In Sweden there is an ongoing discussion about whether Sweden is funding Palestinian terrorism or not. The truth is that Sweden supports Palestinian projects and NGOs promoting terrorism and violence. By doing so Sweden is in fact guilty of encouraging violence and extremism in the Palestinian society.The Swedish aid is not peaceful and we need to protest how it has been misused.
For years Sweden has, unfortunately, been promoting violence by funding NGOs which encourage violent resistance to the Israeli presence in the Middle East.
In Jenin, a town in the Palestinian controlled part of the disputed territories in Samaria there is a theatre called the Freedom theatre (TFT). The theatre very actively promotes BDS against Israel, glorifies terror and takes part in campaigns aimed against Palestinians who choose peaceful co-existence with the Israeli society.
Sweden supports TFT with hundreds of thousands of shekels every year. According to the theatre’s annual report of 2015 the Swedish government payed salaries and student grants to the staff at the theatre for about NIS 152 083 and supported TFT with NIS 204 449 in total in 2015. In 2016 TFT received NIS 244 000 from Swedish funds. The money is transferred through PPAN a Palestinian BDS network which has been given over NIS 8 million from generous Sweden since 2016. This money cover the TFT’s performances in Jenin's refugee camp. And last year over 12 500 Palestinian children and adults watched its performances.
So what kind of plays does TFT perform that would promote Sweden’s official peaceful goals with development aid? Are these plays about peace, building bridges between people or ending violence?
No, no and no.
’The Siege’ is the title of one popular play TFT recently has been touring with in Palestinian towns and in the US.
The play is based on an event that took place between April 2 and May 10, 2002, during which 39 armed terrorists occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, taking 200 civilians and 46 monks, even children, hostage. According to some testimonies the terrorists used pages in the Bible as toilet papers and kept the food in the church for themselves while the hostages starved.
The Palestinian terrorists booby-trapped the church with 40 bombs and threatened to blow the holy site up and kill the hostages. The terrorist later agreed to leave the church as they were promised to be sent to freedom in Europe and Gaza.
However in ’The Siege’ the terrorists are portrayed as action heroes defending their homeland. Terrorists like Ibrahim Moussa Abayat contributed their narrative to the script. He is also featured in the promotional video clip for the play.According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abayat was involved in shooting attacks and killings of several Israeli civilians. On the poster advertising the play an actor playing one of the terrorists is seen smiling posing with a rifle.
Another play TFT is performing is ’Return to Palestine’. The play centres around Jad, a Palestinian Arab, who grew up in the US. One day he travels to the 'Palestinian territories'. According to the Palestinian Authority Maan News Agency in the end of the story Jad reaches the conclusion that the land needs blood and sacrifice for its survival and for a free life. In an interview with Maan News Agency, Shireen Jarrar, secretary of the board of directors of the Freedom Theatre, says that the play presents a very beautiful message to all expatriates. She also says that the message of the play carries an invitation to the Palestinian Arab expatriates to ”return and challenge all difficulties”. The performance is funded not only by Sweden but by the PA ministry of Culture.
'Return to Palestine'? I call it an invitation to terror and violence as the main character of the play concludes that violence (blood and sacrifice) is the way forward.
Terror organizations like PFLP have met with TFT. In 2014 it met with the terror organization. During the meeting TFT staff revealed to PFLP that TFT not only graduates artists, it also graduates ”performing resistance fighters”. The younger generations in towns like Jenin who come to TFT shows will be encouraged to perform acts of violence and terrorism as TFT portrays Palestinian terrorism as heroic and its terrorists as poor victims.
Some prominent members of TFT have a background in terror organizations.
For the very first time in history a demonstration against the Swedish government’s anti-Israel policies will take place in the heart of our democracy, outside the Swedish parliament.
Palestinian online newspaper Donia Al-Watan has interviewed the late TFT member Rabea Turkman, who was a Fatah militant in the Al Aqsa martyrs' brigades since the age of 16.
Al-Watan asked Turkman if the theatre is an alternative to armed struggle. His answer was that the theatre is not an alternative to armed struggle but a complement to that. He also added to his answer, that in all revolutions art has been a form of resistance, without denying armed struggle.
So TFT does not see its ”cultural resistance” as an alternative to armed activities, it is merely a complement to terror activities. The cultural resistance is not replacing the armed struggle but rather serves as a tool to keep the people fed with the ideas of armed struggle and hostility towards Israel. In Europe and the US ”the Palestinian cultural resistance” has the goal to change our Western perspective of Palestinian terrorists from viewing them as terrorists to viewing them as victims, freedom fighters and heroes. The end goal is to make Israel lose support in Europe and the US.
Another member of the Al Aqsa martyrs' brigades active in the theatre is one of its co-founders, Zakaria Al-Zubeidi. He is described in Palestinian media as a local leader of the Fatah armed wing.During the second intifada he was the terrorists’ bombmaker. But he is also the co-founder of the local branch of the Fatah armed wing in Jenin. TFT also reveals that Al-Zubeidi allegedly has been hiding 50 weapons. The theatre in addition to this states that staff, students, and board members have been arrested multiple times.
TFT also has cultural activities for children, which may look innocent on the surface. The ”soft” activities with small children however are there to create a positive image of TFT and to divert attention from TFT’s focus on graduating ”performing resistance fighters” and showing solidarity with terrorists.
TFT is just one of many many organizations Sweden is currently funding with millions of shekels from the Swedish tax payers’ money. Another organization is the anti-Semitic Miftah which until just recently made neo-Nazi material available on it’s webpage (now removed). Miftah has also been promoting violence in its contests for youths.Yet another organization Sweden funds is the Abu Dis Youth Club which honors acts of terrorism with championships and teams named after terrorists while hosting PFLP events inciting the youths to violence.
Sweden needs to wake up and realise that its foreign aid projects in the Palestinian territories are immoral and wrong. So on November 5I invite the Swedish tax payers to protest the irresponsible way in which Swedish development aid has been used. We will protest the government for inciting to violence with its destructive aid policy. For the very first time in history a demonstration against the Swedish government’s anti-Israel policies will take place in the heart of our democracy, outside the Swedish parliament.
May the truth liberate the Swedish people and ignite democratic resistance against Sweden's immoral and destructive aid policy that creates terrorists instead of peacemakers.
Tobias Petersson is the director of Swedish think tank Perspektiv på Israel (Perspective on Israel