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Activists use music, comedy to protest gas deal with Israel

Protesters seek to ‘recreate culture of boycott with 21st century tools’

By Suzanna Goussous - Oct 17,2016 - Last updated at Oct 17,2016

Anti-normalisation activists are utilising art to protest against the deal to import gas from Israel (Photo courtesy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement)

AMMAN — Seeking to reach a wider audience, activists in Jordan are using art in creative peaceful protests to convey their rejection of the recent deal to import gas from Israel. 

Through “artivism”, protesters are using music, comedy, theatre and unconventional protests to show Jordanians’ rejection of the gas deal signed in late September between the government-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) and Noble Energy, a Houston-based company that holds the largest share in the Israeli Leviathan gas field, located in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel.

On Sunday, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement organised an artistic evening at Mawtini Forum, featuring musician Yarub Smeirat and comedian Amjad Hijazin. 

Activists have also held coordinated hour-long blackouts, encouraging Jordanians to turn off all lights and electrical appliances at set times to protest the gas deal. 

“Not everyone likes to take to the streets and protest. It is an unconventional method of introducing a culture of peaceful demonstrations to the public,” a member of the BDS movement told The Jordan Times on Monday.

She added: “Art brings the cause closer to people, to target new groups of people with the same interests and concerns.”

Every week, awareness is rising among Jordanians, the activist said, adding that last week, composer Tareq Jundi performed at a candlelit musical evening to protest the gas deal. 

“In general, awareness is on the rise. Thanks to the new tools used to express the message, people are getting motivated to take part in this. We are recreating a culture of boycott with 21st century tools.”

The government says the deal is a matter of national interest, and that it would pave the way for the Kingdom to find new energy sources while providing Jordan with the cheapest source.

NEPCO officials say the gas deal with Noble Energy would “save Jordan up to $600 million each year”, with around 300 million cubic feet imported by the Kingdom daily.

Smeirat, who performed for an audience of around 200 on Sunday, said music is “the most powerful weapon to convey opinions on social issues in Jordan”. 

“It is a weapon we can use to fight extremism, killing in the name of religion… Regarding the gas deal, we are using a tool people enjoy,” he added.

“Music can fight decisions… this was a decision made despite the public’s rejection of the gas deal, it also affects our national security. We were all sitting in the dark for one hour playing and listening to folk music,” said Smeirat. 

Jordanian radio presenter and comedian Hijazin said that everything holds a message, and art has a major role in delivering people’s views on issues.

“The attendees are not there to watch a comedy show, they show up to express their rejection of a deal that has been the talk of the town lately,” he added.


Hijazin said people prefer “light comedy” as a medium to voice their concerns and demands.

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