Today, Ashtar Theatre came to Birzeit University to perform their highly interactive play called “Al Merya’a Wal-Qorqa’a” which brings to light the socio-economic effects that Palestinian farmers face due to the influx of Israeli produce into the Palestinian market. Through the process of breaking the fourth wall, audience members interacted with the actors, which assisted the audience in acquiring the knowledge needed to challenge the presence of Israeli products and promote those of Palestinians; thereby supporting the Palestinian cause and resisting the occupation. According to the brochure that Ashtar handed out, the play focuses on “the challenge that Palestinian farmers face,” “the crisis of water resources and reservoirs,” and “the crisis of agricultural land confiscation by the Israeli military.” However, Birzeit University’s Student Council members affiliated with Fatah (Shabibeh) very rudely interrupted the performance before we could get through a quarter of it. They wanted the performance to come to a screeching halt and for the audience to head home and mourn over the life of Ziad Abu Ein, a respected PA official who the IDF murdered earlier today. The problems with this are as follows:
Photo credit: Birzeit University
The manner in which the play was interrupted.
Members of Shabibeh barged into the room, ran up the stage, and ordered everyone to leave the university all the while telling us that we were being unpatriotic and disrespectful to Abu Ein by attending a play. The director, Bayan Shbib, went on stage and spoke through the microphone in order for her influential words to be heard through the cacophony of yells to tell the audience and the members of Shabibah that the play was being performed in memory of Abu Ein who, himself, supported its production. She also said that the play was not about a trivial matter, it is about Palestine and resistance. Apparently, that was unimportant to them.
It is, however, important to say that the problem is not that they interrupted the play. If this is what they believe is the right thing to do, then they have every right to try to convince people to believe in it also. But they didn’t try to convince us. They didn’t tell us why they think we should leave. All they could say was that Abu Ein is a martyr and that his death needs to be mourned without understanding that people deal with death differently. All they could do was get physical with one of the performers and those that opposed them. All they could do was bring the props to the floor, ensuring that the performance does not continue. Had they respected us, they would have stated their opinion and left with those who were convinced, leaving be those that weren’t.
The mentality of the interrupters.
The Shabibeh members that came into the auditorium believed it was within their rights to force everyone out. They refused to acknowledge that people have a say over their lives and their actions, that people have a say in which means of resistance they choose to enforce. They believe that there is one form of resistance and that only theirs is the correct path to liberation (which has proven untrue). What is obvious is that they do not understand the roots of theatre, along with other art forms, in Palestinian culture and its importance to resistance. The IDF murdered Ghassan Kanafani, a playwright, novelist, painter, and journalist for the power his works entail, which is a perfect example of how various forms of resistance are threatening to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. What is also obvious is how they are fascist in their actions and policies. Many people in the auditorium do not affiliate themselves with Fatah or Shabibeh. Why should they be obedient to a faction that they do not believe in or agree with? Is the command of Shabibeh divine? Is it something that one cannot refuse? No, it is not.
The hypocrisy of the interrupters.
When the recent incursion in Gaza happened where the IDF murdered 2016 men, women and children Shabibeh barely did anything. They didn’t call for strikes, or assemblies, or anything of that matter. Instead, what a lot of them did was point the finger at Hamas, stating that they are responsible for all those deaths. However, all hell must break loose when the IDF murders one person from Fatah (Not that his life is not important, I, too, am enraged at how brutally he was killed). All this does is present to the people where Shabibeh’s values lie. It is not about Palestine. It is not about Palestinians. It is about the party. It is about Fatah and you are either with them or against them.
Fatah’s slogan is “the winds cannot shake the mountain”. But they are not even the wind, instead they are the forces that make the earth’s tectonic plates crash into each other forming other mountains around the one that already existed.