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. eg PalFest 2012 took place in Birzeit, Gaza and Ramallah, with an exclusive slate in Gaza.[1]

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".[2]

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.”[3]

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.


Palestine Festival of Literature poster

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.[4][5][6][7] Both times the festival relocated: to the French Cultural Institute on the first night[8] and to the British Council on the last.[9]

2011: Venue for the festival's closing event in Silwan is tear gassed.[10]

2012: Closing event of the inaugural PalFest Gaza is shut down by the police. Attempts in 2009 and 2010 to hold PalFest Gaza were impeded when organizers were denied entry permits, in the latter case by the regime of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.[11]

2015: Festival participant Sara Ishaq, Oscar-nominated film director, is prevented from entering the country by Israeli border police.[12][3]


External links[edit]

Media related to PalFest at Wikimedia Commons