The Daily Life of Kawther Salam

  ..: Palestinian Nakba Activities Hindered in Vienna :..
May 17, 2008
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The Diakoniewerk, which is the owner and administration of Albert Schweitzer Haus in Vienna, a student home and cultural center affiliated with the evangelical church of Austria and which also organizes cultural activities and allows other organizations to hold cultural activities in Vienna, cancelled an event which had been organized by an Austrian organization (Gaza muss Leben) for 17.May 2008. The event included a discussion and a concert, it was to be about the theme "Gaza must live" and in the memory of the 60 years of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe).

The refusal of Albert Schweitzer Haus came suddenly, and after the invitations had already been sent out and few days before holding the legal activity.

I asked Dr. Zuheir Elwazer, the Palestinian Ambassador in Vienna, for his comment about the decision. He said that

... he sees the cancellation of this activity by the Albert Schweitzer Haus as an internal issue of the organization. The activity was organized by an Austrian organization, and Albert Schweitzer Haus is an Austrian organization too.

Dr. Zuheir ElwazerDr. Elwazer said that, as a Palestinian, it is painful to hear that a pro-Palestinian activity was cancelled. It is painful and it is a mistake that an Austrian organization made a deal with another Austrian organization to hold an Activity, whatever this activity is political, social, cultural or any other activities and at the critical time, one side decide to obstruct this activity. I wish that no anti- Palestinian activity pressure made on this organization A.S.H and forced them to make this decision against the supporters of Palestine in Vienna.

Dr. Elwazer added that his experience as the Ambassador of Palestine in Austria has shown him that we have many Austrian friends who express their solidarity with us, who organize their efforts and make pressure to support the Palestinian rights to end the Israeli occupation. These Austrian friends hold many activities and they do their best to support the Palestinian Nation, just like there are many Austrian who support the other side, "Israel", and work for their interests. So why do they hinder the activities which concern the Palestinians and not also stop the activities which support the other side?

Said Khadra, a Palestinian activist, also commented on this issue. He said that

the decision of the administration of the Albert Schweitzer Haus has nothing to do with the exchange of thoughts or with the freedom of speech, and neither is it related to an attempt at solving the complicated problems between nations through dialogue and far away of demagoguery and war. He thinks that this organizations yielding to unwarranted pressure, their surrender to the demands from powerful interests to suppress this event is an irregular and incorrect way to act, an act which caused surprise among the thinking persons, who see in discussion and mutual understanding the only way for the salvation of humanity.

Said KhadraOn Thursday May 15 2008 I sent the administration of Albert Schweitzer Haus an E-Mail asking for a clarification about the reasons for their refusal and cancellation at last minute of this cultural event, which was seen as an insult by the Palestinian community in Vienna. Why would they cancel at last minute the permission to use their premises for a commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba and a remembrance of the daily suffering of the inhabitants of Gaza under the Israeli colonial occupation ? In my respectful request to the Albert Schweitzer Haus I clarified that I am a Palestinian journalist and a victim of the Israeli genocide, and that their clarifying answer is very important for the objectivity of my journalistic work.

Until Albert Schweitzer Haus sends a clarification regarding their cancellation, the Palestinian community will consider that the hidden reasons behind their cancellation of this important event of commemoration a very short time before it was due to take place, was undue pressure from the Jewish community in Vienna. The Palestinians condemn this awful decision, which insults their history in an extremely inconsiderate way. We ask that the administration of the Albert Schweitzer Haus re-evaluate its decision, which is based on questionable standards, and on fear. Diakonie and Albert-Schweitzer Haus may not know it, but they have become part of a long list of individuals and organizations around the world, which have been scared into silence by zionist organizations. They should know that my compassion is with them.

Dr. Anthony Lowstedt, a professor at the American University, commented about this shameful spectacle in this way:

We see the Israel lobby shut down dialogue and communication on a continuous, daily basis. Voices are silenced, articles, programs and books never published or shown. Invited speakers are suddenly no longer invited, such as Edward Said a few years ago by the Sigmund Freud-Gesellschaft in Vienna. And now the Albert-Schweitzer-Haus decides to cancel "Gaza Must Live", an event for survival, for life. Both Freud and Schweitzer would have been ashamed, if not angry. It is, however, not just the Zionists who are behind this. There are also non-Zionists whose biggest fear is to be labeled "anti-Semitic". Shame on you, too.

Dr. Anthony LowstedtNews about this unlogical and shameful cave-in does not appear in the daily media in Vienna. The (Austrian) organizer of this activity tried to find an alternative location to hold this legitimate activity on the same day as planned. Initially, the Austrian Chamber of Workers, Arbeiterkammer, allowed the organizers to use their premises, but, as the organizers posted on their website, the Arbeiterkammer also retracted their permission due to extreme and undue pressure from the Jewish community. Why does the jewish community act like this ? What do they have to gain from throwing their lot in with the illegal and immoral Israeli occupation, and hindering perfectly legal and legitimate cultural activities, apparently attempting - not very successfully - to cover up the genocide against Palestinians ? Have they learned nothing from their own fairly recent history?

And, how would the Jewish community react if their (almost weekly) activities in remembrance of the holocaust were cancelled due to external pressure?

Addition 19 May 2008 - Text (translation) of my Email to (I have not yet received a response)
Dear ladies and gentlemen,

my name ist Kawther Salam. I am a Palestinian, and I worked as a journalist for over 20 years in my homeland. I live in Vienna as a refugee since 6 years because I, just like the many Palestinians living in Austria and all around the world, am a victim and survivor of the campaign of genocide which Israel and other zionist organizations worldwide have been waging against my people for over 60 years.

I write because, during an event about "Palestinian Culture in Exile" which took place in your house, I received an invitation to take part in another event, commemorating the Palestinian Naqbah, which would also have taken place in your house on 17. May 2008. I was told yesterday that this event would not take place because you cancelled it on short notice and without any plausible explanation, so that the organizers, the group "Gaza muss Leben", were not able to find an alternate location for the event within the short time.

Of course it is your right and privilege to decide which events you allow to take place in your house, but the disconcerting way in which you cancelled this event allows to ask about your reasons for doing so, and, last but not least, I felt offended by the way in which you proceeded, just like many other Palestinians affected by your decision. As a consequence, I do respectfully request that you explain your decision. I will place this E-Mail, as well as any explanation from your part, should it ever arrive, together with its translation to English, on my Website, at


 Kawther Salam
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