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2018Annual Programme
Criteria for normalization and freedom of expression Debate – “Subcontracted Nations”
- Gallery


Debate – “Subcontracted Nations”

Curator - Najwan Berekdar


Tickets: Free Entry



The criteria for what is considered an act of normalization should not confine cultural freedom of expression.


The consensus among Palestinians, whether in Palestine or in the Diaspora and with the exception of very few, is to celebrate the accomplishments of the BDS movement around the world and its increasing impact on isolating the Israeli regime academically, culturally, and to a certain extent economically. These achievements have led the Israeli regime to consider the BDS movement a “strategic threat” par excellence. Whenever the campaign is successful in pressuring an international company (like Orange and Viola) into withdrawing from all Israeli projects, or a famous singer cancels a performance in Tel Aviv, everyone rejoices, and rightly so, for the BDS is a movement of all Palestinians. However, when discussing normalization, and despite the general consensus around the criteria for what is considered as such, cultural criteria remain controversial. Whenever the BDS movement lobbies to stop local and Arab acts of normalization (according to the current criteria), some people react strongly and raise their voices accusing the BDS movement of constituting some form of “restriction on cultural and media freedoms”. Some even considered that what the BDS movement is doing amounts to “a strangulation of Palestinian artists” calling for developing new criteria to assess films and cultural works prior to making judgements about them or issuing decisions by other groups banning these works particularly when such a decision is taken without watching the product in question.


One of the cultural journalists said “we refuse custodianship over our minds. In my opinion, no one  in this country owns certificates of nationalism to give out to people or has the right to assume a higher moral and nationalist ground over anyone else. We should keep our minds open as long as the product in question does not harm us."  However, he stressed that “freedom cannot be divided and the same should apply to the boycott.” As such, it is necessary to expand the boycotting to areas other than politics, culture, and arts, to sports, the economy, and other fields.” Nevertheless, the question that lingers clearly in this regard is where does the freedom of expression end, the freedom of an artists to break through the forbidden, and does freedom of expression contradict the freedom of normalization?? Or maybe there is a need to re-define the concept of normalization or criteria of what is considered as normalization in the Palestinian context? The debate aims at continuing this heated discussion about freedom of normalization and expression in a calm manner and at creating a space for dialogue re-directing it in a healthy and proper manner.


  1. Impact of art projects on local policies

The confinement of art projects to independent institutional work undermines their contribution towards influencing the local policies

We are all aware of the obstacles that the occupation has and continues to impose on Palestinian cities and villages which led in turn to hampering the development and implementation of national planning policies and limited potentials for future expansion. Under the current political condition and local context decision-makers and planning institutions are subject to major challenges. The urban planning process allows the Palestinian Authority to devise future spatial visions and concepts and as such, the possible and important question to pose here regarding the Palestinian situation is how can the urban planning process be managed and how can the space be organized under volatile political and economic conditions using available resources to achieved the desired goals? And what is the role of artists and architects with nationalist feelings and concerns in this process?

This debate discusses the role of arts in the national project and strategic planning. It aims at highlighting arts as an instrument of influence on communities, the importance of their role in impacting local planning policies, and their role as a tool for knowledge and preservation of the collective identity and the character of the space. On the one hand, the discussion revolves around an assessment of the Palestinian situation and the responsibility of artists and architects to engage in organized political activism through the local authorities, union, and others, and the responsibility and interest of local communities in soliciting advice from experts and showing national responsibility and openness to accommodate their opinions that address the national and developmental dimensions on the other.


  1. Active role of artists and intellectuals in the current stage of the national struggle.

The contribution of the intellectuals in the struggle is limited to cultural production.


Intellectuals have a pioneering, revolutionary, and drastic role in liberation movements, heroic resistance battles, and popular uprisings against occupation and colonialism on the path to liberation and national independence as well as in standing up, resisting, and rejecting wars provided that these intellectuals are attuned to the dreams, pains, concerns, and aspirations of the people, stimulating them out of their dormant state because there is a link between culture and creativity and popular revolts. However, a closer look at the current Palestinian situation, begs the question on whether or not the intellectuals are aware and understand the dangers of the current stage. If we assumed that intellectuals understand precisely the nature of the current stage, another question emerges: are intellectuals undertaking their role in the confrontation?

Intellectuals are the most capable of criticizing the reality and contributing towards developing the society. Intellectuals believe in the role of  intellect and culture and the role of human beings in resisting the situation and leading the change. Therefore, they try to shift the awareness of the people and project this reality from the people’s minds into the realm of intellect. Assuming that intellectuals and artists understand the dangers of the current phase in Palestine, the natural question would be: are they undertaking their role in standing up to the difficulties and dangers of the current stage in Palestine today? Do they figure strongly in this process?

This debate addresses the role of the current Palestinian intellectuals in bringing about change and in the act of resistance?  The discussion will focus on the following question: is the role of Palestinian intellectuals and artists in the national struggle limited to their cultural production only? Is there a need for them to have an active role in the national struggle and the shaping of awareness of the cause outside their cultural works and productions?