Crowds flock to Suirki play ‘Nation’

Prod'n delivers stinging verdicts to feuding factions

BAGHDAD — The verdict is greeted with enthusiastic applause performance after performance in Gaza City: “All are guilty of killing the people and the nation.”

With no cultural life in the Gaza Strip to speak of, Palestinian crowds are flocking to the Shawa cultural centre to watch dramatist Said Suirki’s satirical play, “The Nation”, which puts rulers from both Islamist Hamas and their secular rivals Fatah in the dock.

Suirki has tagged the trial with the number 48.67.2007 — referring to three seminal dates in the Palestinian saga.

In 1948, the state of Israel was created and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their ancestral homes. In 1967 Israel occupied the Gaza Strip during the Six Day War, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This year, 2007, saw vicious internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah, with the Islamists in June taking power in Gaza leaving the West Bank under the rule of moderate President Mahmud Abbas of Fatah.

The absurd situation in which Palestinians now find themselves — two territories, two administrations — makes for rich theatrical pickings.

“We fast differently (for Ramadan) if we’re in Gaza or Ramallah… If I get married in Gaza, is my marriage certificate valid in the West Bank?” asks an actor on the stage.

“Where is the nation?” laments the chorus, striking up a mournful refrain that is suddenly interrupted by the rattle of gunfire.

“I wanted to put on a play after seeing the bloody events in Gaza and the huge suffering of its people,” commented Suirki to local reporters.

“I called it ‘The Nation’ because it’s this that has been the biggest loser in the Hamas-Fatah conflict.”

Due to the play’s success, the cast now hope to take it on a tour of the Palestinian territories, and maybe even to Israel itself later — finances, security and politics depending.

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