Updated: Apr 22
Art as a tool of expression enables the development of an independent personality. Art allows a person to know and empower himself. Art is also a tool of national expression and identity. Suppression of art is a tool of oppression like any other weapon.
Israel uses artistic oppression to oppress the Palestinian people. In September 11, 2022 Bilal Saadi, the director of The Freedom Theater in Jenin refugee camp, was arrested, and is now in administrative detention for six months with the possibility of extension. Arrest without formal accusation or a reasonable excuse.
The Freedom Theater in Jenin was established during the first intifada, year 2000, when the schools were closed, by Arna Merr. It served as an activity and as a means of expression for children growing up in poverty and severe violence in the camp.
Photo:: The Freedom Theatre
“The Theatre programme contains activities that introduce particularly the young generation to theatre and drama, providing them with important tools for dealing with the hardships of daily life under occupation. The Freedom Theatre stages original theatre productions that reflect, comment upon and challenge the realities of contemporary Palestinian society." (Quote from the theatre web). Bilal has played a key role as an adviser on the board of The Freedom Theatre since its conception and is also member of the General Assembly of the Palestinian Performing Arts Network.
Recently, the Israeli army often invades Jenin, which is in Area A under full Palestinian responsibility.
In May 2021, a wave of riots occurred in the mixed cities in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank during the "Guardian of the Walls" operation. Since then, the situation has worsened in Jenin, which is turning into a ghetto, similar to Gaza. Eighty percent of the young people do not receive permission to leave the city for work, many of them cannot even cross the border to Jordan. The arrest of the theater director is another layer in the desperation and resistance that stems from it.
Bilal Saadi, Director of The Freedom Theater. Photo: The Freedom Theatre
It seems that the opportunity of self-expression and identity development of children growing up under occupation and to the Palestinian People in general threaten the State of Israel. The desire to suppress any spark of expression is a cruel tool and a loss of values and humanity.
Throughout the years of oppression and antisemitism, the Jews maintained an artistic expression in theater, painting and more. Tools that made it possible to preserve the Jewish People.
In September 1967, a declaration calling to end the occupation was published .It said: "Our right to defend ourselves against destruction does not give us the right to oppress others" The ad is signed by a number of artists.
Preventing artistic expression is a cruel, unnecessary tool that provokes resistance.