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Israel cancels children’s puppet festival over Palestinian link

Published: Updated:

Israel has cancelled a children’s puppet festival at a Palestinian theatre in East Jerusalem, stating the event was unlawfully sponsored by the Palestinian Authority (PA), reported The Guardian on Tuesday.

According to the Israeli government, East Jerusalem is outside the jurisdiction of the PA. This led to Israeli authorities posting notices on the el-Hakawati theatre ordering the cancellation of the festival at the theatre, or any venue in Israel.

Signed by Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovich, it read: “It has come to my attention that between the dates of 22 June and 30 June the theatre is scheduled to hold events within ‘Palestinian Children’s Week’ at el-Hakawati Theatre in Jerusalem, and these events will be held with the Palestinian Authority's sponsorship or on its behalf, without having received written authorization for this as required. Therefore, by the power invested in me by law, I hereby instruct [those concerned] not to hold the events here or in any other location within the state of Israel.”

The theatre, known also as the Palestinian National Theatre, has run an annual children’s festival for the past 18 years, this year’s event was set to include performances from Arab-Israeli theatre groups and host visitors from France, Norway and Turkey.

Abdel Salam, the puppet festival’s director, called the order “simply unbelievable.” He told the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv:

“There is no political content in the plays and the shows that were supposed to be staged at the festival. We are accused of political activity even though these are just children’s plays.”

The deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Yosef Alalu, also cvoiced his concern writing to the public security minister to say his action was “wrong and irresponsible.”
“It only increases the hatred and anger of the East Jerusalem public against us,” his letter said, according to Ma'ariv.

East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel during the 1967 six-day war, and later annexed in a move not sanctioned by the international community. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.