Marking the first anniversary of the 50-day devastating Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, hundreds of international and Palestinian activists organized a four-day long arts festival to demonstrate firm solidarity and denounce and remind the world about the deadly Gaza aggression through art as a universal language. The festival, which takes place in Ireland’s capital Dublin, marked a year since Israeli raids heralded the start of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, which left about 2,262 Palestinians dead, including 556 children and 305 women, and thousands more wounded and resulted in the damage and total destruction of 140,000 houses.
WAFA further reports that, despite substantial international attempts to improve living conditions in the Strip, the anniversary came as the war-torn coastal enclave continues to struggle to rebuild its demolished homes and infrastructure and its people struggle to access basic amenities.
PalFest Ireland, which will last until Saturday, is a voluntary-run arts festival featuring over 50 events organized by Irish artists in support of Palestine. These events include talks, music and theater performances, films, exhibitions, poetry and storytelling among other activities, covering the full spectrum of art forms in Dublin and throughout Ireland.
According to the organizers, the festival is intended to promote a cultural connection between Ireland and Palestine and to raise awareness and much needed funds for Palestinian charities. The festival boasts itself as “representing a resounding challenge from Ireland’s arts community to long-term Israeli aggression against Palestine.”
The festival grand opening highlighted the large death toll among Palestinian children in Gaza during the last Israeli onslaught with the installation “NO MORE – Dublin Remembers”. It was organized by activists Miriam Duffy and Adrian Leake, who installed 556 vests on Sandymount Strand to represent all the children killed in Gaza in 2014.
Sara al-Bayyari, a 22-year-old Palestinian from Tulkram and born in Dublin, is extremely excited about the festival. She told WAFA, “I think because art is universal, it is a language we all understand. It shows the humanity of Palestinians and how we have our own culture and art too and it keeps it alive.”
According to Sara’s own estimation, about 50 people attended the opening ceremony of PalFest, because it was upon invite only. However, she predicted that over a hundred people will attend some of the other highly anticipated sessions.
The program on Wednesday included “Incited in Israel, Inflicted on Gaza-Hate”; a talk by journalist David Sheen, former editor of Israel newspaper Haaretz. Sheen tackled in his talk the racism inherent in the Israeli system of governance and attempted to answer questions, such as how could 2200 Palestinians be killed in 51 days last summer in Gaza with impunity by Israel? What is going on in Israel that creates an atmosphere where such a brutal attack on a people forbidden to leave can be inflicted? How can such a siege be visited on Gaza again and again, coupled with a crippling occupation of the whole of Palestine?
PalFest will also feature talks by two other prominent figures: Dr. Mads Gilbert, the Norwegian surgeon who worked in Al Shifa Hospital during Israeli onslaught on the Strip, and Elaine Bradley, human rights and BDS activist.
Dr. Gilbert is scheduled to deliver a 90-minute talk about his experience, including the siege of Gaza. He will show footage taken during the Israeli onslaught as he recounts the harrowing events he witnessed while working in Gaza’s main hospital. The talk will also address the BDS campaign and the effect international solidarity movements are having in Palestine.
Meanwhile, Bradley, who is scheduled to deliver her talk on Saturday representing Dublin Food Cooperative Society, will tackle the impact of Israeli occupation on food production, farmers, fishermen and their families, and how a combination of attacks and administrative restrictions serve to further Israel’s colonial project.
The session will explore the creative ways that agricultural workers are resisting and the imperative for the international community to stand with them in solidarity in their fight for their land and rights.
Sara, who along with her family, are active supporters of Palestinians’ rights, takes pride in PalFest, because it succeeds in “sharing Palestinian artists and art with the world.” Sara is not only going to attend the sessions, but will also present a poem by the late Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan, titled Hamza.
In addition, Sara’s mother, Fatin al-Tamimi from Hebron, who is a photographer and one of the main organizers of PalFest, is contributing by presenting her collection of photos, which demonstrate Dublin’s immense solidarity with Palestine.
Music activities include a concert to be held by Liberty4Palestine on Saturday by Irish music group Kila, Palestinian singer Ruba Shamshoum together with Irish singers Honor Heffernan & Trevor Knight and Cormac Breathnach.
The festival also features plays due to be presented on Thursday evening. ‘We Are Rachel Corrie’ is a new play based on Rachel Corrie’s correspondence to her parents during her time in Palestine. Corrie was a US human rights defender killed by an Israeli army bulldozer while defending a Palestinian house from demolition in 2005.
Moreover, the following films will be screened as part of the festival: Small Hands in Handcuffs, the Oscar nominated Palestinian documentary Five Broken Cameras, and the highly-acclaimed international hit Open Bethlehem, with writer/director Leila Sansour in attendance.
On the last day of the festival, an olive tree will be given to the new mayor of Ireland by a young Palestinian girl.
Sara concluded, “I feel like [PalFest] gives Palestinians hope and shows how you don’t have to be Palestinian to stand up for what is right. It shows Palestinians in Palestine that they are not alone in this and that there are people out there who will fight for them. I feel proud and hopeful for the future.”