Freemuse welcomes the important contributions by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 in his new report spotlighting the legal status of the settlements in accordance with the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Freemuse encourages the mandate to explore further developments of this topic pertaining to artistic freedom and creative expressions. 


In May 2021, violence between Israel and Palestine culminated in the resultant deaths of 294 persons (including 284 Palestinians and 10 Israelis) This violence and institutionalised discrimination by the Israeli authorities has been accompanied with other measures repressing the fundamental rights and civil liberties of Palestinians in the region. Further, the escalating tensions and violence by the Israeli authorities has established a climate whereby freedom of expression is regularly silenced and quashed. Freemuse is concerned about Israel’s violation of its international human rights obligations and the consequential systemic silencing of artistic and cultural expressions in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 


On 8 May 2021, Maryam Al-Afifi, member of the Palestine Youth Orchestra was attacked and arrested by the Israeli police during protests against the forceful eviction of residents in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. A similar fate was suffered by Palestinian singer Walaa Sbait, who was arrested whilst recording and live streaming the actions of the Israeli forces against Palestinians. Released the following day, Walaa was placed under ‘home detention’, a penalty commonly used by Israeli authorities to silence dissenting voices and curtail free expressions. Such instances are illustrative of the impunity and violence used by the Israeli military authorities against Palestinians for the exercise of their most fundamental freedoms. 


In 2021, Freemuse documented more than 13 cases of artistic freedom violations across Israel and Palestine. This research has highlighted the systematic targeting of Palestinian artists and cultural actors for social or political engagement. On 2 February 2021, Palestinian dancer and choreographer Ata Khattab, who is the head of choreography at the El-Funoun dance troupe, was illegitimately and arbitrarily arrested by the Israeli occupation forces. The list of charges later submitted against Ata related to his affiliations with organisations that were deemed unlawful by the Israeli authorities, on account of the fact they would actively support the cause of Palestinian liberation and speak up against international human rights violations by Israel.   


Freemuse has also noted the marginalisation and violence faced by Palestinian women. Very often, women artists are targeted on account of their gender identity. For instance, on 9 May 2021, the Israeli police shot Palestinian actress Maisa Abd Elhadi while she was participating in a demonstration against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes. Maisa’s case highlights the discrimination meted out against women artists and cultural actors in Palestine during this time.   


Authorities in Israel have a responsibility to respect the human right to free expression and the right to politically engage. Specifically, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which were both ratified by the authorities in 1991. Israel is also expected to reinforce safeguards against arbitrary detention, protected under Basic Law 1992 which protects human rights in the country.  


Freemuse stands in solidarity with every Palestinian artist and cultural actor who has faced any form of repression or subjugation and calls on the Israeli authorities to uphold human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.