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Palestinian festival of dance – and debate

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Hamas's ascendancy in Palestinian society signaled a shift in the balance of power between religiously conservative Gaza and the more cosmopolitan seat of the Palestinian government in Ramallah. And the distance between the two Palestinian entities seems only to be growing. Israel keeps Gaza tightly sealed as it launches daily attacks against Hamas militants and continues to negotiate with PA President Mahmoud Abbas on a possible peace deal.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in the West Bank again on Sunday to support talks. Despite mounting odds against a two-state agreement before the end of the Bush administration, Rice said that "it is an achievable goal to have an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis by the end of the year."

Debate over the festival, which started April 17 and runs through Monday, tugs at another realm of the Hamas-Fatah culture clash: What constitutes resistance to the Israeli occupation?

Sitting in the Al Kasba theater after the performance of the Belgian troupe, festival organizer Khaled Elayyan talked about how the festival has grown from hosting just six foreign dance troupes two years ago to 14 this year.

Mr. Elayyan noted, however, that visiting companies are almost entirely from Europe because Israel won't grant visas for dancers from Arab countries. "The idea behind the festival is to bring a cultural dialogue between Palestinian and other people, especially because the Palestinian people are under siege."

But when asked about the criticism of the Islamists, Elayyan became weary. He noted that Hamas made no such stand against the festival after they won a majority in the Palestinian legislature in 2006 or when they were sharing power with Mr. Abbas's Fatah Party a year ago.

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