Protests planned for Shalom festival at Edinburgh fringe
PALESTINE solidarity protestors have accused the Edinburgh fringe festival of breaking with tradition to host a pro-Israel “propaganda” event.
The Shalom International Festival which is taking place on Wednesday 15 August in Edinburgh’s central Hall, will feature exhibitions and live acts celebrating cultural life in Israel, hosted by pro-Israel organisations the Confederation of Friends of Israel and the Israeli government funded Standwithus group.
Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) told CommonSpace: “This is a scandal and a new departure for the fringe. The fringe in the past has never had state sponsored open propaganda stunts.
“The Israeli government utilises cultural events, ‘soft power’, in the standard parlance, but they’ve never come out openly and allowed front groups to organise events within the fringe. It’s staggering that the Fringe has allowed this.
“This is a scandal and a new departure for the fringe. The fringe in the past has never had state sponsored open propaganda stunts.” Mick Napier
“In past protests we’ve been rebuked by fringe bosses for politicising the festival. That’s not a formula I would accept, but that’s been the mantra used against us.
“Yet now we have an openly political propaganda stunt, clearly aimed at promoting the interests of the Israeli state.”
Israel has successively removed Palestinians from their lands over many decades. Palestinians are routinely denied equal rights within Israel, and Palestinian communities in Gaza and the West bank, nominally under the control of autonomous Palestinian authorities, have been repeatedly subjected to military raids, bombardment and the construction of illegal Israeli settlements.
The Gaza strip in the south of Palestine has been under increasingly intense siege since 2007, and subject to repeated military assault. In 2014 as many as 2,500 Palestinians were killed and 10,000 seriously injured when Israeli forces launched its most devastating attack yet.
Napier said that the event was not an accurate reflection of life for Palestinians in Israel and Palestine.
“This is being billed as a celebration of all things Israel. Not as the best of Israel, whatever that might be, but all things Israel.
“That would mean ethnic cleansing, massacre, mass imprisonment of Palestinians.”
There will be significant protests at the event all day, from 10am to 10pm, as part of a programme of activities undertaken by Palestinian solidarity activists attempting to enforce an international Boycott of Israel.
Speaking to CommonSpace, a spokesperson for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe said: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an open access festival and our work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society is underpinned by these open access principles.
“This means that the Fringe Society does not decide which shows take part each year or what or where they perform. These principles guarantee artists the freedom to present their work to the public without the intervention of a curator or the need for official approval.
“Our commitment to freedom of expression means that we support the right of all participants of the Fringe and members of the public to hold and express differing political views.” Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“To be clear, our commitment to freedom of expression means that we support the right of all participants of the Fringe and members of the public to hold and express differing political views, but we also believe in an artist’s right to freedom of expression, and that the curtailment of this freedom is contrary to the fundamental ethos of the festival.”
Speaking to CommonSpace Nigel Goodrich, Director of the International Shalom Festival and a former lay preacher in the fundamentalist Free Church of Scotland said: "It is only by fostering cultural ties between diverse elements of Israeli society and other countries that conflict can be resolved.
“The expulsion and exclusion for which some pro-Palestinian campaigners call has been the preferred tactic of totalitarian regimes everywhere; it is a tactic which must not be allowed to succeed today.”
Picture courtesy of patrick brennan
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