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Portuguese director drops out of Israel Festival over treatment of Palestinians

Tiago Rodrigues says he cannot allow his work to condone a government that ‘deliberately violates human rights,’ claims IDF massacred dozens of civilians in Gaza border protests

Portuguese theater director Tiago Rodrigues (YouTube screenshot)
Portuguese theater director Tiago Rodrigues (YouTube screenshot)

A Portuguese theater director has canceled his attendance at a major cultural festival opening in Jerusalem this week over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Tiago Rodrigues said he was dropping out of the Israel Festival so that his work will not “condone and promote a government that deliberately violates human rights.”

Rodrigues had been set to stage his work “By Heart” twice during the festival, which runs from May 24 until June 9.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, he said he was joining a global cultural boycott of Israel that has seen some artists and musicians refuse to perform in Israel.

Rodrigues wrote: “Although I am strongly against the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government…I accepted [an invitation to perform] because I believe that the people of a country and its political administration are not the same thing,” he said.

However, it later came to his attention that official communications for the festival noted the event would celebrate Israel’s 70th year of independence.

“The mention of this celebration by the festival is not accompanied by a single word of criticism to the State of Israel for its conduct towards Palestinians during the last 70 years.”

Why I cancelled my participation at the Israel Festival and joined the cultural boycott of IsraelAlthough I am…

Posted by Tiago Rodrigues on Thursday, May 17, 2018

He added that while the festival notes that various government ministries contributed to the event, it “is silent about the unacceptable acts of violence ordered by this same government against Palestinians.”

A Palestinian uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Rodrigues explained: “I do not accept the use of my artistic work for political purposes without my agreement.”

His declaration came after Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinians during a violent protest last week along the border with the Gaza Strip, set to coincide with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. His cancellation follows international fallout from that violence. Israel, which says the Hamas terror group used the rioting as a cover for attempting attacks in Israeli territory, faced global condemnation over what critics say was its excessive use of force.

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has subsequently admitted that 50 of the 62 dead were members of the terror group. Three others were Islamic Jihad terror group members.

“Considering the rise of the number of victims in the last months, as well as the massacre of dozens of civilians by gunfire of the Israeli armed forces (that injured more than two thousand people and hundreds of Palestinian children among them) during the recent protests against the opening of the USA Embassy in Jerusalem, such omission is deeply troubling and I cannot stand by it.

“I must be true, above all, to my conscience,” Rodrigues wrote.

He added that he had “decided to join the cultural boycott of Israel, convinced that global and collective pressure might produce similar results to the boycott of South Africa during apartheid.”

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have conducted weekly, sometimes daily, mass demonstrations along the security fence, known collectively as the “March of Return.” Though the marches were started by a coalition of various groups in Gaza who called for them to be nonviolent, the plans were quickly co-opted by Hamas, which has ruled the coastal enclave since taking it over in 2007 in a violent coup.

Organizers have also said they want to “return” to former homes in modern-day Israel, break the blockade on Gaza — which Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from arming itself for war — and protest against the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In April, head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar declared that the point of the protests is to “tear down their border and tear out their hearts.”

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