An Israeli group is planning to hold the Dead Sea Burn, a Burning Man-style event, in the West Bank's desert, near the border with Jordan, the Dead Sea and Jericho.
Burning Man is an annual nine-day event in the desert during the summer at Black Rock City, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada that attracts over 70,000 people. The event includes music, performances, and art installations, all performed and organized by participants for the community for free.
The Dead Sea Burn event has sparked controversy because of its location and has received harsh criticism from Palestinians and Israel's Burning Man community, as reported by The Guardian.
In fact, the military has more restrictive rules for Palestinians living in the area and West Bank Palestinians who would like to attend the event would first need to get permission from the Israeli army, and the event's location belongs to a territory claimed by Israeli settlements, explains The Guardian.
The Dead Sea Burn event is organized by a few members of Midburn, Israel's representative of Burning Man. The members broke away from Midburn and decided to organize their own event. Neither Midburn nor Burning Man are associated with the event.
Organizers say that the Dead Sea Burn event has already received approval by Israel’s military for up to 15,000 people to attend, but police has yet to give permission.
They also argue that they have invited Palestinians to attend and that the event bears no political significance.
“The bad side is fighting about the area and arguing with each other and making the gap deeper. 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’,” Yaron Ben Shoshan, one of the project leaders, told The Guardian.
Local Palestinian residents and authorities were not consulted about the event.
Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said the invitation to Palestinians to attend was “an insulting statement that unveils the colonialist mentality of the organisers”.
“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,” Erekat added.
Koby Biton, another one of the events organizer, told Haaretz that the group is seeking a way to solve the matter, whether by finding another location or by seeking to cooperate with Palestinians and Jordanians in the organisation of the event.
“I’m not looking to hold an event just for the sake of it, I want to hold an event for the community, if the community doesn’t feel comfortable with it then the whole thing isn’t right,” Biton told Haaretz.
Among criticism, Roni Kantor, one of Midburn’s founders, wrote on Facebook that “since Jericho is under Israeli military control over a population that is largely Palestinian and since there is military suppression in the area on a regular basis, to hold an event there without any real participation by Palestinians and any radical effort to include them, would lead to a situation where many people would boycott the event, myself included,” as reported by Haaretz.
Midburn community members also expressed their discontent.