Support Palestinian Theatremakers! An Open Letter in Solidarity with The Freedom Theatre in Jenin

Editor’s Note: Rescripted has always believed in sharing the unfettered and unedited opinions of our arts community as they fight for justice, and the fight for Palestine’s freedom is no different. The following is an open letter on behalf of the Jenin community, and The Freedom Theatre in the West Bank. Artistic Director Ahmed Tobasi, Producer Mustafa Sheta, and theatre graduate Jamal Abu Joas and many others were taken from their homes, physically abused and detained. Only Tobasi has been freed thus far. We join our colleagues around the world in advocating for their release, for an immediate ceasefire, and for the end of the occupation in Gaza. The letter here is presented in full, but you can read, sign, and view all signatories at this link

This letter calls for the immediate release of Mustafa Sheta, Jamal Abu Joas and all 100 members of the Jenin community detained on Wednesday 13th December. Please read the letter in full and fill in the form linked below if you would like to add your signature to the list. Completing this form will add your name to a public list on the letter itself. Your name may also be used for press opportunities. Your email will be kept confidential and only used in the event of updates, or related actions. Whilst we are particularly interested to hear from those working within the theatre industry, this letter is open for anyone to sign. So please share it widely. Sign the letter here.


We, as venues, artists and culture workers are united in our commitment to justice, dignity, freedom, and equality for all people in Israel and Palestine. We hold every life to be precious, and we grieve every death.

On Wednesday 13th December, Israeli soldiers attacked The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, shooting the building, destroying offices and assaulting its staff.

Artistic Director Ahmed Tobasi, Producer Mustafa Sheta, and theatre graduate Jamal Abu Joas were taken from their homes and detained. Jamal was severely beaten.

Ahmed Tobasi has since been released, also beaten. His colleagues, along with approximately 100 other Palestinians taken hostage from Jenin, remain detained.

This follows the murder of three members of The Freedom Theatre in the last few weeks including 17-year-old Yamen Jarrar, 26-year-old Jehad Naghniyeh and 30 year old Mohammed Matahen.

In 2015, The Freedom Theatre embarked on the biggest touring production ever performed in Britain by a Palestinian theatre company, with their production The Siege. 

The company performed at The Lowry in Manchester, Lakeside Theatre in Colchester, Battersea Arts Centre in London, The Hub in Leeds, St Mary in the Castle in Hastings, The Merlin in Frome, Birmingham Rep, Nottingham Playhouse, The Cut in Halesworth and The Tron in Glasgow.

The Freedom Theatre is a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of inconceivable adversity.

Our friends and contemporaries at The Freedom Theatre deserve the right to carry out their work without fear of violence or persecution.

In Gaza, several Palestinian artists, including Refaat Alareer, Saleem Al-Naffar, Inas al-Saqa, Hiba Abu Nada, and Heba Zagout, have been among the 20,000 killed by Israeli forces since October 7th.

Arts and cultural sites have also been destroyed in targeted attacks, including the Orthodox Cultural Centre, Al-Qarara Cultural Museum, the Rafah Museum, the headquarters of the Our Sons for Development Association, the Gaza Centre for Culture and Arts, the Milad Association, the Arab Social Cultural Centre, the Hakawi Theatre Association and the Rashed Al-Shawa Cultural Centre.

Destroying and targeting cultural sites is a clear violation of international law, in accordance with the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

The targeting of cultural sites is part of a pattern of aggression in which Israel has systematically destroyed hospitals, bakeries, and power and water infrastructure.

We, the undersigned, call on our elected representatives to demand:

  • the immediate release of Mustafa Sheta, Jamal Abu Joas and all 100 members of the Jenin community detained on Wednesday 13th December,
  • an end to the targeted attacks on cultural sites,
  • an immediate and permanent ceasefire,
  • an end to the occupation in Gaza,
  • an end to settler expansion in the West Bank,
  • the rightful return of first-generation Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

The struggle for freedom for Palestinians is one of collective liberation. We refuse to pit one community against the other, and stand firmly against all forms of racism including Islamophobia and antisemitism.

SOURCES:

https://euromedmonitor.org/en/article/5965

https://www.palestinechronicle.com/two-palestinian-artists-condemn-israels-destruction-of-gazas-iconic-theater/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/08/palestinian-poet-refaat-alareer-killed-in-gaza

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-palestine-inas-al-saqa-friends-remember-gaza-playwright

https://hyperallergic.com/850887/gaza-artist-heba-zagout-killed-with-her-children-in-israeli-airstrike/

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/palestinian-novelist-killed-in-israeli-airstrike

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/aug/22/our-memories-have-vanished-the-palestinian-theatre-destroyed-in-a-bomb-strike

Editor’s Resources:

5CALLS app for calling your representatives.

Donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians to support urgent health response in Gaza.

Follow the United States Palestinian Community Network to stay up to date on local and national actions near you, and many other resources!

The photo was taken by the editor, Regina Victor, at a USPCN protest in Chicago.

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