Three killed in theatre bombing in Gaza

28th Sep 2018

Fathiya Abdillahi

Three people were killed in an Israeli bombing of Gaza’s largest cultural centre. The UK’s leading playwrights and directors, including Caryl Churchill and ‘Mamma Mia’ Director Phyllida Lloyd, have condemned the attack.

On August 9, the Said al-Mishal culture centre was bombed by the Israeli air force. Among the three Palestinians killed were a pregnant woman, a toddler, and a fighter from the Hamas.

The centre was bombed in the midst of a violent week as Israel had already launched more than 150 airstrikes into Gaza and the Palestinian military fired more than 180 rockets into Israel.

The Israeli air force argued that the attack was necessary as the building was being used for military purposes by the Hamas. However, this claim was denied by Palestinian artists who were working in the centre prior to the bombing.
Playwrights in the UK who have worked with artists in Palestine wrote a letter to the Guardian in outrage at the lack of media coverage of the destruction of the theatre.

“We are deeply shocked that this act of destruction has not been widely reported in the British press,” the letter reads.

“We support our dear friends and colleagues who describe their great rage and deep pain at the obliteration of this symbol of Palestinian culture and identity as they mourn the destruction of one of the few large venues for theatre and music performances in besieged Gaza,” the letter adds.

The Said-al-Mishal Culture Centre has been a venue for plays, ceremonies, exhibitions, and Dabke performances since it was established in 2004. It has also been used as a leisure centre by the children who have been affected by the previous wars in Gaza. The playwrights have described this disaster as “a devastating loss for the already isolated community”.

The purpose of their letter was to urge the UK Government to act in the de-escalation of the situation in Gaza, and to “insist on the effective protection of civilians as a prime legal obligation and to take firm action to ensure that violations of international law are not tolerated.”

This is not the first time that Israel has been denounced by British playwrights.

In 2012, Shakespeare’s Globe invited an Israeli theatre company named Habima to perform. However, two months prior to this, directors and actors, including Oscar award winning Emma Thomson, signed a letter condemning the Habima and their “shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The boycott of Israel has been increasingly promoted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) whose aim is to boycott Israel until it withdraws from land already owned by Palestine and gives full equality for the Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel.

“The Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company. We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land,” the 2012 letter reads.

The impact these playwrights have in Israel is that Israeli artists can no longer buy the rights to plays, which might cause them to feel isolated from the rest of the world. Perhaps, urging them to respect international law and ceasefire with Palestine.

“The centre was a symbol of Palestinian cultural heritage and was purposefully targeted by the Israeli occupation because art and culture reinforce and strengthen Palestinian national and cultural identity,” the Palestinian Performing Arts Network claimed.

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