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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Al-Rowwad Theater Troupe:don't miss it; by Andy Martin




(NEW YORK)(June 20, 2005) I was in New York today and saw a performance of the Al-Rowwad Theater Troupe from occupied Palestine. There are two more performances in the New York area. Don't miss this group. {See www.THAWaction.org or e-mail alrowwadny@yahoo.com for details].

These young performers experienced what has become an embarrassing rite of passage for people around the world: being harassed by American immigration officials on arrival at Kennedy airport (more on that obscenity in a later column). But yes, these young people are subversive; they present the Palestinian perspective in a unique and irresistible way. (I may find myself on trial alongside Sami Al-Arian in Tampa for writing this column.)

The performers come from a refugee camp near Bethlehem. They are full of energy and enthusiasm. They tell the Palestinian narrative (invincible) and exemplify the Palestinian spirit (indomitable). I especially encourage supporters of Israel and my Jewish friends to catch this drama.

This Palestinian Cri de Coeur could have as easily been presented by the Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side 75 years ago, "Free my people." Could "Palestinians" (Jews) of 1930 ever have conceived that 75 years later "Palestinians" (Arabs) would be singing the same song in New York City? I don't think so.

David Astor of the London Observer once called the Jews and Palestinians "two wronged peoples." Truer words were never spoken.

Why are there two wronged peoples? The theater performance begins with a dramatic reading of the Balfour Declaration, where Great Britain traded Ottoman Palestine to British Jews for the proverbial thirty pieces of silver. Lord Balfour gave away what he did not own--and then after the war betrayed the buyers when he undermined those who had purchased his favor. The perfidiousness of British money-grubbing politics to fund World War I and goad America into the conflict is laid starkly bare. Ouch.

The moral guilt persisted after World War II, when President Harry Truman, desperate for political support to reelect himself, ignored his advisers and betrayed Palestine by selling it a second time, to his American supporters.

Again the Jews were betrayed. Six thousand years of glorious Hebrew history have become bogged down in a gruesome occupation and a soul-deadening litany of human rights abuses. As Golda Meir confessed, "I can forgive you for killing my sons, but I cannot forgive you for forcing me to kill your sons."

While the Al-Rowwad dancing and singing goes on, a montage of archival film reminds us that helpless innocents were slaughtered in 1948, a fact that only recently became widely known and generally admitted in Israel.

There are many organizations committed to peaceful coexistence among the next generation. Givathaviva.org and seedsofpeace.org come quickly to mind. But Al-Rowwad performers live inside occupied Palestine every day. The occupation has been and continues to be their life. The camp is their home.

The obvious question must be presented and confronted: if after almost sixty years of terror, and almost forty years of occupation, Israel has not succeeded in defeating the Palestinian national spirit, when will Israeli leaders admit their tactics have failed and sit down to negotiate a genuine peace, instead of posturing for peace and importuning the support of right-wing extremists in the Bush administration?

Is peace possible? I believe it with my heart. Will it be easy? No way. What are we waiting for? Who is profiting from the delays?

A current German film, "Downfall," portrays the last days of Hitler. The point made is that if Hitler had surrendered earlier, millions of lives could have been saved. Hitler preferred to destroy his nation, and himself, rather than admit defeat.

Ariel Sharon has bludgeoned the Palestinian People for four years; they are stronger today than when Sharon began. Needless blood has been shed on both sides. In retrospect, Sharon will prove to have been the most disastrous leader in Israeli history. He accomplished nothing. He ensured the survival of those whom he most opposed.

But rather than the heavy hand of politics the performers remind us of their loyalty to the drama of Palestinian history. The lighter touch works.

The Al-Rowwad performance ends--too soon--with a stirring song and a glorious display of the Palestinian flag. Don't miss it.

If you support the Palestinians, you will be reminded that a new generation is coming along to carry on the fight for freedom and justice. If you are an Israeli supporter, you will be convinced that peace between two peoples, a generous peace of the brave, and not occupation and tyranny, is the only hope for survival of the Israeli state. Shalom-As Salaam.

Al-Rowwad--only two days left in the New York area (Tuesday and Wednesday, June 21-22).


ANDY MARTIN is independent Contrarian Columnist and chief national and foreign correspondent for Out2.com (see Govt & Politics), based in Chicago and New York. He has also served as Baghdad Bureau Chief for Out2.com since April 2003. Martin has been involved in the Middle East for 35 years. Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Web site: andymartin.com; reactions/comments to: andymart20@aol.com


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