A Guardian article by Bethan McKernan and Gaza-based Hazem Balousha (“‘There are not many outlets for fun’: the Gazan arts centre that keeps music alive”, Feb. 25) acknowledged that “cultural endeavours in Gaza have…suffered greatly under the rule of the strictly conservative Hamas”, and that “concerts have been banned for the last 15 years”. But, the article – naturally – also blamed Israel for the challenges faced by Palestinian musicians and music lovers.
First, the piece bizarrely claims that “Palestinian musical traditions have been under threat since the Israeli occupation [of the West Bank]”. We say “bizarre” because in the thousands upon thousands of British media articles we’ve read over the years, we’ve never once come across the claim – save pro-Hamas sites – that, since 1967, Jerusalem has attempted to suppress Palestinian music. (Nor are we sure what such an assault would like like: The IDF raiding record stores and disrupting concerts in West Bank cities, or launching cyber attacks on sites that sell digital Palestinian music?)
But, the accusations get more specific – if only a little less crazy. McKernan and Balousha also claim that “the [Israeli] blockade has also led to a shortage of instruments and other equipment, making music an unaffordable pastime for most ordinary people”. So, are we to infer that the Israeli blockade on military (and dual-use) items crossing into Gaza also includes restrictions on guitars, violins and flutes?
According to the list of dual-use items restricted by Israel – published at the NGO Gisha in 2017 – musical instruments are not restricted. We’ve reached out to COGAT to get an official response, and, if, as we expect, they confirm this fact, we’ll be complaining to Guardian editors.