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What’s behind the attacks on Palestine’s cultural scene?

Jerusalem24 – Over summer, the cultural, musical, and artistic scenes thrive in Palestine, as performances and highly popular festivals abound.

The cultural scene and its institutions have however been at the receiving end of public hostilities recently, so much so that it has become a talked-about phenomenon in the streets, cafes and newsrooms. Beloved institutions such as Ashtar Theater are not immune; neither are respected establishments such as the Tamer Institute for Community Education or the A.M. Qattan foundation.

Professor of anthropology Misleh Kananaa tells Jerusalem24 that the attacks do not come as a surprise to him. Quite the opposite: following the developments of the last 10 to 15 years, “you would expect this to happen because there are many factors leading to this point.”

Misleh believes that the attack is not on freedom of speech but on freedom of thought.

“I think people who attack [these institutions] want to use freedom of speech in order to attack the way of thinking, so their way of thinking becomes the predominant one in the society.”

Misleh asserts the attacks will continue if no one moves to stop them.

“Long-term measures have to be taken, in order to change the way freedom of culture and artistic activities are treated. This is not only happening in the West Bank but also in Arab countries as well and other countries.”

Misleh believes that there are certain parties and elements in society who take action into their own hands and want to dictate society’s behavior. “They give themselves the authority to decide what is allowed and what is not.”

What should be done, according to Misleh, is to “have the authority in certain hands who can deal with the issues, instead of having people set their own standards as the ideal for society to have.”

“This creates a phenomenon”

Misleh says it’s “very difficult to point the finger” to a specific person or entity at the origin of the current wave of intolerance and violence. Rather, he says, its origin can be attributed to a wider trend among the general public to decide right from wrong. “To many the problem isn’t the events but the idea behind them.”

“Social media is giving a platform for those voices to incite these attacks,” Misleh adds. “If you use power and you succeed, and it gives you results, you can stop people from thinking, from having activities, from taking action and so on.”

The people with the most capacity to drive their peers to violence against the cultural institutions “do not have the spirit for discussion or real arguments with any issue,” says Misleh. “The shortcut for them is violence.”

Misleh explains that if the situation continues it will only escalate. Members of the public who are fundamentally against these attacks but stay silent and don’t take action only make the situation worse, according to Misleh. “This creates a phenomenon.”

“What has to be done is some sort of a platform or a network in order to mobilize people who are against [the attacks], and a space to talk and have a conversation.”

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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