60 Years of Palestinian Dispossession . . . No Reason to Celebrate “Israel at 60”!

“Even after fifty years of living the Palestinian exile I still find myself astonished at the lengths to which official Israel and its supporters will go to suppress the fact that a half century has gone by without Israeli restitution, recognition, or acknowledgment of Palestinian human rights and without, as the facts undoubtedly show, connecting that suspension of rights to Israel’s official policies. . . . the Palestinian Nakba is characterized as a semi-fictional event . . . caused by no one in particular.”
                 Edward Said, commenting on the “Israel at 50”
                 celebrations in the US in 1998

The creation of the state of Israel almost 60 years ago dispossessed and uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and lands.  With their peaceful lives ruined, society fragmented, possessions pillaged and hope for freedom and nationhood dashed, Palestinian refugees held on to their dream of return, and Palestinians everywhere nourished their aspiration for freedom, dignified living, and becoming whole again.

There is no reason to celebrate!  Israel at 60 is a state that is still denying Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned rights, simply because they are “non-Jews.”  It is still illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions.  It is still persistently and grossly breaching international law and infringing fundamental human rights with impunity afforded to it through munificent US and European economic, diplomatic and political support.  It is still treating its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized discrimination.

In short, celebrating “Israel at 60” is tantamount to dancing on Palestinian graves to the haunting tune of lingering dispossession and multi-faceted injustice.

There is absolutely no reason to celebrate!  But there are myriad reasons to reflect, to engage, to work towards peace and justice.

Mahmoud Darwish (poet, Palestine),
John Berger (artist/author, UK),
Augusto Boal (director/writer, Brazil),
Ella Shohat (author, USA/Israel),
Roger Waters (musician, UK),
Ken Loach (filmmaker, UK),
Andre Brink (writer, South Africa),
Aharon Shabtai (poet, Israel),
Judith Butler (philosopher, USA),
Vincenzo Consolo (writer, Italy),
John Williams (guitarist, UK),
Tom Leonard (poet, Scotland),
Anthony Loewenstein (author, Australia),
Patrice Nganang (writer, Cameroon),
Demis Roussos (singer, Greece),
Mourid Barghouti (poet, Palestine),
Ilan Pappe (historian/author, Israel),
Naomi Wallace (playwright, USA),
Ahdaf Soueif (writer, UK/Egypt),
David Toscana (writer, Mexico),
Tariq Ali (author, UK),
Tom Lanoye (writer, Belgium),
Radwa Ashour (writer, Egypt),
Juan Goytisolo (author, Spain),
Nigel Kennedy (musician, UK),
Marcel Khalife (musician, Lebanon/France),
Gianni Vattimo (philosopher, Italy),
Gabeba Baderoon (writer, South Africa),
Milton Hatoum (writer, Brazil),
Alain Platel (dance/theater director, Belgium),
Leon Rosselson (songwriter, UK),
Al-Mutawakil Taha (writer, Palestine),
James Kelman (writer, Scotland),
Michel Khleifi (filmmaker, Palestine/Belgium),
Ian Pace (pianist, UK),
Benjamin Zephaniah (poet, UK),
Ishtiyaq Shukri (writer, South Africa),
Eyal Sivan (filmmaker, Israel),
Victoria Brittain (author/playwright, UK),
Hany Abu Assad (filmmaker, Palestine),
Raymond Deane (composer, Ireland),
Mahmoud Shukair (writer, Palestine),
Paul Ben-Itzak (dance journalist, USA/Israel),
Caryl Churchill (playwright, UK),
Simon Shaheen (musician, Palestine/US),
Margaretta D’Arcy (playwright, Ireland),
John Arden (playwright and novelist, UK),
Annemarie Jacir (filmmaker, Palestine),
Marita van der Vyver (writer, South Africa),
Adrian Grima (poet, Malta),
Omar Qattan (filmmaker, Palestine/UK),
Mary Ann Devlieg (cultural director, Belgium),
Ibrahim Nasrallah (writer, Palestine/Jordan),
Elias Khoury (writer, Lebanon)

This statement, signed by 54 international figures in the literary and cultural fields, was published in the International Herald Tribune on 8 May 2008.  Download it in PDF at the Web site of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network (PNGO):


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