Quite by accident, I saw this satellite channel for the first time at the home of a family in Ramallah who were surfing the airwaves for news, on the night that we were all waiting to learn if it was true that an agreementhad been reached by Palestinian prisoners to end their collective hunger strike [and also the individual hunger strike actions that had been going on, in two cases, for over 77 days].
“What’s that?”, I asked, surprised by what I saw on the TV. “We don’t know”. the Ramallah family I was visiting answered, “we just found it now”.
It had video footage of Palestinian prisoners walking around in the cell yards of Israeli prisons, and it had marquis running headlines with the latest updates — “head of Palestinian prisoners club confirms agreement has been reached”, for example.
Only tonight, I learned what it is: “The Palestine Prisoner Channel, which began broadcasting a month ago, features news coverage including reports and interviews with Palestinian prisoners on their status and condition in Israeli jails”.
How does it do that? This is still completely unclear.
The identity of this station became clear in an announcement by the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ], published here, which criticizes a recent Israeli Army raid on the station, the confiscation of its equipment, and the detention of the station’s general director, Bahaa Khairi Moussa, at his home in Jenin last Thursday [May 17].
The CPJ announcement added that despite the raid, confiscation, and arrest of the station director, the Palestine Prisoner Channel is still on the air.
Why was Juliano Mer Khamis angry (as the Israeli press has apparently reported)?
He had good reasons to be.
A good insight into his reasons can be found in these excepts from a just-published interview [which was made in the USA in 2006] with the late Juliano Mer-Khamis, by Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, which was published here in The Electronic Intifada on 5 April 2011:
From the introduction to the interview: “Julian had tried to get his film Arna’s Children, which documents his mother’s extraordinary transformation from a young settler in 1948 to a drama teacher in the Jenin refugee camp, shown widely. As he discusses in the previously unpublished interview which follows, the film was met with little success the first time. In 2006, he returned as indefatigably as ever, and I met him for the first time at a screening of his film at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Though Arna’s Children is a documentary, the time markers of the film relegate it closer to a work of fiction. Like other works of art centered on the loss of historic Palestine, most notably the characters who return to their pre-1948 homes in Ghassan Kanafani’s Returning to Haifa, Juliano constructed a narrative that is almost impossible to recreate or imagine from any other point of view.
In one shot of the film, the sequencing of events binds a shot of Juliano alongside his mother’s wrapped body at a hospital [n.b. – she died in 1995] with a subsequent shot of the Israeli army bulldozing Arna’s Stone Theatre in April 2002. The Stone Theatre was part of Arna’s larger cultural project, Care and Learning, founded to allow the children of Jenin — faced with a
crushing and seemingly inescapable military occupation — a creative outlet for their chronic trauma. The theater was leveled by the Israeli incursion, which Juliano captured on film. The historical date of both these events align almost miraculously, but the
montages of destruction — his mother’s corpse and the ruins of the beloved theatre — are superimposed as mutually ravaged bodies.
I interviewed Juliano at Boston’s South Station on 4 April 2006 just before he caught a train to the New York screening — exactly five years before he was killed just outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, the locus of his life’s most notable work.
… Maryam Monalist Gharavi: How long was Arna’s Children banned in Israel?
Juliano Mer-Khamis: It was not really banned. It was silenced. Journalists who wanted to write about the film could not get through the editorial decisions. There were two TV programs made about the film and cancelled at the last moment. We could not find a distributor in Israel for the film or cinemas to screen it…
… MMG: In the scene of your mother’s body at the mortuary, you comment somewhat half-heartedly that the only place that would bury her was the kibbutz. What happened after she died?
JMK: My mother could not be buried because she refused to be buried in a religious ceremony or funeral. Israel is not a democracy; it’s a theocracy. The religion is not separated from the state so all issues concerning the privacy of life — marriage, burial and many other aspects — are controlled by the religious authorities, so you cannot be buried in a civilian funeral. The only way to do it is buy a piece of land in some kibbutzim, which refused to sell us a piece of land because of the politics of my mother. It’s not a very popular thing in a civilian, non-religious way. And then I had to take the coffin home. And it stayed in my house for three days and I could not find a place to bury her. So I announced in a press conference that she was going to be buried in the garden of my house. There was a big scandal, police came, a lot of TV and media [came], violent warnings were issued against me. There were big demonstrations around the house, till I got a phone call from friends from a kibbutz, Ramot Menashe, who are from the left side of the map, and they came from Argentina. Nice Zionist Israelis, maybe post-Zionist. They offered a piece of land there. And the funny thing is that while we were looking for a place to bury my mother, there were discussions in Jenin to offer me to bring her for burial there, in the shahid’s [martyr’s] graveyard. They told me there was one Fatah leader, who was humorously saying, “Well, guys, look, it’s an honor to have Arna with us here, a great honor, the only thing is maybe in about fifty years’ time some Jewish archaeologists will come here and say there are some Jewish bones here and they’re going to confiscate the land of Jenin.” [Laughs] They do it. Even if they find the Jewish bones of a dog, they take the place. That’s the place they do it. Every place they confiscate they find the bones of a Jew and that’s how they justify the ownership of the land, by finding bones.
… Continue reading Insights from the past – why was Juliano Mer Khamis angry?
Freedom. The Freedom Theatre — in the Jenin Refugee Camp, the northern West Bank.
Before he was gunned down today in Jenin outside his Freedom Theatre — shot by five bullets, in what was described as a professional assassination — Nazareth-born producer and actor Juliano Mar Khamis lived for most of the last decade in the Jenin Refugee Camp.
[Who else has been assassinated by five bullets? Naim Khader, for example, the former PLO representative to the European Commission in Brussels, shot down outside his house one morning in the spring of 1981. Five bullets, in those days, was iconic… of a whole list of Palestinian assassinations, blamed depending on politics alternatively or simultaneously on renegade Palestinian mercenary Abu Nidal, or on the Israeli Mossad, for which no one has ever been brought to justice.]
Juliano was the founder and Director of the Freedom Theatre, alongside amnestied former Al-Aqsa brigades Zakaria Zubeidi (who eapparently joined the Freedom Theatre in order to protect it).
Juliano explained his goals in this video (h/t to a Tweet from @RachShabi):
“This place never had a theater … Don’t let this view deceive you. We are sitting in the midst of the most attacked and poor refugee camp in Palestine, the refugee camp of Jenin”…
“We are talking about almost 3,000 children under the age of 15 suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It means they pee in their pants when they’re 11, it means they cannot concentrate, they cannot deal with each other without violence … This camp, and look around, is sieged by electric fence all around it, people cannot go out, or in, unless they have a permit. We have two gates, like a big prison, and we are in the midst, trying to serve this population, trying to bring some normality, some sanity, to some people here” …
UPDATE: In a longer version of the film, posted by Yusef Munayyer here. Juliano says “Our duty, as artists, is to rebuild this destruction”.
The film he did about his mother’s work with children in Jenin, Arna’s Children — part of which showed vintage footage of young children in Jenin describing the destruction of their homes, and then participating in theater workshops, before reporting on their later militancy and deaths during the second Intifada — is posted on Youtube here, or in nine parts, starting here.
NOTE: Juliano’s mother, Arna [Orna] Mer, is a Jewish woman born in Rosh Pina now in Israel’s Galilee, who apparently fought in the Palmach for Israel’s independence, then married a Palestinian Christian from Nazareth, Juliano’s father. [They were both communists, Avner Cohen noted in a post on Facebook.] In 1988, during the first Palestinian Intifada, she moved to Jenin (not far from Nazareth, though the “border” is now very difficult to cross) to set up a theater company and work with traumatized Palestinian children. Her theatre was destroyed during the second Palestinian Intifada that broke out in late September 2000. The IDF invaded Jenin Refugee Camp in 2002, looking for suicide bombers. Arna died of cancer. Julian — who fulfilled his obligatory Israeli military service and served with the IDF paratroopers — followed in his mother’s footsteps, moving to the Jenin Refugee Camp during the second Intifada, though he apparently also kept a home base in the Israeli city of Haifa, and rebuilding the Freedom Theatre in 2006…
From a link in a post on Angry Arab’s blog here dated 6 July 2008, I found this appalling item on Uri Avnery’s Gush Shalom website, a translation of an article from Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper of an interview with someone without any experience who drove a D-9 bulldozer in Jenin (Palestinian) Refugee Camp while on reserve duty during the IDF incursion in 2002.
The article is entitled “I made them a stadium in the middle of the camp“.
It shows what can happen if you care only for your own people, for your own side … and feel almost nothing for the others.
And it may explain what happened in Gaza in the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead — maybe an unmanned bulldozer was considered more merciful, more accurate, and more obedient of orders than this, which happened in the confines of the Jenin Refugee Camp in 2002.
But, let’s start first with the Gush Shalom comments, which are posted on its website here, following their translation of the interview:
“This is the incredible, self-told Story of Moshe Nissim, a fanatic football fan and a permanent troublemaker, who begged his commanders in the reserves unit for a chance to take part in ‘the action’. By ‘action’ he was referring to the wide scale destruction carried out by the Israeli army in many Palestinian locations, especially in the Jenin Refugee camp. He was sent into Jenin, riding a 60 ton demolition bulldozer – and equipped with 16 years of pent-up personal frustration, plenty of whisky and only two hours of training on that armored tool. ‘Enough training to drive forwards and make a flat surface’, as he himself testifies in the interview … Of course, it is unconceivable, that the British army would send a drunken and frustrated Manchester fan into Belfast riding a D-9 bulldozer. Therefore, the really troubling questions must be directed at the system that sent him into Jenin on this mission of destruction. This system is the Israeli army. 1. What kind of army puts a 60 ton, multi-million dollar demolishing bulldozer in the hands of such a person, who has not operated one before?
2. How could his rampage go on, without being stopped by any of the officers, at any rank?
3. How can such an army insist it is the ‘most moral army in the world’?
4. Does this interview shed more light on Israel’s refusal to have its actions in Jenin investigated?
5. What did happen in Jenin?”
You could get the impression, from some of the statements made by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Defense Forces, that Israel’s checkpoints in the West Bank are monitored by attractive and polite young people in crisp uniforms and maybe even wearing white gloves, holding baskets of hard candies (it is too hot for chocolates), and aiming to please their Palestinian “customers” with their impeccable polite, friendly and efficient customer-oriented service.
So, we took our cameras out into the West Bank to investigate this story, and see the actual situation on the ground.