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Occupation magazine - Activism

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Thousands expected for funeral of slain Theater Director Juliano Mer-Khamis
By Saed Bannoura/Dimi Reider
April 05, 2011

RAMALLAH (Ma`an) - Jenin Freedom Theater Director Juliano Mer-Khamis will be buried on Tuesday, with thousands expected to turn out for the funeral processions, set to take place in Jenin, Haifa and Ramallah.

Hours after the artist was gunned down in his car outside of the theater in the Jenin refugee camp, some 50 Palestinian artists and actors gathered in Ramallah`s central square to protest against the killing. They held up signs saying Mer-Khamis`s murder was `a loss for Palestine.`

Theater students released a statement on Tuesday morning, saying `Juliano, your mother’s children have passed away, your mother Arna has passed away and so did you - but your children are going to stay, following your path on the way to the freedom battle, and we will go on with your revolution’s promise, the Jasmine revolution.

`The Revolutionary message will not pass away. It will come storming the yellow sands and the mountains covered by almond trees, blowing the jasmine revolution out of the freedom fighter’s hands, from here, from the Freedom Theater’s stage, where men were and are made to be free and engaged in the cultural revolutionary battle for Freedom.

`In thousands of silences only one violin is playing, and in thousands of silences only one voice is raising up, it’s the freedom fighters’s voices, to whom you taught how to carry the cultural gun on their shoulders.`

The statement was signed, `Juliano`s Children.`

Mer-Khamis was the son of Arna Mer, an Israeli Jewish activist who founded the first theater in the camp, the Stones Theater, which opened during the First Intifadah in the late 1980s, and closed during the Second Intifadah. In 2006, Mer-Khamis, whose father was a Palestinian from Nazareth, opened the Freedom Theater after filming the documentary, Arna`s Children, which cataloged his mother`s struggle to open and maintain the project.

Condemnations continue, killing called `cowardly`

`Through their cowardly act they have robbed us of a leading light in Palestinian theatre, an advocate of peace, and a true friend to all people of good will,` a spokesman from the British Foreign and Commonwealth office said.

`Juliano was a good friend of the Consulate and an inspiration for people well beyond the Palestinian territories. He was a brave man who stood for tolerance and free expression. Those responsible for his death could not be more different than him. Through their cowardly act they have robbed us of a leading light in Palestinian theatre, an advocate of peace, and a true friend to all people of good will. We sincerely hope that those responsible will be caught and held accountable for this heinous act.`

A group of popular committees organizing weekly protests against Israel`s separation wall, issued a statement `expressing our deep sadness` over the death, calling the act `part of the escalation exercised by the Israeli occupation,` blaming the tense political situation, `it is what permits such horrific acts.`

The statement said the groups `hold the Israeli occupation responsible` for the death. It continued, saying `We are not against Jews in the world. We are against the occupation and our goal to live in freedom and dignity like the rest of the world.`

The groups continued, saying that they believed the `killing of Juliano only serves Israeli interests.`

Palestinian investigators were instructed by West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to work around the clock to locate the gunmen. Initial reports were unclear as to whether one or two armed individuals carried out the attack.

Freedom Theater officials said Mer-Khamis was in his car with his son and the child`s nanny when he was stopped, and shot through the windshield.

`We are shocked and saddened by Juliano Mer-Khamis` murder, not only was he a unique and talented actor and director, he was also a symbol of coexistence and peace,` spokesman for UN Mideast peace envoy Robert Serry said.

Richard Miron continued, saying `Our thoughts are with his family and all those he touched through his life,` the spokesman said, adding that Serry had met with Mer-Khamis during one of his visits to Jenin and the theater.


By Saed Bannoura
Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaker Killed By Masked Man In Jenin

Juliano Meir-Khamis, a well-known Israeli actor and co-director of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, was shot to death in his car Monday, just outside his theatre in Jenin refugee camp, in the northern part of the West Bank. Meir-Khamis, the son of a Palestinian father and a Jewish-Israeli mother, lived in Jenin with his family for the last seven years.

Meir-Khamis is known for his anti-Occupation and anti-Zionist stance, and has in the past received death threats due to his peace activism and his work in Jenin. After the original Freedom Theatre, founded by his mother, was destroyed by Israeli forces in 2002, Meir-Khamis worked to rebuild the theatre, which re-opened in 2005 under the dual management of Meir-Khamis and Zakariya Zubeidi, a former leader of the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades in Jenin.

In a 2004 interview, Juliano Meir-Khamis said, “We have a dream to have a theatre...we hope that this theatre will generate the political, artistic movement of artists who want to raise their voice against discrimination of women, discrimination of children, unnecessary violence against civilians.”

He also directed the movie `Arna`s Children` in Israel, which is about the stories of ten children from Jenin who attended the Freedom Theatre that Juliano and his mother founded and operated in Jenin refugee camp. The movie tells the story of the Israeli invasion of Jenin camp in 2002, when Israel leveled hundreds of homes and killed over 100 Palestinians. Some of the children featured in the film grew up to be resistance fighters, and some were killed by Israeli forces in the years since the film`s release.

Juliano`s father, Salibeh Khamis, was a political leader in the Israeli Communist party and a prominent leftist. His mother, Arna Meir, is a leftist Jewish Israeli who is well-known in Israel for her anti-Zionist political position, and her work against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

The governor of the Jenin district, Qaddoura Mouseh, said that the Palestinian security forces have initiated an investigation into the attack. Mouseh said that it is unlikely that the assailant did not know Juliano, who is a well-known and well-regarded member of the peace movement in Palestine. He added that this assassination is a conspiracy against the peaceful aspirations of the Palestinian people.

In addition, the appointed Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salam Fayyad, strongly condemned the attack, saying, `We cannot stand silent in the face of this ugly crime. It constitutes a grave violation that goes beyond all principles and human values and it contravenes with the customs and ethics of co-existence.`


Activist, actor, director Juliano Mer Khamis assassinated in West Bank
By Dimi Reider

News just broke that Juliano Mer Khamis, who has established and run the Freedom Theater in Jenin, has been assassinated by masked gunmen in the refugee camp near the theatre. Mer Khamis, son of a Palestinian father and a Jewish mother, has faced threats since forever: From conservatives in the camp who took a strong dislike to the theatre’s liberal repertoire and casting of both men and women, both boys and girls; from nationalists who saw him as an agent of the occupation, a promoter of normalization; and from just about every Israeli who commented on any news piece covering him and his activity.

There will be so much said and written about Juliano in the coming days. Friends and students will laud his tremendous bravery, his contempt for the walls and barriers – especially barriers of fear – that crisscross our country, his sense of stage, his talent. Enemies will pour mud on him, rejoicing in the death of one they see as a half-breed and a turncoat. Comrades will remember a complex and uneasy man, as famous for his rough temper as he was for his devotion to the cause.

There will be so much said. I would just like to share this memory. It’s seven years ago, 2004. The Student Coalition at Tel Aviv University, an organization I co-founded, is staging a massive teach-out on the university square, trying to disrupt the normalcy of dozy lectures as the streets were burning.

At the end of a long, long day with lectures and arguments and songs and chants, as darkness fell on plush northern Tel Aviv, we screened Juliano’s film, “Arna’s children” – still, to my mind, the best documentary ever done about the Occupation. We, some five hundred students, sat in the outdoor auditorium, stunned.

Before us, the “Palestinian gunmen” of the newscasts we knew since childhood – these footnotes in the reports, usually afforded no visuals, just “three Palestinian gunmen were shot in the West Bank today, IDF spokesman said. In other news…” – were coming to life as human beings, speaking about their childhood dreams, their slain comrades, their hopes or lack of hope for a future; sometimes as children, sometimes as grown, gun-wielding men, with children just like they used to be clustered around their knees.

After the credits rolled and passed, the plaza was completely silent. One girl, a moderate centre-leftist from the campus chapter of Meretz, raised her hand. Juliano called her out. She got up and asked: “What can we do to help?”

This was the most humanizing, wall-shattering moment of my life.

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