Palfest 2011 closing session in Silwan — a night to remember

Last year, the Palestinian Literary Festival (PalFest) scheduled their opening and closing sessions in East Jerusalem’s Hakawati Theater near the closed-down Orient House, almost next to the American Colony Hotel — and both were shut down by Israeli Police on orders from the Ministry of Interior.

The Israeli explanation at the time was that security sources believed PalFest was somehow working with the Palestinian Authority — which Israel bans from activity in Jerusalem.

PalFest denied this, but the events were raided — and the 2010 opening event was hastily moved to the French Cultural Center in East Jerusalem, while the closing event was held in the garden of the (prepared) British Consulate.

This year, the PalFest 2011 closing session was scheduled — and was held — in Silwan, the hottest of the East Jerusalem hotspots, where there are daily confrontations between residents (some of whom are living with the threat of possible imminent eviction from their homes) and Israeli settlers, some of whom are living there, guarded by Israeli security forces, and some of whom are excavating under the Palestinian homes, trying to build a City of David archeological/touristic complex.

And, it was business as usual in Silwan: heavy Israeli Border Police presence, clashes, stones, (1) molotov cocktail, tear gas, rubber bullets… and in the midst, after regaining their composure, internationals were reading poetry, and DAM (Israeli-Palestinian rap or hip-hop group formed in Lod) performed, on a spring night in the Silwan protest tent.

UPDATE: A video of the PalFest participants arriving in Silwan for the closing event has now been posted by PalFest on Youtube {showing, among others, Ahdaf Souef, Munther Fahmi of the American Colony Bookshop, a bit of DAM’s performance, and Silwan’s Fakhri Abu Diab}:

[According to Wikileaks, here: “In 2004 DAM released a single called ‘Born Here’ in Arabic and Hebrew. The song was released with a videoclip directed by Juliano Mer Khamis”…]

On Twitter tonight, @SJActionAlerts reported about the PalFest closing session in Silwan in a series of Tweets starting at about 9pm: “Clashes in #Silwan by the protest tent … Heavy shooting of gas & live ammo into the #Bustan area, #Silwan is covered with gas. 1 Molotov cocktail was thrown at a military jeep … The road into the #Bostan is closed by the military. There r a couple of blockades in other parts of #Silwan … Military is getting close to the #Bostan. DAM and other internationals were evacuated from the area of the protest tent … When the military started shooting at the tent there were many diplomats & diplomats presents. #Silwan … Event is going to take place. DAM is going to perform. Things r quiet for now. We r by the tent. #Silwan … Ppl here reporting that the attack with 2 cars of undercover military. They try to arrest Palestinian youth by the tent … International poets started reading poems. There r about 100 ppl in the tent listening … Things has changed here so fast. From a war zone to a poetry event. #Silwan habibti … Ppl r still very shocked by the attack. Especially the diplomats &internationals. Some r crying. Inside the poems r being read. #Silwan” /..

At about 10 pm, @SJActionAlerts sent out these Tweets: “Soldiers r standing above the tent on a hill r throwing stones at us and at cars … DAM r going to perform. The youth is crowding the tent. #Silwan …DAM r doing a raga song about Gaza. #Silwan … Next song is dedicated to the soldiers throwing stones at us. Called “fuck the police” (in Arabic). #DAM #Silwan … The evening ending with Fahri Abu-Diab from #Bostan popular committee saying “we thank those who made us smile through our tears” #Silwan”…

UPDATE: Via @DanielSeideman on Twitter, we learn of news published here that “The Wadi Hilwa Information Center in Bir Ayyoub area, in Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem, reported on Wednesday at night that a Palestinian youth was shot in the face by a rubber-coated bullet fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes that took place in Silwan. The Center said that the twenty-year-old resident suffered severe wounds as he was shot directly in the face, including a serious wound to his lips leading to massive bleeding. The wounded youth was moved to the Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem … Furthermore, soldiers fired teargas canisters and rubber-coated bullets at the protest tent in Silwan as dozens of Palestinians, Israeli and international activists were holding an education seminar … Soldiers and policemen managed to reach the protest tent, that was installed to protest the ongoing Israeli violations, takeover of Palestinian homes by extremist settlers and home demolition. The police forced Palestinian, Israeli and International peace activists to evacuate [n.b. – temporarily, apparently]. The tent in Al Bustan became a symbol for nonviolent resistance in Jerusalem … It also became of target of constant attacks as army wants to remove it”…

This news was also reported on Silwan’s Wadi Hilweh Information Center here, and here.

The PalFest website here has not yet reported on its closing session. But, here are two of their Tweets from the closing night in Silwan’s protest tent:
@PalFest -Was listening to DAM in Silwan with tear gas in the air and soldiers watching from the hills for #palfest11’s closing night.
@PalFest – The show went on! The PalFest group walked through the remains of tear gas, set up in the Silwan tent, and made…

A night to remember.

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