Palestine Festival of Literature

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'The Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest)' is an annual literary festival that takes place in cities across Palestine and Israel.

The festival was founded in 2008 with the stated mission of affirming "the power of culture over the culture of power" and breaking what it considers a cultural siege against Palestine. The festival's founding chair is the novelist and political commentator Ahdaf Soueif.

In an effort to overcome restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement the festival travels to its audiences, putting on free events in Arabic and English in the cities it travels to. The festival traditionally performs in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Haifa and Nablus. Because travel to Gaza is so restricted a small, separate festival is organised there. PalFest 2012 took place exclusively in Gaza.

Patrons of the festival have included Chinua Achebe, John Berger, Mahmoud Darwish, Seamus Heaney, Harold Pinter, Philip Pullman and Emma Thompson.

Participants have included Michael Ondaatje, Alice Walker, Raja Shehadeh, Michael Palin, Suad Amiry, Henning Mankell, Taha Muhammad Ali, Geoff Dyer, Suheir Hammad, Claire Messud, Pankaj Mishra, Gary Younge, Richard Ford and many others.

Visiting author China Miéville said the festival is "not only the most powerful and important literary festival it's ever been my privilege to attend, it's one of the most powerful and important things I've experienced, full stop[1]

Mahmoud Darwish sent a message to the inaugural festival in which he wrote: “Thank you dear friends for your noble solidarity, thank you for your courageous gesture to break the moral siege inflicted upon us and thank you because you are resisting the invitation to dance on our graves. We are here. We are still alive.” [2]

Supporters & Trustees[edit]

The festival has been supported by the British Council since its inception.

Current supporters include the Bank of Palestine, Riad Kamal, Aramex, Samir & Malak Abdulhadi, Fadi Ghandour, Hussam Khoury, Zina Jardaneh, Randa Kadoura, Zahi Khouri & Amal Nasser, Issam & Samia Salfiti and the Abdalla Foundation.

The festival's Board of Trustees are Omar Robert Hamilton, Nathalie Handal, John Horner, Brigid Keenan and Ahdaf Soueif



Tareq Abboushi, Khalid Abdalla, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Salam Abu Emneh, Ali Abunimah, Susan Abulhawa, Atef Abu Saif, Lorraine Adams, Meena Alexander, Taha Muhammad Ali, Suad Amiry, Sinan Antoon, Lina Attalah, Asmaa Azaizeh, Ibtisam Azem, Mourid Barghouti, Eyad Barghuthy, Bidisha, Malika Booker, Francesca Borri, Victoria Brittain, Carmen Callil, Sarah Carr, Anne Chisholm, Susannah Clapp, Teju Cole, Molly Crabapple, Selma Dabbagh, William Dalrymple (historian), DAM (band), Geraldine D'Amico, Najwan Darwish, Falastine Dwikat, Geoff Dyer, Jillian Edelstein, Eskenderella, Amr Ezzat, Rose Fenton, Richard Ford, Adam Foulds, Giles Fraser, Ru Freeman, Esther Freud, Ragaa Ghanem, Hussam Ghosheh, Mark Gonzales, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Amin Haddad, Subhi Hadidi, Tarik Hamdan, Suheir Hammad, Nathan Hamilton, Nathalie Handal, Mohammed Hanif, Ahmed Harb, Jeremy Harding, Manal Hassan, Selina Hastings, Maya Abu Al Hayat, Alaa Hlehel, Amer Hlehel, Sheikha Hlewa, Rachel Holmes, Aamer Hussein, Othman Hussein, Sara Ishaq, Ian Jack, Jafra, May Jayyussi, Amani Juneidi, Remi Kanazi, Ghada Karmi, Brigid Keenan, Omar El Khairy, Maya Khalidi, Khaled Al Khamissi, Naim al Khatib, Rana Khoury, Nancy Kricorian, Jamal Mahjoub, Henning Mankell, Sabrina Mahfouz, John McCarthy (journalist), Ritu Menon, Claire Messud, China Miéville, Dimitri Mikelis, Ministry of Dubkey, Pankaj Mishra, Deborah Moggach, Madaa Moghraby, Sahar el Mogy, Sameh Mostafa, David Mura, Akram Musallem, Khaled Najar, Ayman Nahass, Tania Nasir, Sonia Nimr, Andrew O'Hagan, Michael Ondaatje, Ursula Owen, Michael Palin, Ed Pavlic, Richard Price, Alexandra Pringle, Marcia Lynx Qualey, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Bassem Ra'ad, Mohana Rajkumar, Youssef Rakha, Eliza Robertson, Bee Rowlatt, Sapphire, Imad Sayrafi, Eugene Schoulgin, Rachel Shabi, Kamila Shamsie, Hanan al-Shaykh, Raja Shehadeh, Hala Shrouf, Mahmoud Shuqair, Rick Simonson, Farag Sleiman, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif, Linda Spalding, William Sutcliffe, Rima Nasir Tarazi, Tashweesh, Janne Teller, Al Quds Ensemble, Hanna Vibeke-Holst, Taline Voskeritchian, Alice Walker, Dirk Wanrooij, Tom Warner, Wildworks, Robin Yassin-Kassab, Gary Younge, Nora Younis, Nariman Youssef, Haifa Zangana, Basel Zayed & Turab, Amir Nizar Zuabi.

Restrictions & Closures[edit]

2012 Festival Poster: Gaza

2009: Both the opening and closing nights attempts were made by the Israeli police, acting on court order, to prevent the festival from taking place, since the Palestinian Authority was involved.[3][4][5][6] Both times the festival relocated: to the French Cultural Institute on the first night[7] and to the British Council on the last.[8]

2011: Venue for the festival's closing event in Silwan is tear gassed.[9]

2012: Closing event of PalFest Gaza is shut down by the police. [10]

2015: Festival participant Sarah Ishaq, Oscar-nominated film director, is prevented from entering the country by Israeli border police. [11]


  1. ^ PalFest 2013 Report[1]
  2. ^ PalFest 2015 Report[2]
  3. ^ Rory McCarthy, "Armed Israeli police close theatre on first night of Palestinian festival", The Guardian, 24 May 2009.
  4. ^ "La police israélienne empêche la tenue du festival palestinien de littérature", Le Monde, 24 May 2009.
  5. ^ "Police shut Palestinian theatre in Jerusalem", BBC News, 29 May 2009.
  6. ^ The Progressive
  7. ^ Video of the first day
  8. ^ Video of British Consul General announcing new venue.
  9. ^ PalFest 2011 Closing Night [3]
  10. ^ “Art is a hammer to shape reality”: PalFest breaks the siege of Gaza[4]
  11. ^ Oscar nominee barred from entering Palestine [5]

External links[edit]