This month we look at how The Arts can contribute to speaking out on Palestine.
Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network - Update

Speaking out on Palestine: poems, prose and plays 

This month, different articles on the power of words to speak in support of Palestine. We bring a  poem from one of our members, Gillian Hunt (see below), as well an article by PIEN co-convenor Helen Rainger about the 'things we know to be true' from writer Ghada Karmi (bottom of page).

In the side column you can learn about Samah Sabawi, a Palestinian playwright who will be speaking to our July PIEN teleconference. There is also a review of Samah’s play Tales of a City by the Sea. We have information comparing the major parties' policies on Palestine. Don't forget to vote! A full bulletin means fewer links this month. Please send us news items, websites and events..

Gaza by the sea: for the children

Standing in damp sand,
five thousand kites
agitating, flapping,
committing five thousand strings
with our ambition
to win a second record, pitted
against the rest of the world.
As if it’s ever been thus,
them and us, defending our right
to occupy our land, ply our trades,
construct our kites on uncontested sites,
dream and even die.
Today we can enjoy our freedom,
my friend Zayed tells the BBC,
this is how we decorate the sky.
A poem by PIEN member, Gillian Hunt
© Gillian Hunt

An Overview:
What is at stake in Palestine and Israel today
as viewed by Ghada Karmi 

Helen Rainger
Ghada Karmi, Palestinian writer and activist, visited Canberra last year as part of a speaking tour in which she spoke about her recent book The Return as well as giving more general insights about Palestine and Israel. I was fortunate to meet Ghada and hear her speak.
I particularly appreciated the part of Ghada’s talk where she sought to deal with certain of the myths surrounding Israel and Palestine. What she had to say has particular relevance to those of us in PIEN who seek to engage the wider community in discussion about Palestine.
As people within an organisation such as Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network, we care for Palestinians of all religions and we are concerned about many aspects of the current situation in that troubled place that have an adverse impact on the way Palestinians live. As an added element, we need to stand beside our Christian brothers and sisters. Ghada, herself a Muslim, said that she finds it amazing and further, “reprehensible”, that Christians in Western nations are not speaking out against many aspects of what is happening to Christians in her homeland.
In engaging with these “myths” about Palestine and Israel, Ghada gave an outline of what can be long-held and current views and what flaws can be seen. She took, neatly, seven and I will list these below.
1. What is happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories, despite how it may seem, is not a situation of conflict. To speak as if it were is to imply two roughly equivalent powers. People say ’this conflict has been going on for thousands of years’ but today’s situation has its own specific nature. This is not a conflict but a settler colonialist project, an occupation.
2. An added mantra that one hears is that the situation is ‘so complex’. There are in fact bold parameters which are agreed upon by many. Various UN resolutions have been passed and whilst they may be largely ignored, underlying understanding and agreement are evident. The Israeli Government does not deny many of the claims made against it. Yes, they have taken over more land since 1967. The extension of the Jewish settlements is done quite openly. The Australian media gives photographs and details.
3. A particularly sad aspect of the realpolitik of this Holy Land is the way the Bible is used by many to shore up land acquisition and settlement expansion. This is not about Biblical truth and ancestral lands although many Christians particularly in America see the situation in these terms. Biblical prophecy is contestable and surely not intended as a 21st C geopolitical guide.
4. Another disturbing element is the way the tragedy of the Holocaust is often used as a tool, an arguing device, as if it is self-evident that because of the Holocaust modern Israel can choose its own policies.
5. The actions of the Israeli government are then posited as a moral response to what has happened in European history, a moral enterprise to somehow right the wrongs. The tragedy of the holocaust is part of the background of the creation of Israel but Zionism and the movement for a Jewish ‘homeland’ began as a political movement long before Hitler’s evil. Israel was formed as a result of a post-war decision by Western nations to create a place of refuge, yes, but in someone else’s land. There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians still in refugee camps, four generations, who were displaced from their homes around 1949. There must be acknowledgement of this past catastrophe.
May I add here that the right of Israel to exist is not contested by most of today’s Palestinian and advocacy groups but both the post 1967 occupation and expansion, as well as the continuing existence of the refugee camps, must be justly dealt with by Israel itself and other powers.
6. Another way that what is happening is often described is to use the terms of religious conflict; Jewish people against Muslim. This is a way to sidestep the real political issues at stake. It is also of course to ignore the Palestinian Christians.
7. Finally, the emotive and historically charged words of anti-Semitism figure large in the Israeli government’s vocabulary as well as that of its supporters particularly in the United States. It is not anti-Semitic to critique the policies of a government and further, to assume that all Jewish people support these policies and think in the same way is a form of anti-Semitism in itself. To call on Israel’s government to adhere to United Nations resolutions is not being against “the Jews”. Many Jewish Israelis speak out against: the occupation and its many manifestations; the land acquisition involved in the construction of the separation wall; and the extension of the Jewish settlements.
Whilst much of the above material will not be new to many of us, I feel that Ghada has given a clear outline and summary of the key issues and what is at stake. Various insights may be helpful for all of us with an affiliation to PIEN as we position ourselves alongside those who strive for justice and peace for all people in that region.

Ghada Karmi's book can be purchased here 

Samah Sabawi: playwright

Palestinian playwright, Samah Sabawi (see the review below of Tales of a City by the Sea) will be joining our next PIEN teleconference, at 4pm AEST on Thursday, 14th July . She will be talking about her play, the reaction to the play and what it means to stand up for Palestine in Australia today. Please join us for what will be a very interesting talk. Contact the PIEN office for more details

Tales of a City by the Sea Review

by Tony Busch, Adelaide Theatre Guide 

This is a tale of conflict and survival told principally through the stories of two couples during the 2008 Gaza war.  Jomana (Helen Sawires) is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza who meets American born Palestinian doctor, Rami, (Osamah Sami) who arrives on board one of small boats that breaks the Israeli blockade.

Ali (Reece Vella) and Lama (Emina Ashman) are residents of Gaza. He loves her but she’s unsure whether to marry him or not.

The play traces the development of these two relationships amid the death and destruction that is everyday life in Gaza.

Samah Sabawi has created a potent narrative that brims with raw examples of the reality of living under a hostile authority. She explores relationships and family values in a place where people fight to retain some sense of normality amid the daily death toll; where “funerals and weddings have become part of daily life”.

There is some very evocative writing, though some of the poetry in the script is awkward, and Sabawi captures both the vulnerability and defiance of a people who find ways to endure what we, living in peace and plenty, could not even imagine.

The simple but effective set of white curtains that slide back and forth handles the multiple scene-changes fluently, atmospherically enhanced by Aseel Tayah’s Arabic vocals.

Performances in the main have a ring of truth, though that truth ebbs and flows at times, particularly in the second half.

Sabawi has created an enthralling landscape and peopled it with believable characters. It looks beyond the political to examine the effect of war on those who cannot leave the battleground. It’s a gripping piece of theatre that begs to be seen and heard.


Election Scorecard

The Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) have produced a scorecard analysing the major parties' policies on Palestine.

It makes for interesting reading. For more details, click

Will you vote for Palestine

With just a few days left to the federal election, time is running out to talk to your candidates about Palestine.

You still have time to pick up your phone and call your candidates.

For more information click here

Palestinian Film Night,
Canberra 20th July

Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine bring this special screening of 
The Idol on 
Wednesday the 20th of July at 7:30pm
 at Palace Electric ACT!

See here for more details

Australian Christians who seek lasting peace for the people of Palestine and Israel. 

We aim to equip and 
inform Australian churches, inspired by Christ’s vision for universal reconciliation.

Executive Officer
Tim Budge
0412 051 574