Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Juliano Mer Khamis-- Is the Freedom Theater Training Children for Jihad?

Last summer I attended a screening of the movie "Arna's Children" which was sponsored by a local "peace" group called 14 Friends of Palestine. Like many groups which say that they are all for peace, all of their events are not only in opposition to Israeli policy but feature speakers who don't accept the Jewish people's right to self-determination in our own homeland.

The movie has been featured in both Arab and Jewish film festivals, and I was curious; plus the filmmaker, Juliano Mer Khamis, was going to be there to discuss the film as well as the children's theatre group in the Jenin refugee camp that was founded by his late mother (the Arna of the title). The film, though certainly flawed, is a powerful piece, given that a large portion of it was filmed in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 during which the so-called Jenin Massacre took place and follows several former members of the children's theater troupe who had become members of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (one ends up as a mass murderer when he randomly guns down civilians in Hadera, another gets killed while attacking IDF soldiers).

In the discussion afterwards, I asked Juliano, whose father is Arab, whether his mother (who had fought in the Haganah) and he (who had served in the IDF) were promoting simply an anti-occupation viewpoint, or a frankly anti-Israel viewpoint; given that his mother was shown giving a speech to the children praising "intifada", it seemed a reasonable question. Juliano, however, thought this was an entirely unreasonable question, asking how I could even dare to suggest that. He implied, if not straightforwardly stated, that this wasn't about anything except the occupation.

Well, Juliano is an actor by training, and he acted the part of the righteously indignant with skill and gusto. The problem, as it turns out, is that he is indeed an actor, and a bald-faced liar to boot. As part of the controversy that developed when a children's orchestra from Jenin played for an audience of Holocaust survivors, the Freedom Theatre has also come under verbal and physical attack by violent Islamist extremists. So in an attempt to shield himself and his theatre project from this, he has recruited former al-Aqsa Brigades terrorist commander (subsequently granted amnesty by Israel) Zakariya Zubeidi to support the theater. And in a press conference in Jenin this week, Juliano played a very different tune:

""I do not rule out armed struggle," he said, bounding with confidence and strikingly charismatic. "An armed struggle is legitimate as long as it is directed at an occupier, and conducted on occupied land. An occupied people can act against its occupier in any means necessary," Mer said, adding that, "None of us here is to prevent someone from carrying a gun." "But if there's no history, culture, or art behind that gun than that gun is killing instead of liberating." Mer continued, promising that the theater "will not accept funding from any Israeli side," adding that decision on the matter was "final." "I want to make it clear: I support one Palestinian state, from the sea to the [Jordan] river. If the Jews want to live among us, Ahalan wa Sahalan [Arabic for 'go ahead']."

Well, Juliano, you are a good actor. You almost had me believing that you were trying to take a brave step for peace and coexistence and away from violence. But since you apparently believe that all Israel is "occupied land", then "any means necessary" would include such atrocities as the Park Hotel Seder massacre that led to Operation Defensive Shield and the deaths of some of your young terrorist friends. Is it the fact that you now fear a Palestinian bullet that is getting you to openly support terrorism? Or is it actually your goal to have another generation of children come through the theatre and end up as jihadists?


  1. but it is ok for Israeli children to go into the army and kill innocent children and other civilians in gaza?

  2. Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis shot dead in Jenin
    Israeli actor and political activist Juliano Mer-Khamis, 53, was shot dead on Monday in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin.

    Jenin police chief Mohammed Tayyim said Mer-Khamis was shot five times by masked Palestinian militants, but that Israeli security forces were still investigating the circumstances of his murder. A Palestinian ambulance took his body to a nearby checkpoint to be transferred into Israel.