Palestinian key headed to Berlin festival


BERLIN — A one-ton steel key symbolizing the Palestinian “right of return” is to be shipped from a West Bank refugee camp to Berlin as part of a city-wide art festival.

The Goethe Institut, Germany’s official cultural institution, is assisting in the effort.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

Called the “Key of Return,” the object – with a clear political message – was created by residents of the Aida refugee camp and the area around Bethlehem in 2008, and placed outside the refugee camp with the slogan that “our right of return is not for sale.” Its creators are working to have the giant key recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

According to the German online news agency Israelnetz, the Goethe Institut is covering the cost of sending the massive key to Berlin for the 7th Biennale for Contemporary Art, which runs from April 27 to July 1. The festival takes place every two to three years.

Jörg Schumacher, who heads the Goethe Institut office in Ramallah, told Israelnetz that the German cultural institution has long supported projects of Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and that they are “neither pursuing political goals nor trying to intervene in the work of its partners.” He did not respond to Israelnetz’s questions about the political nature of the work, or about the cost of shipping.

According to a report on the website of the Palestinian Return Center,  a ceremony was held in Aida on March 12 to mark the departure of the key for Berlin. Local residents reportedly wrote messages on the object and draped it in German and Palestinian flags before sending it off to the port of Ashdod, Israel. The key was to travel through several Palestinian villages on the way.

The report cited Iyad Hamdan, a member of the Key of Return campaign,  as saying that “the aim of this campaign [is] to position the Palestinian cause on the international agenda and to raise the awareness of Palestinian rights. Israel is not committed to peace.”

“We want the European people visiting this exhibition to get to know about the refugee cause and to exert pressure on their governments to take steps towards finding a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” he said.