Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has blocked a Palestinian children's theater festival from opening in East Jerusalem this Saturday night on the claim that the event was "under the auspices of or sponsored by the Palestinian Authority."
According to Aharonovitch, the holding of such an event associated with the PA in Israel contradicts an Israeli law passed as part of the Oslo peace process. Aharonovitch's order bars this event from taking place not only in Jerusalem but anywhere else in Israel proper.
The festival was scheduled to feature performances at the El Hakawati Palestinian national theater in East Jerusalem, but Aharonovitch's order closes the theater for eight days beginning on the scheduled first day of the festival, which has been held annually for 18 years.
Preparations for this year's event began about four months ago, and the festival has been promoted over the past two weeks. Most of the shows, including puppet theater, were to be performed by Israeli Arabs. Foreign troupes from Norway, France and Turkey were also on the program.
The theater's management had envisioned the festival as a week of cultural events for children who lack access to the theater and other cultural offerings. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, East Jerusalem is home to 370,000 Palestinians, 78 percent of whom live below the poverty line, as do 84 percent of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem.