Israel/Palestine,  Your View


This is a guest post from Alex Stein of

I almost went to Saturday’s Palestinian literary festival, as I was keen to hear Claire Messud, the author of the excellent The Emperor’s Children. In the end I went walking up north, spending Friday night in Kfar Kana, the village where Jesus reputedly turned water into wine. While I was recovering from my walk, it seems that the Israeli authorities in Jerusalem were busy implementing an absurd policy which only shame those of us who have rightly opposed a cultural boycott of Israel. 

According to the Observer, the Palestinian literary festival opening event at the Palestinian National Theatre in East Jerusalem was closed down by the border police. The justification for this stunt was a letter from the Israeli minister of internal security banning the event on the grounds that it was a political gathering connected to the Palestinian Authority.

There is previous for all this. This March, a series of Palestinian cultural events, held to mark the Arab League’s designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture (Itself obviously a political decision), were also banned. All this was done in order to promote the fiction that Jerusalem is an undivided city under Israeli sovereignty forever and ever amen.

The fiction is clear to those who have eyes to see. Those who speak of an eternally undivided Jerusalem are happy to see the Palestinian sections of the city rot in neglect and ruin. Less and less secular Israelis have any interest in the capital, a reality which is met with bewilderment among those who believe in the absurd and unnecessary myth of the City of Zion, and spend their days fretting that Israeli schoolchildren haven’t been to the Kotel enough.

This absurd denial of reality, which is beginning to manifest itself in the new government’s policy in the Occupied Territories, could yet lead to the unravelling of the state. In the meantime, those in the diaspora who campaign long and hard against a boycott of Israeli culture should be raging with anger at this latest disgrace. Rafiq Husseini, the chief of staff to the Palestinian president, is right when he says, “They [the Israelis] are creating enemies for themselves.”

Sometimes I really wonder if the lunatics have taken over the asylum. Judging by the comments coming out of the mouths of Messrs Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Ya’alon in recent days, the madness is clearly at hand. Is there something in the DNA of the country’s political elites that prevents them from doing something rational? Because it’s now abundantly clear that I can no longer say with any integrity that Israel respects cultural freedom. What, please tell me, is now the difference between us and the boycotters?