two cultural events by Palestinian visitors to Ireland last weekend almost did not happen. The first is the art exhibition by artists from Gaza entitled Windows into Gaza (Art & Design, 12th April), the second, a series of countrywide dance performances by the young Lajee Dabka dancers from the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, which got off to a rousing start supported by many renowned Irish musicians and singers at a sold out concert in Liberty Hall on Sunday night.
The two Gazan artists who were accompanying the art exhibition, Mohammed al Hawajri and Shareef Sarhan were denied their rights to leave Gaza and travel to Ireland last week. In addition, Mohammed al Azraq, the Lajee Cultural Centre's coordinator, was violently arrested on 26th March by the Israeli army and was beaten and ill-treated so badly in the notorious Al Jalama Prison that his health is now threatened. No charges have been brought against him.
It is truly shameful that the Israeli authorities even harass the cultural expression of Palestinians which seeks to see beyond conflict and aspires to a better world. Is Israel so threatened by these artists that they must harass them in such demeaning ways and hamper their possibilities of travelling to Ireland to share their culture with us. The Irish Government should object strongly to this treatment particularly in this International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People as declared by the UN General Assembly.