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The Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research in the city Bethlehem in the West Bank after an attack by the Israeli army (all images courtesy the Dar Jacir Center)

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In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an arts center in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, founded by Palestinian artist Emily Jacir, was breached and ransacked by Israeli army forces over the weekend.

Israeli soldiers raided the Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research on Saturday night, May 15, causing extensive damage to the building and confiscating equipment including phones, computers, hard drives, cameras, and books, the center said.

“There were over a dozen of them,” Emily Jacir told Hyperallergic in a conversation. “They blew open the locks with a special tool they use to get into houses.”

Images from the aftermath of the raid show shattered windows, broken doors, and riot control ammunition strewn across the floor and around the building.

According to Jacir, all staff and a resident artist at the center are safe. “No one, thank god, was in the house at the time,” the artist said, but noted that the attack was “brutal.”

Jacir established the center with her sister, filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, in 2014. The organization is based out of a 19th-century stone house in Bethlehem that was home to their late grandparents. The center, which Emily co-directs with Aline Khoury, offers cultural and educational programming to the local population. It also runs a residency program for international artists that previously hosted Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco, British-Palestinian author Isabella Hammad, and American-Chilean composer and recording artist Nicolas Jaar.

An in Israeli riot smoke projectile found at the Dar Jacir center
“Made in the USA,” the canister reads.

Days before the raid, the center’s communal garden — called the “Urban Farm” — was destroyed by fires caused by Israeli projectiles as clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters intensified in the West Bank. The center is located in “Area A” of the West Bank, which under the terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords should be exclusively administered by the Palestinian National Authority. 

It remains unclear if the Israeli army specifically targeted the center. Last year, Israeli authorities raided and ransacked three Palestinian cultural institutions in East Jerusalem — the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, the Yabous Cultural Centre, and the Shafaq Cultural Network. A petition signed by leading international artists and writers, including Turner Prize winners Lawrence Abu Hamdam and Tai Shani, condemned the crackdown as “part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions of indigenous Palestinians by the Israeli government.”

In a statement yesterday, the Dar Jacir Center said: “In the last 48 hours we have done our best to secure the space from further assault and damage. We began by cleaning the various canisters, bullets and other projectiles from our garden.”

“We will rebuild,” the center vowed.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an...