Jerusalem culture capital celebrations shift to Lebanon
BEIRUT: Lebanon is to mark occupied
Jerusalem’s appointment as “Arab Culture Capital 2009” with events across the
country for the Palestinian Diaspora next month, as Israel quashes celebrations
The much-contested capital Jerusalem
was chosen by UNESCO and the Arab League this year to receive the annual award
for its unrivalled contribution to Arab culture, despite Israeli protestations
that the holy city is its own.
With Lebanon home to almost half a
million Palestinians, the Culture Ministry has decided to mount events of its
own, with two months of cultural and artistic diversions to begin next week in
Beirut. The Lebanese capital was itself awarded the honor in 1999.
The ministry’s coordinator of the
Arab Culture Capital events, Dima Raad, said that, with the large number of
Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, it was important that the country mark
“What we are doing with the events
is highlighting the Palestinian cause. Its people should be allowed back, but
because they are not we have to make it like home for them here in Lebanon,”
“We plan to start the events now and
carry on until the last day of 2009, so that every moment until then is a
celebration for Palestinians in Lebanon.”
The first event is scheduled for
November 9, which will see a week of film screenings at Aresco Palace on
various Palestinian themes, produced by Lebanese directors.
International touring dance troupe
“Wishah” will then perform at Palestinian refugee camps across the country,
aimed at sharing the Arab cultural history with those unable to return.
The last event on the agenda, “Made
in Palestine,” will exhibit installation work, famous paintings and poetry
readings in early December. The event will explore the modern history of
Palestinians and their national struggle to liberate, as told by artists living
in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israel claims Jerusalem as its
capital, however, it is recognized by all members of the Arab League as
the capital of Palestine.
Most of the celebrations in the
capital have either been dispersed or banned in advance, as according to
Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, the events would constitute a
violation of the interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which
includes a clause that forbids the Palestinian Authorities from organizing
activities in Israeli territory.
Many Palestinians living in the
Occupied Territories are making the trip to Lebanon to join the some-400,000
refugees in the country’s festivities.
But Raad expressed regret that two
top visiting speakers have been stopped from leaving Israel to attend the
Lecturer Mohammad Atta and Islamic
history professor Nazmi al-Jabah of Birzeit University in Palestine were
programmed to speak during a series of talks, but have been forced to pull
“They stopped them just at the last
minute,” she said, “which is a shame because it is people like these that have
given Jerusalem its culture.”
But Raad stressed the 60-day-long
series will not be dampened by the travel ban. “The celebrations must go on and
the Palestinians are very grateful for these events. It is something for their
destiny, something to show they will exist always.”
Simultaneous ceremonies took place
in occupied Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gaza and Nazareth, as well as the
Al-Rashadiyeh and Mar Ilias refugee camps in Lebanon, via satellite link at the
official opening back in March. The planned January kick-off was delayed by the
22-day Israeli offensive on Gaza.
These synchronized celebrations were
aimed at building a cultural bridge between Palestinian people in the
territories and those living in the Diaspora.
Memorial postage stamps bearing the
Arab Culture Capital motif, designed and created in honor of Jerusalem’s
appointment, have also been released in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Qatar.