PRESS RELEASE. YouTube Censored Palestine Writes Channel

PRESS RELEASE. YouTube Censored Palestine Writes Channel

Palestine Writes Literature Festival, the first literature festival in North America dedicated to the celebration of Palestinian art and literature, was made aware that YouTube suspended its account, which housed all the video recordings from all the sessions that were conducted during the historic five-day virtual festival in December 2020.  Upon appeal, the account was reactivated on June 2nd.

No prior warning was given for the suspension, and the only explanation provided was as follows:

We have reviewed your content and found severe or repeated violations of our Community Guidelines. Because of this, we have removed your channel from YouTube.

We have no idea what these alleged “severe or repeated violations” are, but we do know that there has been a concerted effort to shut down Palestinian voices on social media. See the following links for further information and evidence on this outrageous phenomenon, which began a few years ago following intense lobbying of social media giants by the Israeli government.

Palestine Writes condemns this act of censorship, and we reject the allegation that any aspect of our YouTube channel violated YouTube’s Community Guidelines. We demand an explanation as to why it was removed in the first place, and why several session recordings initially remained missing from our site.

The Palestine Writes Literature Festival is proud to have implemented such a groundbreaking gathering of poets, novelists, historians, storytellers, musicians, chefs, and intellectuals from around the world before an audience of over 3000 attendees from 75 countries on a cutting edge virtual platform.  Most speakers were Palestinian, but the festival also featured African, African-American, and Indigenous American thinkers and writers, emphasizing the internationalist solidarity ethos of Palestine Writes.

The festival sessions included panel discussions, workshops, “coffee & book” talks, children’s programming, concerts, poetry performance, and a film screening.  The virtual venue featured a showroom that boasted an art exhibit, a bookstore, a marketplace, over 50 booths from partner organizations, sponsors, vendors, publishers, and more.  All sessions were held in one of three halls (Haifa, Nazareth, & Jericho Halls) or the “Children’s Tent.”  There was also a lounge area with multiple chat rooms and a graffiti wall, on which attendees posted their own art, photos, and heartwarming messages to the festival.

The Festival keynote session with Hanan Ashrawi, Angela Davis and Richard Falk was live streamed on multiple platforms, expanding the audience for this keynote panel several fold. This plenary began with a message from prominent activist and political prisoner, Khalida Jarrar, who smuggled a letter from the Israeli Damon prison in Haifa for Palestine Writes. In the letter, read aloud by her daughters Yafa and Suha, Khalida commended the festival and wrote, “our struggle for liberation inside prisons start with protecting resistance literature.”

Other highlights of the Festival were numerous and included a poetry slam featuring 12 leading Palestinian, indigeneous and African diaspora voices; the presentation of the first Palestine Writes literary award to Mohammad El-Kurd, a young Palestinian poet who has recently been featured across international media outlets for his brave stand against the Israeli military attempting to expel his family from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The festival was sponsored by individuals and foundations around the world, including A M Qattan Foundation, ANERA, Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, Islamic Relief USA, Kalimat Group, Lannan Foundation, McMillan Stewart Foundation, New Generation for Palestine, NYU Kanbar Institute of Film & Television Cinema Studies, Open Society Foundations, Palestine Foundation, Palestine Museum, PACES, Playgrounds for Palestine, Spark Plug, Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, and USACBI.

Palestine Writes asks people who share in our protest of this act of censorship to express their support by writing to youtube.  To do so, sign into your account; click on your account picture or name initial in the upper right hand corner (in circle); in the dropdown menu, select “feedback”; unclick “include screenshot” and just write in a request to provide an honest explanation of why Palestine Writes’ channel was suspended in the first place.