Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Juliano Mer-Khamis ‎1958 – 2011

I keep politics off this blog. It's not what it's about and therefore I don't think it belongs here. The only exception is when it impacts on writing and the arts. Unfortunately, this is one of those occasions. Last week Juliano Mer-Khamis was assassinated when he was gunned down in his car, sitting next to his 4 year old son, outside the Freedom Theatre he ran in the town of Jenin. By all accounts this professional hit was carried out by gunmen who were supporters of Hamas.

I didn't know Juliano. I never met him. I have read a couple of interviews with him and some of the statements he made. And therefore it's entirely possible that had I met him we would have strongly disagreed on pretty much everything. One declaration that his mother wasn't treated in an Israeli hospital when she was in labour and nearly bled to death because she was married to an Arab I can only assume to be an outright lie. Being somewhat accident prone I have been in Israeli hospitals many times. And not only are Jews who are married to anyone at all treated, Arabs themselves are treated in exactly the same way.

Nevertheless, Juliano ran a theatre dedicated to giving Arab youth something else to do, and presumably keep them away from being indoctrinated by the extremists around them. It caused controversy because it staged 'Western' plays and allowed women and girls not only to attend, but to participate too.

And so he was murdered. In cold blood. By his brethren. This despite the fact the he was vehemently anti-zionist, fully supportive of the Arab cause, uprising, worryingly so quite frankly for someone like me looking on. But this wasn't enough for some of his brothers in arms. He ran a theatre that was based on the arts, and liberal values and culture. And so apparently he deserved to die.

He was killed by fellow Arabs because he ran a theatre. And Israel are supposed to make peace with these people, who hide behind women and children in Gaza, firing their rockets, and killing even their own people when they disagree with them.

But apart from letting the horror of that sink in, one other strange thing struck me. Where is the outcry? Where are the open eds and letters and boycotts from the Ken Loach's, Mike Leigh's and Caryl Churchill's of the world - who are never slow to display hopping mad outrage when Israel inadvertently kills civilians when trying to defend its citizens from Hamas terror attacks - and thereby also displaying their complete ignorance and/or deliberate bias.

But this is one of their own. A director, actor, writer. Slain in cold blood for his artistic beliefs. It certainly wasn't for his political beliefs. And yet the silence is deafening.

I am at a loss to explain this. Is it because it doesn't fit into these people's mantra and agenda? Is it because it would highlight just what sort of people we are talking about here? Is it because it would make attending rallies with people holding placards saying we are all Hamas or Hezbollah now just that bit more repugnant than it already is? Dammit, why did it have to be Arab terrorists who killed him. It would have been so much more convenient had it been some Jews.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I've gone online, searched around, and missed all the open letters and statements of dismay from the artistic elite in this country. Maybe it's a Google conspiracy.


I'll just leave you to decide.

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