Palestinian festival of dance – and debate
The third annual Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival showcases the growing cultural split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Though they were delayed eight hours at the Israeli border, dancers from Belgium's Les Ballets C. De La. B. company eventually made their way to Ramallah's Al Kasba Theatre where they writhed, staggered, and lunged across the stage.Skip to next paragraph
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But the Israeli security restrictions on the contemporary dance company were only part of the headache for the third annual of the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival. For the first time, the festival has drawn fire from the religious authorities of Hamas – highlighting how the split between the Gaza Islamists and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) has exacerbated a Palestinian culture clash.
In an article published on Hamas's website, the director general of the Islamic Waqf in Gaza, Saleh al-Rakab, called said that the festival "damages" the Palestinian cause and wastes money that should go to impoverished Gazans suffering from Israel's economic blockade.
"This festival is a black stain and a disgrace to everyone involved in it, Mr. Rakab wrote. While Hamas is immersed in "holy" work, the festival is "ridiculous and marginal.… Who has the head for something like this?"
Hamas's ascendancy in Palestinian society signaled a shift in the balance of power between religiously conservative Gaza and the more cosmopolitan seat of the Palestinian government in Ramallah. And the distance between the two Palestinian entities seems only to be growing. Israel keeps Gaza tightly sealed as it launches daily attacks against Hamas militants and continues to negotiate with PA President Mahmoud Abbas on a possible peace deal.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in the West Bank again on Sunday to support talks. Despite mounting odds against a two-state agreement before the end of the Bush administration, Rice said that "it is an achievable goal to have an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis by the end of the year."
Debate over the festival, which started April 17 and runs through Monday, tugs at another realm of the Hamas-Fatah culture clash: What constitutes resistance to the Israeli occupation?