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Monday May 14, 2012 4:41 AM (EST+7)
Arab writers report Gaza culture crackdown

Read more: Palfest, literature, culture, Gaza, blockade, Islamists, freedom of expression, freedom of thought

RAMALLAH, May 13 (JMCC) - Participants in the fifth annual Palestinian literary festival, Palfest, report after visiting the blockaded territory that conditions in Gaza are stifling the arts, reports Ahramonline.

The festival held its closing night in Cairo and literary greats like Egyptian Khaled Khamisi spoke about their impressions of Gaza, a place they had shied away from visiting under the regime of toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

“The main feeling you get while in Gaza is anger, and there are many reasons there for that. The situation there is atrocious; the blockade is everywhere, and this creates chaos that inevitably leads to fear,” Khaled El-Khamisi said.

The people of Gaza are angry not only towards Israel, but also towards Egypt and — more significantly — Hamas.

”The approach of Egyptian authorities towards Gaza is despicable. We’re following the American and Israeli agendas by helping to blockade Gaza. This should change in post-revolution Egypt. We should decisively boycott Israel and open all the crossings at the Gaza border,” El-Khamisi asserted.

Cultural hunger

Most of the writers who visited Gaza had one opinion with respect to cultural activities in Gaza: “deplorable.” They say the aim appears to be to erase the Palestinian character and culture, which gave the world thinkers and poets like Mahmoud Darwish and Edward Said.

Professor of English Literature Sahar El-Mougy said that there’s a deplorable condition of cultural hunger. There aren’t even cinemas, libraries, or shops that sell books on the arts, philosophy or literature. The only available books are those on Islamic Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) and Fiqh (thinking).

“There’s a conspiracy against the Palestinian character, to destroy its beauty. Hamas is erasing Palestinian culture, replacing it with an extremist version of Islam. They don’t even allow men and women to be in the same place!” El-Mougy objected.

“But through all this, and despite the security and intelligence, who we saw everywhere in Gaza, students we met have the spirit of resistance — not against Israel this time, but against the repressive practices of Hamas.”

A public event held by the literary festival was shut down by Hamas security last week, but some workshops were conducted. Hamas has been in control of the Gaza Strip since 2007, after taking over security installations in fighting with its rival Fateh, which dominates the Palestinian Authority now relegated to the West Bank.






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