a look at the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. But after Hamas launched its deadly attacks on Israeli civilians, days after the book’s publication this month, readings in London, New York, Los Angeles and Washington were postponed or cancelled.

They are among a growing number of events highlighting Palestinian culture, society and politics that have been canceled or suspended since the war began. A concert by young Palestinian musicians was postponed indefinitely in London. The Boston Palestinian Film Festival decided not to hold live screenings and went online. And in one of the most high-profile cancellations, a German literary organization canceled an awards ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair. in honor of the Palestinian novelist Adania Shibli.

Some organizers said they would cancel Palestinian-themed events for security reasons. Others cited sensitivity, calling the cancellations and postponements understandable, if unfortunate, responses at a time when emotions are running high: The Hamas attack killed at least 1,400 Israelis in what President Biden called “the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust,” and since then Israeli attacks have killed more than 4,100 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

But some fear the net effect is to silence events and voices that could have promoted greater understanding at a key moment in the region’s history.

“It’s obviously a very sensitive issue,” said Aaron Terr, director of public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free speech watchdog. “That’s exactly when freedom of speech is so valuable. We should want to maximize expression on such a sensitive and controversial topic. “We should try to resolve our differences through dialogue and criticism.”

Southwark Cathedral in London cited security concerns when canceled an October 11 concert to celebrate PalMusic UK’s 10th anniversary, a London-based charity that supports young Palestinian musicians. The event was to feature three young Palestinians playing the piano, the oud and the ney, a wind instrument.

“We were clearly disappointed that there was not an opportunity to have a concert that celebrated peace and was a ray of light for musicians in Palestine,” Sal Sherratt, director of PalMusic, said in an interview. “However, we fully respect that security is paramount and, frankly, it was just days after the outbreak of war, with considerable tensions in London.”

A Hilton hotel in Houston canceled the American Campaign for Palestinian Rights’ annual conference scheduled for later this month, citing “growing security concerns in the current environment.” Ahmad Abuznaid, the group’s executive director, said the group had also noticed a concerted effort online to block the event: “We saw on social media people posting racist rhetoric in their calls to the Hilton to cancel.”

Terr, of the free speech group, warned that postponements and cancellations could have a chilling effect, even when done out of concern for safety.

“It allows for a heckler’s veto,” he said, “where people can turn off speakers simply by threatening to create a disturbance.”

When the Boston Palestinian Film Festival canceled its live screenings this month, it said in a statement that it “strives to create a space for our community to come together and that space is needed today more than ever.”

“However,” he continued, “we are committed to focusing on the safety of our audiences and being sensitive to all members of our community who have been affected.”

In Germany, the decision to cancel the Shibli awards ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair sparked controversy. She won the prize for her novel “Minor Detail,” which begins in 1949 and includes an account of the gang rape and murder of a Bedouin girl by an Israeli army unit. The cancellation of the ceremony was denounced in a open letter signed by hundreds of writers and editors – including Nobel laureates Annie Ernaux, Abdulrazak Gurnah and Olga Tokarczuk – which said that the book fair had the responsibility of “creating spaces for Palestinian writers to share their thoughts, feelings and reflections on the literature through these terrible, cruel times, don’t close them.”

Thrall, the writer whose readings were postponed, travels from Jerusalem, where he resides, to several other cities to discuss his new book. He planned several events with the main subject of his book, Abed Salama, a Palestinian who went in search of his five-year-old son, who suffered a bus accident, while navigating the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as a Palestinian. .

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