Ben Rivers Speaks on ‘Playback Theater and Popular Struggle in Occupied Palestine,’ at an event in Delhi

The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India and and The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI) conducted a talk by Ben Rivers on the topic ‘Playback Theatre and Popular Struggle in Occupied Palestine,’ at the May Day Bookstore and Cafe, New Delhi, on 8 January 2014.

Ben Rivers is an educator and cultural activist based in the Middle East. He specializes in the use of applied theatre for community mobilization and is a co-founder of The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus initiative (www.freedombus.ps).

Since December 2011, The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus has engaged thousands of Palestinians and people from abroad in cultural actions that address Israel’s practice of settler colonialism, military occupation and structural apartheid. The Freedom Bus partners with village cooperatives, popular struggle committees and grassroots organizations to hold multi-day “solidarity stays” and “freedom rides” in villages, towns, refugee camps and Bedouin communities throughout the occupied West Bank. These events involve community visits, interactive seminars, guided walks, Hakawati (traditional storytelling), building construction, and protective presence activity.

A central feature of Freedom Bus events is the use of Playback Theatre. Through this method, a troupe of Palestinian actors and musicians invite stories from the audience and subsequently transform each account into a piece of improvised theatre. By sharing stories about the realities of life under colonization and apartheid, community members aim to mobilize audience members in the broader struggle for freedom and equality in historic Palestine.

Endorsers of the Freedom Bus include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Judith Butler, Maya Angelou, Noam Chomsky, Omar Barghouti and Peter Brook. The Freedom Bus is also endorsed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
Using stories, photographs and video, Ben Rivers will speak about the Freedom Bus initiative and its role within the popular struggle movement.

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The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India condemns the MoU between Haryana Government and Israeli water company Mekorot

The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India supports the first international Week Against Mekorot and says NO to water apartheid

Mekorot is Israel’s state-owned water company responsible for implementing “water apartheid” on Palestinians, including the international crime of pillage of natural resources in occupied territory, discrimination against the Palestinian people as an ethnic group and vital support for the illegal settlement enterprise. (See http://stopthewall.org/week-action-against-mekorot)

In 2005, Mekorot established a business arm to begin a process of international expansion. Among the countries where it has signed lucrative contracts is India. The Haryana Government last month signed an MOU with Mekorot for the joint development of a dual pipeline project. (See http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/haryana-govt-signs-mou-with-israel-govt-company-114022601120_1.html)

[Image credit: via www.stopthewall.org]

[ Image credit: via http://www.stopthewall.org ]

This is Mekorot’s record:

  • Mekorot operates a system of water apartheid: Mekorot has been responsible for water rights violations and discrimination since the 1950s when it built Israel’s national water carrier, which is diverting the Jordan River from the West Bank and Jordan to serve Israeli communities. At the same time it deprives the Palestinian communities from access to water. Palestinian consumption in the OPT is about 70 litres a day per person – well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much. Mekorot has refused to supply water to Palestinian communities inside Israel, despite an Israeli high court ruling recognizing their right to water.
  • Mekorot’s vital support for the illegal settlement enterprise: Mekorot support for colonial settlement has continued since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. The company took monopoly control over all water sources in the occupied territories, implementing policies that bolster Israeli settlements at the expense of Palestinian communities.
  • Mekorot participates in the international crime of pillage of natural resources and wanton destruction of water infrastructure: Mekorot operates some 42 wells in the West Bank, mainly in the Jordan Valley region, which mostly supply the Israeli settlements. Mekorot works in close partnership with the Israeli military, confiscating irrigation pipes from Palestinian farmers and destroying the water supply sources of Palestinian communities. In 2012 alone the Israeli army demolished 60 water and sanitation structures belonging to Palestinians.
  • Mekorot denies Palestinians the human right to water as a tool for the Israeli policy of displacement: In the summer Mekorot, escourted by the army, turns off the tap on Palestinian West Bank communities, leaving them to dry. Mekorot is a proud partner of the JNF’s “Negev Blueprint” plan, which will see 40 000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel uprooted from their homes into reservations and their land used for Jewish-only settlement in the Negev.
  • Mekorot’s purported ‘expertise’ on water is plain ‘bluewashing’: The construction of water myths intended to bolster Israel’s image abroad. Israel did not “make the desert bloom”. The area of historic Palestine is rich in water and Palestinians have a centuries-old agriculture tradition. Israel exploited this myth to justify its misguided diversion of the Jordan River waters, turning the historic river into a sewage pit, and to justify aggression against neighboring countries. The reality is that Israel is a water waster, its citizens consume water double the European average and its agriculture sector is ecologically unsustainable, with government subsidized farmers growing water thirsty crops.

It is clear that all cooperation with Mekorot inherently benefits from or contributes to the illegal settlement enterprise.

Campaigns have been established to kick Mekorot out in Argentina, Italy, Greece and Portugal. In Argentina, activists recently announced they succeeded in suspending the construction of a US$170 million water regeneration plant – a project which would have financed not only water apartheid in Palestine but exported it transforming access to water in Buenos Aires from a human right to a luxury item for the rich.

By doing business with Mekorot, India would, in effect, be supporting its illegal and unjust practices with regard to water against the Palestinian people.  

The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India demands that the government and business establishment in India eschew business as usual with Israel and support the international movement to exclude Mekorot from public contracts and hold the company accountable for its water apartheid. The First International Week Against Mekorot is between 22 March 2014, World Water Day, and 30 March 2014, when Palestinians mark Land Day.

The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India appeals to all Indians of conscience to take a stand for water justice and support the International Week against Mekorot, 22-30 March 2014.

Prabir Purkayastha

Pallab Sengupta

Palestine Solidarity Committee in India

Subhashini Ali (President, AIDWA), Shyam Benegal (Filmmaker), Syeda Hameed (Member, Planning Commission), Githa Hariharan (Writer), Meena Menon (Activist), Saeed Mirza (Filmmaker), Maimoona Mollah (Janwadi Mahila Samiti), Seema Mustafa (Journalist), Saeed Naqvi (Journalist), Anand Patwardhan (Filmmaker), Prabir Purkayastha (DSF), Annie Raja (General Secretary, NFIW), D. Raja (Member, Rajya Sabha and National Secretary, CPI), N. Ram (Journalist), Nayantara Sahgal (Writer), Pallab Sengupta (AIPSO), S.P. Shukla (Former Secretary, Min. of Finance), Vivan Sundaram (Artist), Achin Vanaik (Academic), Sitaram Yechury (Member, Rajya Sabha and Member, CPI-M Politburo)