The Palestinian National Theatre “Al Hakawati” published today an appeal to Jerusalem institutions and businessmen in the city to save the theatre from closure during the next 48 hours.
According to the theatre’s statement, director Amer Khalil, received a phone call on Thursday morning 11/26/2015 from the Israeli Enforcement and Collection Authority (ECA), responsible for debt collection and law enforcement, notifying him on the intention to complete the seizure of the theatre building in 48 hours.
The statement also added that two weeks ago the Israeli ECA seized the bank account of the theatre and handed a notification on the building seizure to the director.
Since then, the management tried to appeal to many bodies seeking financial support in order to be able to cover its amounting debt to the Israeli authorities (including the municipality, National Insurance and electricity company), so far for no avail, according to the statement.
To many this could be seem as a normal procedure of a state collecting debt from citizens, however, in Jerusalem’s complex situation and the vulnerability of Palestinian institutions under the Israeli occupation and oppression machinery, the issue becomes political par excellence.
Al Hakawati theatre is the only remaining Palestinian theatre and one of the few remaining cultural institutions in Jerusalem, after prolonged Israeli destruction of Palestinian cultural and political life in the city. Located in the center of Jerusalem, the Palestinian National Theatre ( founded in 1984), became an important pillar and a center for Palestinian culture and art.
However, Al Hakawati was never immune from Israeli oppression machinery. According to the theatre management, Israel has shut down Al Hakawati activities for more than 35 times. In 2008 the Israeli Police deployed it’s forces at Al-Hakawati and barred it from holding a cultural festival which was entitled “Jerusalem, the Arab Cultural Capital for 2009”. Again in 2013, Israel shut down children’s puppet festival host by the theatre.
Let alone, settlers attempts to take over the theatre building. They now have an excuse, as if they need it.
In addition, the threat on Al Hakawati shows how poor the political and (unconditional) financial support, Jerusalem’s Palestinian institutions receive.
Finally, this is another illustration of how the Israeli occupation is a profitable business. You charge those under your colonialism with a lot of money, in order to finance your colonialism.
Update, November 29th, 2015:
I’m very glad my article helped to generate much interest in the plight of Al Hakawati and to make such a massive effect (the article was shared more than 10, 000 times on Facebook). Many media outlet reported the issue, following my post, including Reuters, Alarabiya and The Daily Star. There are currently many people/parties that are trying to help the Theatre. This is a crowdfunding campaign, coordinated with the Theatre management, that is running here, Please consider helping.
Thanks to everyone for sharing and for contributing and helping.
My only concern, is that this will be a temporary solution. I’m now quite sure that the Theatre will manage to cover its debt and save itself from the immediate risk of seizure, however, I’m not sure this will be a sustainable solution. The management now faces an enormous challenge to avoid a future repetition of the problem, and they will still need a lot of support to make sure this is achieved.