BWISP is getting excited! Sept 18-20 is the second Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival, organised by Haringey Justice for Palestine. A free weekend of literature, politics, music and Palestinian food, held at the West Green Learning Centre, the festival features an international cast including Ghada Karmi, Selma Dabbagh, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Ruqayyah Kareem, Brian Whitaker, Dervla Murphy, Sarah Irving, Naomi Foyle and Sarah Schulman. Guests will be exploring a wide range topics including Biography, Fiction, Poetry, Travel, Middle Eastern SF, LGBT in the Occupied Territories, and – you can’t discuss Palestine in the UK without it – the Balfour Declaration. The full programme is below, or here on the HJfP website. Directions here – if you’re in London, hope to see you there!
September 11, 2014
April 22, 2014
January 18, 2013
Writers from Palestine in London: Asma’a Azaizeh & Marwan Makhoul
In association with Banipal, join The Mosaic Rooms for an evening of poetry and discussion with Palestinian poets Asma’a Azaizeh and Marwan Makhoul on:
Thursday January 24th, 7pm
Asma’a Azaizeh won the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s Young Writer Award in 2010 and published her first collection of poetry ‘Liwa’ in 2o11. She has worked as a journalist and presenter for various newspapers and radio stations and is currently presenter of a Palestinian television programme on culture and art, as well as a lecturer in creative writing.
Marwan Makhoul published his first book of poetry Ard al-passiflora al-hazinah (Land of the Sad Passiflora) in 2007 with Al-Jamal Publishers. That same year a second edition of the book was published in Haifa and then a third edition in Cairo in 2012. In 2009 he won the prize of best playwright in the Acre Theatre Festival for his first play.
The event will be introduced by Banipal’s editor Samuel Shimon and chaired by Omar al-Qattan, followed by a Q&A, reception and book signing. Copies of the Banipal 45 issue, Writers from Palestine, will be on sale and available for signing.
November 11, 2012
Saturday November 10th, as part of Redrawing the Maps: A John Berger Free School, BWISP co-ordinator Naomi Foyle and Palestinian human rights worker Saleh Hijazi co-hosted a very special event, Letter(s) to Gaza. The event allowed the audience to converse with Palestinian speakers Ahmed Safi (Gaza and Oxford Brookes University), Ahmad Alaraj (The Freedom Theatre) and Selma Dabbagh (British Palestinian novelist), then write their own letters to the besieged population of Gaza, to be posted on the Letter(s) to Gaza blog. The letters will be circulated in Gaza via Palestinian students and their families, courtesy of Dr Haidar Eid of Al-Aqsa University, whose 2009 open letter to Barack Obama challenges the American President to end his indifferent lip service to the plight of the Palestinians, and hold Israel to account for the suffering caused by the blockade.
The Letter(s) to Gaza event was a response to John Berger’s video reading of Ghassan Kanafani’s short story ‘Letter from Gaza’, which can also be read here. ‘Letter from Gaza’ is a haunting portrait of the courage of Palestinian children. Written over forty years ago, it is no less relevant today, when as I write reports are coming in of four teenage boys killed in Gaza by IDF shelling of a football playground. Two were killed in the initial assault; two in a second shelling when they ran to help their friends. The mother of one boy gave birth to a new son today, and named him after his murdered brother. On Remembrance Sunday here in the UK, one could read no more searing account of the impossibility of forgetting the dead.
In the context of such brutal repression, hoping to make a difference by writing letters to people one has never met may seem a fey notion. But Ahmed Safi told us that people in Gaza are so isolated any kind of friendly contact from the outside world would be hugely welcomed. He also told us of the spirit of the people is strong, that they smile in the face of relentless IDF attacks, and maintain a vision of freedom from the blockade that has crippled their economy and infrastructure. His own grandfather spoke for sixty years of his home in Jaffa, which he was forced to flee in the Nakba in 1948. This tenacious remembrance, Ahmed realised after his grandfather died, was not despair but a kind of hope: the hope of return. Ahmad Alaraj spoke of how touched he, as a Palestinian forced to live in the West Bank, was to meet Ahmed Safi. He also talked about the Freedom Theatre’s recent Freedom Bus project, a travelling theatre initiative which included a video link to Gaza, to gather stories which actors then performed for audiences in the West Bank. Again, to feel a sense of connection with those imprisoned in Gaza had been a very moving experience for him. Selma Dabbagh spoke of her own love of Kanafani’s stories, and her recent experience judging Gazan blogs, which she admired greatly, but felt did not always convey the lively spirit of their authors, whom she’d met on her visit to Gaza for the 2012 Palestinian Festival of Literature. Perhaps this disconnect between personal and public expression is the result of cultural factors; perhaps it also indicates what the huge responsibility it is for a young person to speak as a member of a suffering population in a public forum, unsure of who is listening. At the event, in a discussion facilitated by BWISP member Jonathan Rosenhead, we discussed the political situation in Gaza – including Saleh Hijazi’s investigation of human rights violations by Hamas, and Ahmed Safi’s work in the international aid industry, which he feels does not address the cause of the crisis, the Occupation; but we also stressed that a letter was a personal document, and that we hoped to encourage an intimate exchange based on mutual interests and curiosity about the other. We wanted to allow people here to ask questions and offer support, and for Gazans to feel free to reply and share something of their daily lives, the routines and dreams that keep them going.
Something wonderful happened in the room itself, as Palestinians who cannot meet in their own homeland were brought together, while the audience overcame some initial shyness and wrote intensely for half-an-hour, resting their papers on copies of the John Berger exhibition catalogue. When we shared the gist of our letters, it appeared we had all found a personal path into our correspondence. One man wrote about Palestinian cinema; a woman wrote a letter to a little boy who had open heart surgery in her London hospital six years ago; another related the émigré history of her own Finnish family to the Palestinian refugee experience of losing one’s home; another man had recently been hit by a car, and discovered that his surgeon was a dedicated member of Medical Aid of Palestine. I wrote about my efforts to get to Gaza in 2009, and recalled my dream of co-editing a collection of poetry from Gaza. As we parted, it felt like not the end of the event, but the beginning of a conversation.
The letter-writers will be sending final copies to the organisers this week, to be posted on the Letters to Gaza blog. If anyone reading this post would also like to contribute a letter, please get in touch with Saleh Hijazi and Naomi Foyle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, Saleh and Naomi would like to thank the organisers of Redrawing the Maps, a week of events, screenings and discussions celebrating the work of John Berger. We would also like to thank John Berger himself, whose long, warm and incisive commitment to Palestine, and bold early advocacy of the cultural boycott of Israel, have laid the foundation for all BWISP’s campaigns and activities.
October 2, 2012
Palestine Now: Writers Respond
With Bidisha, Rachel Shabi, Selma Dabbagh, Miranda Pennell and Naomi Foyle
Date: 9 October 2012 Time: 5:30 – 7:00 PM
Venue: School of Oriental and African Studies. Russell Square: College Buildings
Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre
Type of Event: Lecture
A panel discussion with Bidisha, journalist for the Guardian, the Observer, the FT and the New Statesman, authors Rachel Shabi and Selma Dabbagh, activist and film-maker Miranda Pennell, and Naomi Foyle, British Writers in Support of Palestine. To coincide with the publication of Bidisha’s fourth book, Beyond the Wall: Writing A Path Through Palestine (Seagull/Chicago University Press).
Organiser: London Middle East Institute
Contact email: email@example.com
Contact Tel: 020 7898 4490
December 3, 2011
Thanks to Innovative Minds for recording and posting Remi’s brilliant Brighton gig, along with more pix and poems from his English tour. Click and scroll down to see:
Remi Kanazi in Brighton [90 minute video]
November 16, 2011
Remi Kanazi performed to a capacity crowd at the Friends’ Meeting House in Brighton last night, delivering a host of his signature powerhouse poems, a double whammy of Palestinian and American street cred, and bucketfuls of hope. Organised by the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, this gig was the fourth in Remi’s long-announced UK tour – a dizzying 22 shows in 18 days. He’s acclimatized quickly: ‘Don’t call it my UK tour,’ he begs us, ‘I’m not going to Scotland or Wales – I’ll get in trouble.’ (Don’t forget Northern Ireland, Remi!) The remark gives a small measure of the man: as well as an internationally regarded poet and activist, Remi’s a kidder, a clowner and a master of self-deprecation: an artist both deeply engaged and engaging.
Remi introduces himself as an ex-fat boy, the only brown kid in a small mid-Western school, afflicted with a mono-eyebrow and a mother who was loudly proud of being Palestinian; and while it’s clear his politics stem from being the grandson of four 1948 refugees, and his poetry was honed in post 9-/11 New York, one imagines that his humour developed from playground self-preservation techniques. For his show, though built around the urgent, often angry poems of his new collection Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine, abounds with humour. Like a comedian, he gets up close with the front row, in ways that may make older British people uncomfortable except that Remi’s introduced himself before the show, and is clearly eager to make friends. He needs to cast the audience as interlocutors at times because his very vocal poems — sometimes addressed to real-life opponents he can’t get out of his head — explore and enact a raging cultural dialogue about racism, violence, and the desperate need for change. Packed with a one-two punch of history and determination, these are poems that travel: today’s audience is composed mainly of local activists – though one of the UK’s top hiphop artists rolls in late after getting lost on the way from London — but Remi’s equally at home with crowds of a thousand, all hungry for emotion served like a good steak: not raw, but rare.
For Remi’s anger is seared by his own unique take on the poet-performer’s craft: eschewing obvious rhymes, his poems meld the rhythms of rap poetry and impassioned speech, and are performed with a dancer’s ethos: mind, body and spirit working as one. Remi often places his fist on his heart, and then opens his hand out to the audience – a physical symbol of the way poetry transforms anger into communication. His topics range from family history and events in the Middle East, to the current American political climate (prophetically, Remi was an Obama-sceptic even before his election) and the vital importance of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Here he gives us an artist’s eye view – BDS, he explains in answer to a question, is directed against the Israeli state and its complicit institutions, and doesn’t mean a person can’t perform in a private café or home within the 1948 borders.
But while they impart a ton of information to arm us for the arguments the topic of Palestine inevitably provokes, Remi Kanazi’s poems also gift us memorable imagery:
still fills tear ducts
with longing memories of Yaffa
just because the house you built is beautiful
doesn’t mean the bones you built it on
have fully decomposed
(‘Only as Equals’)
Of Middle Eastern civilians, whose quest for justice goes unseen by the poet’s trendy twenty-something peers, he writes:
… they are human beings
gracing the windowpane
reflecting stillborn images
they are voices
chiming in choirs and temples
they are life
that won’t be forgotten
they are the world’s shiver
and whether you like it or not
they are coming inside
(‘Before the Machetes are Raised’)
At the ripe old age of twenty-seven himself, Remi is already a veteran campaigner, whose poetry has taken him all over North America, Europe and the Middle East, and whose political commentaries have been featured by news outlets including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv and BBC Radio. As a Palestinian writer and performer, remaking poetry for a new generation, he helps gives the struggle for justice an enormous shot of hope. For in the last 100 years the Palestinians have faced two main enemies: Zionism and international indifference. And if the latter is largely based on ignorance of the Palestinian people, culture and communication are the antidotes. In her groundbreaking memoir of post-48 exile, In Search of Fatima, Ghada Karmi recounts meeting Tony Benn early on in her activist life: give me something to work with, he asked – give me something to match Jewish literature, music and suffering in the minds of the general population. Well, the Palestinians have always had culture, especially poetry, but now, in Remi Kanazi, Suheir Hammad and Selma Dabbagh, among others, they have young writers who are bicultural, media savvy and only just flexing their collective muscle. This is a potential game-changer; a cause for immense hope.
Remi Kanazi is today fit, confident, and boasts beautifully threaded brows – a walking advertisement for the benefits of poetry and politics. Though as he asks – what’s political about wanting your basic human rights? Another of his piping hot takeaway lines; lines that, in the end, take you back to his book. Poetic Injustice. Buy it here
October 30, 2011
BWISP is excited! After his storming performance at the Southbank last November, Remi Kanazi hits the UK again, with a three week tour kicking off November 12th in London:
an evening of political performance poetry
with Remi Kanazi & Special Guests
Zita Holbourne, Rafeef Ziadah, Omar Offendum
Sat 12 Nov 2011, 7.15pm// Tabernacle, Powis Square, London W11 2AY
REMI KANAZI Palestinian-American Performance poet, writer, and activist based in New York City, Remi is the editor of Poets For Palestine and the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine. His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world and his poetry has taken him across North America and the Middle East. He recently appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International at London’s Southbank. He is a recurring writer in residence and advisory board member for the Palestine Writing Workshop.
RAFEEF ZIADAH is a Canadian-Palestinian spoken word artist and activist. Her debut CD Hadeel is dedicated to Palestinian youth, who still fly kites in the face of F16 bombers, who still remember the names if their villages in Palestine and still hear the sound of Hadeel (cooing of doves) over Gaza. www.rafeefziadah.ca
OMAR OFFENDUM is a Syrian-American Hip hop artist, author and producer- born in the KSA, raised in the USA , and repeatedly hassled by the TSA. His solo release in 2010 was affectionately dubbed “SyrianamericanA”. www.offendum.com
ZITA HOLBOURNE is a poet, artist and activist. Former member of Brothaman Poetry Collective she campaigns for equality, freedom, justice, and democracy through activism, art and poetry. myspace.com/zitaholbourne.
October Early Bird Concessions / NUS £6.00
October Early Bird General Admission £8.00
Doors open: 7.15pm – Show starts at 8pm
N.B. Concessions are those on job seekers allowance or full time students (JSA/NUS cards must be shown to the box office).
Remi Kanazi UK Tour:
Nov 12: London
Nov 13 London
Nov 14: Cambridge
Nov 15: Brighton
Nov 16: Portsmouth
Nov 17: Southampton
Nov 18: Dorset
Nov 19: Bristol
Nov 20: Bristol
Nov 21: Oxford
Nov 22: Birmingham
Nov 23: Liverpool
Nov 24: Nottingham
Nov 25: Leicester
Nov 26: Leeds
Nov 27: Newcastle
Nov 28: Manchester
Nov 29: London
For more information on the above dates contact:
Telephone: 020 7700 6198
April 29, 2011
Israeli Occupation Forces Arrest Palestinian Writer Ahmad Qatamesh
PACBI Statement in support of Dr Qatamesh
In the early hours of dawn on Thursday, 21 April 2011, a large force of Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers raided the home of the prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh  in
Al-Bireh and arrested him. An hour earlier, Qatamesh’s wife, 22-year-old daughter and two other female relatives, including a 14-year-old child, were taken hostage by Israeli troops in another
apartment to compel him to surrender himself. He was led to “Ofer” detention center in Beitunia.
Ahmad Qatamesh was born in 1950 in a cave in Bethlehem to a refugee family expelled during the Nakba from the village of Al-Malihah, near Jerusalem. Qatamesh earned his diploma in Arabic literature from the UNRWA-run Teacher Training Center in Ramallah. In 1992, he was arrested by a massive Israeli force in the presence of his then 3-year-old daughter. Accusing him of being a particularly “dangerous” national leader, the Israeli Shabak tortured and ill-treated him for a hundred days, an experience that he articulately exposed in his well-read prison notes titled I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush (fez). After the Shabak failed to produce incriminating evidence, however, an Israeli military court issued an “administrative detention” order against him, in accordance with an emergency law that allows Israel to detain for renewable terms anyone under its
jurisdiction without charges, trial or access to the charges against him/her. This unjust procedure was repeatedly condemned as a violation of internationally accepted standards of justice by leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.
Qatamesh’s detention was renewed continuously for almost six years, making him the longest serving administrative detainee ever. In
April 1998, after a persistent public pressure campaign by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists and organizations, Qatamesh was finally released.
Ahmad Qatamesh earned his master’s degree and later his PhD in political science from a Dutch university through distance learning, as he was under a travel ban by the Israeli occupation. He then became a thesis supervisor for several Palestinian graduate students of the same university. He authored several books on diverse literary, political and philosophical topics, and he was a sought-after speaker in local universities and research centers. In 2010, he taught a course in the
School of Humanities at Al-Quds University.
Qatamesh’s wife, Suha Barghouti, who is a board member of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization and of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, as well as a Steering Committee member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), considered his arrest “an attempt to silence his critical voice and prevent his compelling vision for emancipation and self determination from spreading further in the Palestinian public.” She called on human rights organizations to pressure the Israeli authorities for his immediate release and held those authorities fully responsible for his safety and well-being. His daughter, Haneen, who is on a short break from her studies at the American
University of Cairo, commented on her traumatizing experience of being held hostage by Israeli soldiers saying: “They tried to intimidate me by exploiting my deep agony over the idea of being denied my father again, but I firmly confronted them and reminded them of the fate of all colonial powers on our land. In response, their commander shouted that I was as ‘obstinate’ as my father.”
Gerarda Ventura, Vice President of the Euromed Platform of NGOs, expressed deep solidarity of European civil society with Palestinians like Ahmad Qatamesh, whom she called “one of the most sensitive and intellectual people I have ever met,” in their civil struggle for “freedom, justice and peace.” The Addameer-appointed lawyer who visited Qatamesh the day after his arrest stated that he was not
interrogated and that he was informed instead that he would get an administrative detention order. This indicates that the Shabak, again, lack any evidence to build a case against him and proves that
he was arrested indeed for his writings and peaceful activism and not any “security” reasons as was claimed by the Israeli authorities.
Praising Ahmad Qatamesh as “an excellent writer, principled researcher and devoted human rights advocate … struggling for freedom and respect of fundamental rights,” Palestinian Legislative Council
member Dr. Mustafa Barghouti condemned his arrest by Israel as “a shameless attempt at muzzling him in an unjustifiable attack on his freedom of expression.”
Ahmad Qatamesh’s family has appealed to international agencies and human rights organizations to work for releasing him and all the other Palestinian prisoners of conscience. They also called for ending the draconian policy of administrative detention, which is based on emergency regulations from the era of the British Mandate, as a blatant violation of freedoms and human rights, in particular the right to a fair and just due process.
PACBI has asked readers of this blog to contact their MPs, and/or other political representatives asking them to pressure Israel to release Ahmad Qatamesh and end the policy of administrative detention.
1 Also spelled “Katamesh” and “Qatamish.”
April 14, 2011
PALFEST 2011 OPENS TOMORROW
5 DAYS / 6 CITIES / 5 UNIVERSITIES
PalFest 2011 kicks off tomorrow. We have an amazing programme lined up and everything is free and open to the public. We’re traveling through the country so, if you’re in Palestine, the chances are we’ll be near you one day this week. Come and join us.
And if you’re not in Palestine, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook – we’ll be publishing author blogs, photos and videos every day!
1 DAY CHILDREN’S FESTIVAL
10am Lajee Centre, BETHLEHEM, Aida Camp
7.30pm African Community Society, JERUSALEM
7.30pm Arab Cultural Association, NAZARETH
Workshops with an Najah University
7pm Sheikh Qassem Café, NABLUS
Workshops with BirZeit University
Workshops with Bethlehem University
8pm Friends Meeting House, RAMALLAH
Performance by the Palestine National Orchestra
Workshops with al Quds University
8pm Khalil Sakakini Centre, RAMALLAH
7.30pm Solidarity Tent, SILWAN
OPEN MIC NIGHT
See you soon!