Palestinians' "Anti-Normalization" Movement
Palestinian Authority security forces used force to disperse and arrest Palestinian activists who tried to prevent Indians from performing a dance in Ramallah on April 12.
The activists accused the Indian Classical Dance Performance, Kathak, of appearing before members of the Indian community in Tel Aviv, saying this was a form of "normalization" with Israel.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, an anti-Israel group that claims to be pro-Palestinian, issued a statement calling for boycotting the Indian dancers who had been invited to attend a Palestinian book fair in Ramallah.
The group said that the Indian dancers' performance in Tel Aviv came in "wake of an upsurge in the fierce onslaught against the Palestinian people by the Israeli Occupation Forces."
The group called on the Palestinian Authority [PA] Ministry of Culture to cancel the Indian dancers' performance in Ramallah on the pretext that their appearance in Tel Aviv was in violation of the campaign for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
The ministry, however, chose to ignore the call to prevent the Indian troupe from performing at the Ramallah Al-Kasaba Theater & Cinematheque.
What happened at the theater during the performance has not only scared the Indian guests, but also embarrassed the Palestinian Authority.
"Anti-normalization" activists who managed to infiltrate the theater shouted abuse at the Indian dancers and their Palestinian hosts.
The protesters claimed that the PA, which supports "anti-normalization" campaigns, had come under pressure not to cancel the event.
The activists shouted at senior Palestinian officials who were attending the event: "Shame on you!"
The head of the Indian Representative Office in Ramallah, who was also attending the event, was shocked to see the scenes of chaos and violence, eyewitnesses said.
The Ministry of Culture later issued a statement in which it accused the anti-Israel activists of cursing and physically assaulting members of the audience.
The statement said it approved the performance of the Indian troupe after being assured by Indian diplomats that the event in Tel Aviv had not been coordinated with any official or non-official Israeli party.
The ministry admitted that the Palestinian Authority had originally opposed the performance of the Indian troupe in Ramallah. But it said that in light of the Indian diplomats' assurances, it reconsidered its position and discovered that the band's tour "was not in the context of any normalization activity."
PA security forces arrested four of the rioters: Fadi Quran, Zeid al-Shuaibi, Aboud Hamayel and Fajr Harb. The activists accused the Palestinian security forces of beating them and their friends.
The incident in Ramallah was not the first of its kind by the anti-Israel activists. Earlier this year, an attempt to hold a meeting of Israeli-Palestinian peace activists in the city failed after "anti-normalization" activists attacked the hotel where the meeting was taking place.
But while in the past the protests have been directed mostly against Israelis, this was the first time that foreigners fell victim to the anti-Israel campaign. The Indian dancers' crime was that they had visited Tel Aviv, where they performed in front of members of the Indian community.
This new and dangerous development shows that the "anti-normalization" activists do not hesitate to resort to violence and verbal abuse even against nationals of a country such as India that is known for its staunch support for the Palestinians.
The government of India recently contributed $10 million as budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority. The contribution came within the framework of India's financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority and other humanitarian assistance efforts for the well-being of the Palestinians.
In March 2009, India contributed a similar sum to the budget of the Palestinian Authority and completed the construction of the Palestinian Embassy building and residences in New Delhi as a gift to the Palestinians.
The "anti-normalization" campaign is a powerful movement that operates in the West Bank, often with the blessing of the Palestinian Authority leadership. Although President Mahmoud Abbas is personally opposed to the anti-Israel campaign, his government has not done anything to restrain the movement.
If and when Abbas ever signs a peace agreement with Israel, the first to come out against him will not only be Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but the "anti-normalization" activists who are already accusing him of being a traitor for meeting with Israelis. As for the Indian dancers, they have received a first-hand lesson in what years of incitement and negative campaigns can do to Palestinians.
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