Why the Circus is Not Welcome in Our Town

May 16, 2012

By Majd Muhsen

The Friends of Jordan Festival Society announced that it will be hosting the world-renowned circus troupe “Cirque du Soleil” in Amman next month (26-30 June). This should normally be exciting news. Who doesn’t like a circus? And one as brilliant as Cirque du Soleil? Had things been different, I would’ve been the first in line. The problem in this case is that Cirque du Soleil is planning another show in Israel in August.

The problem is that there is nothing fun about occupation. This week, we are commemorating Nakba; and 64 years on, we have not liberated Palestine, the refugees have not returned, Gaza is under siege and the West Bank is under a two-fold occupation. On top of all that, we witnessed a hunger strike probably unprecedented in history in terms of size and duration that leaves us humbled before the resilience and greatness of these prisoners of war.

Some have told us to put politics aside and enjoy the show. It is just logistics. International bands organize their tours in the “Middle East” and to them Israel is part of it. First of all, putting politics aside is a luxury we cannot afford; and it is naïve to think that by ignoring politics, its impact on every little detail of our lives will disappear. Second of all, there are still those who refuse to consider Israel part of our region. The majority of this region’s people reject this alien entity even if some Arab regimes, along with some organizations and individuals, are falling over themselves trying to get on its good side, presuming it has one.

I believe that when there’s confusion, you go back to the basics. The basics are that Israel is an enemy. Rejecting it is not, and will never be, out of fashion. We need to resist its existence with whatever means were have at our disposal. One way is to challenge this narrative of normalcy and revive the historical stigma associated with the word “Israel” as an occupation state. Each one of us needs to be personally offended, and threatened, when we come across their products in our markets, their representatives in our conferences, and their voices and music on our airwaves. These are forms of invasion and we must fight back.

For us outside Palestine, we fight back through active means by helping our people in Palestine resist and fight, and also through somewhat more passive means, like boycott and non-normalization. This is one line of defense, to remind and prove to the world, and sadly to ourselves sometimes, that the “Israeli state” is a malicious, colonial occupation that has thrived on the misery of millions, dispossessing them and appropriating their culture and heritage and then claiming to be capable of cultural and artistic appreciation.

For those who say that it is not for us to dictate who visits or deals with the occupation, and who question the impact boycott has, we say, there is a global campaign to isolate Israel; and this move to boycott Cirque du Soleil is part of this global grassroots effort. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS) has made significant achievements worldwide. And it does work. Many groups have cancelled shows and refuse to perform in Israel, citing as a reason the occupation’s practices, like the Gorillaz, or simply declining to perform there without giving any reason, like Bono, U2, Bjork, Snoop Dogg, and Vanessa Paradis (for a full list, visit the BDS movement website). Let us be part of this voice of justice. And if we do not want wish to be part of it, let us at least not undermine it.

We call on Cirque du Soleil to cancel their show in Israel. If they fail to do so, we call on Friends of Jordan Festival to cancel the event and on Umniah to withdraw their sponsorship. This Circus is not welcome in our town.

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