A plan by an Israeli group to host a Burning Man-style festival in the West Bank has been mired in controversy after Palestinian leaders rejected the invitation to take part as “insulting.”
The Dead Sea Burn festival is due to be held in April in an Israeli settlement close to the Palestinian city of Jerico and the border with Jordan.
The organisers have invited West Bank Palestinians to attend, even though the area is off limits to them unless they have a permit from the Israeli authorities.
According to the Guardian, local Palestinian residents and authorities were not consulted about the event. Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are often built on land taken from Palestinians and have been declared illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
The invitation was rejected as “insulting” by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which also accused the organisers of harbouring a “colonialist mentality.”
But Yaron Ben Shoshan, one of the festival’s organisers, insisted that the event would not be politically charged and hoped that it may bring Palestinians and Israelis closer together.
“The bad side is fighting about the area and arguing with each other and making the gap deeper,” Mr Shoshan told the Guardian.
“The other way of reacting is to say, ‘we have an opportunity here to show our leaders that we as people can communicate and enjoy ourselves together’.”
The organisers say Dead Sea Burn has been given the green light by the Israeli military to host 15,000 revellers, but they still need permission from Israeli police.
It is inspired by the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, but is not affiliated with it or with Midburn, the official Israeli version of Burning Man.
According to Israeli media, critics of Dead Sea Burn have pointed out that one of the key principles of Burning Man is “radical inclusion,” with no conditions of access for anyone who wishes to take part.
Dead Sea Burn’s organisers described the planned location on their website as “an opportunity for co-operation between us and the Jordanian or Palestinian populations, and we are working hard to create such cooperation.”
However, the event has drawn the ire of the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Saeb Erekat. “So they come to occupied territory, to an area where the occupation negates Palestinian development through a network of checkpoints, roadblocks and closed military zones, where our natural resources are stolen and our rights in general are negated, and then they tell us ‘you can attend’ in a closed military area,” he told the Guardian.