Post-dated post: IDF arrests Jenin Freedom Theatre acting student, 3rd arrest within 10 days, no explanation given

Rami Awni Hwayel, a third-year acting student at the Jenin Freedom Theatre, aged 20, was seized at the Shavei Shomron checkpoint (“roadblock”) between Nablus and Jenin, on August 6. He was on his way back from Ramallah — where he has been in rehearsals for the leading role in the Freedom Theatre’s production of “Waiting for Godot” — and heading for a Ramadan visit with his family.

He is the third person connected to the Freedom Theater, located in the Jenin refugee camp, to be taken into Israeli custody. During a traumatic pre-dawn raid on 27 July, two officials were taken into custody after some 50 or so IDF soldiers, who arrived in jeeps, reportedly hurled rocks and pieces of concrete at the theater building.

The Freedom Theatre’s Juliano Mer-Khamis — an Israeli citizen born to a Jewish mother and an Israeli-Arab-Palestinian father from Nazareth, both members of the Israeli Communist Party — was assassinated by an expert marksman outside the Theatre some three months ago. Juliano lived part of the time in Haifa, and the rest of the time in a house near the Jenin Refugee Camp that was being leased to him by Palestinian ex-militant Zakaria Zubeideh.

The Palestinian Authority has been put in charge of the investigation into Juliano’s murder [with some assistance from Israeli investigations], but no progress has yet been reported. [See our most recent earlier post on this here].

In an email received from the Freedom Theatre this morning, and via Israeli journalists on Twitter, it was mentioned that the IDF had put a “gag order” on Hwayal’s arrest.

Continue reading Post-dated post: IDF arrests Jenin Freedom Theatre acting student, 3rd arrest within 10 days, no explanation given

Why no progress in investigation of murder in Jenin of Juliano Mer-Khamis?

Amira Hass has written a new article reporting that Jenin Camp residents — and PA care not to antagonize some of them — are partly responsible for blocking the investigation in the assassination of Juliano Mer-Khamis in Jenin Refugee Camp two months ago. Her reportage, in Haaretz, is posted here.

But, she wrote, there appear to be other forces of inertia at work as well.

Hass wrote: “Of the four law enforcement agencies investigating the case – the Palestinian police, the Israel Police, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service – none seems to be working particularly hard to solve it, says Abeer Baker, the attorney for the family”…

Continue reading Why no progress in investigation of murder in Jenin of Juliano Mer-Khamis?

Tributes to Vittorio Arrigonio

Jeff Halper, the coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) wrote a tribute to Vittorio Arrigoni, murdered in Gaza yesterday, and with whom Jeff apparently sailed to Gaza on the first Free Gaza expedition by sea from Cyprus in August 2008.

Jeff wrote that: “Less than two weeks after losing another friend and comrade, Juliano Mer-Khamis, I have to mourn and remember my fellow Free Gaza shipmate Vittorio (Vik) Arrigoni, who was brutally murdered last night by religious extremists in Gaza (and who actually resembled Juliano, physically, in his buoyant personality and in his insistence on “being there” when the oppressed needed him).

Vik was truly a person greater than life. He was so filled with energy, a mixture of joy, camaraderie and impatience with the confines of boats and prisons like Gaza, that he would suddenly lift you into the air, or wrestle with you – he was a big, strong, handsome guy, ebullient and smiling even in the most oppressive and dangerous situations – as if to tell you: Yaala! These Israel naval ships shooting at us and the Palestinian fisherman cannot prevail over our solidarity, outrage and the justice of our cause! (Vik was wounded in one of those confrontations).

He would come up behind you and say: The Occupation will fall just like this! (and he would wrestle you to the ground, laughing and playing with you as he did).

Vik, who like me received Palestinian citizenship and a passport when we broke the siege of Gaza and sailed into Gaza port in August, 2008, was a peace-maker exemplar.

Continue reading Tributes to Vittorio Arrigonio

More insights – Juliano Mer Khamis, self-explained

In these days of deep morning — and there is so much to mourn here these days — here are two interviews with Juliano Mer Khamis, assassinated last Tuesday in Jenin refugee camp, buried last Thursday on a hilltop plateau in the Israeli Galilee, next to his mother in Ramot Menashe.

The first was done in the U.S by the Detroit-based Mideast Broadcast Network, MBN [Youtube posting caption: Jenin Freedom Theater director Juliano Mer-Khamis interviewed by Detroit Palestinian activist, Hasan Newash on MBN-TV – Mideast Broadcasting Network – April 4, 2005] – h/t and thanks to @imuthaffar via Twitter:

It’s interesting — you here how much he sounds like an Israeli — from his way of speaking English, the deeper and full baritone pitch of his voice, to many of his expressions, his ways of thinking.

As a Palestinian he sounds like … a Palestinian from here, from inside, who didn’t really know what it was like to be a a refugee living in very precarious and dangerous exile, who has no idea of the trauma experienced by (and also created by) the PLO in its years “outside”. “At least 150,000 Palestinians were dropped on us from Tunis … they were busy making money…”

Not totally fair — he blames these people for not preparing the Palestinians for the Israeli crack-down and reinvasion of Palestinian cities after the outbreak of the second Intifada (with snipers firing with rifles whose range could not reach the target from the edge of Bethlehem to the Israeli settlement of Gilo, and with Palestinian suicide-bombing attacks in Israeli cities)… The Tunis crowd believed that the Oslo Accords would succeed, would have to succeed, that there was no other choice — though they didn’t argue this very well. And no one ever predicted what was to follow… Though it is true that no preparations were made for such an eventuality.

Continue reading More insights – Juliano Mer Khamis, self-explained

Insights from the past – why was Juliano Mer Khamis angry?

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?

Assassinated director and actor Juliano Mer Khamis, shot dead outside his Freedom Theatre in Jenin, buried today in Israel's Galilee

Juliano Mer Khamis was buried today in Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, in sudden sunshine after days of rain, on a plateau at the top of a hill in the Galilee region of Israel, two days after he was assassinated by one or more masked gunmen in front of the Freedom Theatre he directed and operated in the Jenin Refugee Camp.

The funeral was completely secular — there was no religious figure officiating, there were no religious symbols or references, and there were no prayers — but it was in a Jewish cemetery, where Juliano was buried near his mother, Arna (Orna) Mer. who was described in an article published on Israel’s YNet website tonight as a “relentless idealist”.

His father, a Christian Arab, Saliba Khamis — described in the same article as an “intellectual” – is buried in a cemetery in Haifa.

The YNet article, posted here, noted that “Nothing was ever conventional in the lives of the Mer-Khamis brothers, from their dual identity to their unique names”.

Both parents were activists in the communist party, which is the only political grouping in Israel to have both Jewish and Arab members.

Juliano once said in an interview — and this has been widely quoted since his assassination — that he was “100 percent Jewish, and 100 percent Palestinian”.

In today’s funeral, Israeli film director Udi Aloni, who had agreed to work with Juliano in the Freedom Theatre, remembered Juliano’s words: “I am from here, and I am who I am”.

Arna founded the Freedom Theater in Jenin Refugee Camp in 1988 during the first Palestinian Intifada. [CORR: she apparently called her theater the Stone Theatre.] It was destroyed in the second Palestinian Intifada, during the 2002 Israeli invasion of the Jenin Refugee Camp to eradicate suicide bomb cells.

Juliano, who had previously worked with his mother, re-built it as the Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp in 2006. Juliano made former Aqsa Brigades fighter Zakaria Zubeidi (a former theater student of Arna’s) the Freedom Theatre’s co-director, apparently in part because of the political protection Zubeidi could provide in a tense and tumultuous environment.

Continue reading Assassinated director and actor Juliano Mer Khamis, shot dead outside his Freedom Theatre in Jenin, buried today in Israel's Galilee