The cultural shockwave of the Israel-Hamas war

Middle East. Two weeks after the terrible Hamas terrorist attacks, and as Israel intensifies its response, the violence of the conflict is forcing cultural institutions, in France and abroad, to adapt their programming. In museums, several events linked to Palestine have been called into question, notably at the Institute of the Arab World (IMA) which officially “postponed” a concert and several conferences as part of its “Palestine” season. In Choisy-le-Roi (Val-de-Marne), the play by Palestinian Ahmed Tobasi was canceled on October 11, by decision of the municipality which cited to justify itself “a sign of appeasement and respect for all the victims”.

In Germany, the LiBeratur prize award ceremony planned for the Frankfurt am Main Book Fair was canceled by the organizing association – the prize was awarded to Palestinian novelist Adania Shibli for A minor detail, account of rapes and murders perpetrated by Israeli soldiers in 1949 (published by Berenberg Verlag). This decision caused a strong reaction in the world of literature and publishing. Other institutions choose not to modify anything, such as the Museum of Art and History of Judaism in Paris. For its director, Paul Salmona: “Our motto is to change nothing and give in nothing. We are maintaining our activities, and we are operating with enhanced security. » Ditto at the Shoah Memorial which declares “continue programming”.

The European Union is the main financial supporter of the Palestinians, via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East, but each country provides aid through its own network: in 2022, France provided 95 million euros for the development aid in the Palestinian territories, and 3.5 million for cultural cooperation. France is maintaining this funding for the moment.

The French Institute in Gaza

France is an important cultural player in the Palestinian territories and particularly in Gaza, where it is the only country to have a cultural center according to the Quai d’Orsay (the British Council closed its doors in 2006). The French Institute (IF) in Gaza depends on the Jerusalem IF, which covers several Institutes (West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza, Hebron, and Nablus until 2018). The Gaza IF provides French lessons to several dozen Gazans each year. This institute is best known for supporting Palestinian artists from Gaza through scholarship programs and residencies. It is not uncommon for works by Palestinian artists to leave Gaza via the French diplomatic bag, which allows customs restrictions to be avoided. France has also been a long-standing supporter of the “National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Palestine” project, whose collections are housed at the IMA while awaiting land and a building in the Palestinian territories.

Olympe Lemut

The French Institute of Gaza.

© French Institute

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