Palestine solidarity activists in Seattle are using innovative street theatre and art displays to raise awareness about the Occupation of Palestine. The monthly âSidewalk Educationâ events aim to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people and the six million Palestinian refugees expelled throughout the world, and the destruction caused by the Apartheid Wall. The project is also at the forefront of calls for the city to divest from Apartheid Israel.
Citizens of downtown Seattle regularly come face to face with the projectâs 7-foot tall display panels of photographs highlighting the reality of the Occupation, set up to catch the attention of shoppers and passers-by. Historical factsheets, leaflets and banners are handed out to inform people of issues such as the ongoing demolition of Palestinian homes.
Street performances – including theatre, music and unusual visual imagery â have proved highly successful in raising peopleâs awareness of the Occupation and getting wider sections of society involved in Palestinian solidarity. Particularly noteworthy was a silent procession of masked Palestinian refugees, all wearing black and carrying models of parts of demolished homes covered in graffiti and slogans.
Ed Mast, a member of the cityâs Palestinian Solidarity Committee and the Sidewalk Education project, recalls, âWhen we do this procession, we notice children running up to look at us, and their parents stopping to read the graffiti to their children.â Poetry readings about the Occupation have also proved successful in mobilizing support and interest.
Sidewalk Education also engages passers-by in discussion and debate. According to Mast, âDialogue can sometimes be contentious, but often we encounter people who know nothing and are surprised and appalled at what we show them.â
The project also disseminates information calling for the city of Seattle to divest from companies which profit from and sustain the Occupationâs oppression of the Palestinian people and the construction of the Apartheid Wall. This call for divestment has been a central component of activistsâ work in the city for several years.
âLately,â reports Mast, âwe have been getting more calls about divestment and have been discussing ways to escalate the campaign.â The church community in America is becoming increasingly aware of the need to divest funds from Israel and Mast says that local churches are becoming more and more receptive of the idea, âboth to divest themselves and to lend support to our campaign toward the City of Seattle.â
Divestment marks one of the first steps in building a global movement to isolate Israeli Apartheid. A wide number of sanctions and boycotts campaigns are now building with new efforts aimed at finding concrete actions of solidarity with Palestinians struggling for liberation and justice.