From science to classical music, Israel clamps down on Palestinian culture

Singers sing at a music concert in Gaza City on November 21, 2013. (photo: Emad Nassar / Flash90)
The last months have seen Israel crack down on cultural figures and intellectuals in the occupied territories. Critics say the attacks are part of a larger strategy of suppressing Palestinian civil society.

By Robert Swift  |  +972 Magazine  | Aug 26, 2020

‘They don’t want Palestinians to be visible to the world; it’s difficult to dehumanize people playing classical music,’
— Suhail Khoury, Jerusalem Society for Music Teaching and Research

Suhail Khoury and Rania Elias were arrested last month by the Jerusalem Police. A married couple, they are, respectively, the Palestinian directors of the Jerusalem Society for Music Teaching and Research, and the Yabous Cultural Center — two East Jerusalem institutions that were simultaneously raided at the time of their arrests. The police accused them of tax avoidance and fraud, but have yet to present them with any charges in relation to the allegations.

Khoury and Elias were not the only prominent figures to be targeted by the Israeli authorities last month. A few days earlier, Palestinian astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi was detained at a checkpoint while traveling from Al-Quds University to his home in the West Bank; he has been charged with incitement and remains in custody. And in late July, Ahmad Qatamesh, a Palestinian author and academic, was released after being held for seven months in administrative detention — a procedure by which Israel holds detainees without due process.

Not unique in themselves, each of these cases is part of a wider phenomenon of arrests and detentions of Palestinian academics, scientists, and cultural figures conducted by Israel for decades. Taken together, these practices can be viewed as part of a wider effort by the Israeli government to weaken Palestinian society by suppressing and undermining its knowledge producers, with the unstated objective of ensuring that only one state and society — a Jewish, Zionist one — thrives in Israel-Palestine.

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