April 4, 2011
Arab-Israeli cultural revolutionary Juliano Mer-Khamis shot dead in West Bank [UPDATED]
UPDATE from Haaretz.com:
Mer-Khamis, who was something of a cultural revolutionary in the Palestinian territories, had been the target of threats before. The half-Jewish Arab-Israeli was the subject of a series of menacing flyers circulated in 2009, and later that year, the door of his theater was torched.
So far the motive for the murder is unknown. But the actor’s complex identity and unorthodox political views may have earned him a few enemies. For starters, Mer-Khamis was born to a Jewish mother, Arna Mer who chose to live and work in the Palestinian territories.
According to a story published by Maclean’s, Arna was the daughter of a distinguished Jewish medical professor but fell in love with an Arab-Israeli political leader:
Ever conflicted, Juliano was brought up between two worlds. Vacillating between identities, he served in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade, but eventually defected:
According to Ynet, Mer-Khamis began his acting career in 1984 with a strong Hollywood foray, starring opposite Diane Keaton in the film “The Little Drummer Girl”. He also starred in Israeli director Amos Gitai’s controversial take on the Yom Kippur war, “Kippur” and was nominated for a Best Actor Ophir (Israel’s version of Oscar) for the 2002 romance “Tahara”.
Mer-Khanis and his mother first established a theater together in 1988, though it was destroyed in the second Intifada. And in 2006, they established what is now known as the Freedom Theater.
Though Mer Khamis was an artist at heart, he held strong views in support of Palestinian self-determination and saw the Freedom Theater as a therapeutic tool in coping with the conflict. According to the theater’s Website, the institution was established to offer Palestinian youngsters a creative outlet for their pain: “Having endured the hardships of an ongoing, violent military occupation, Palestine today is a shattered society and the population struggles with increasing isolation, fragmentation and disillusion. Countering these trends, The Freedom Theatre believes that theatre and the arts have a crucial role to play in building up a free and healthy society.”
In a youtube video about the theater, Mer-Khanis says, “We believe that the third intifada, the coming intifada, should be cultural—with poetry and music, theater, cameras and magazines.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned Mer-Khanis’s murder, saying, “We must not ignore this heinous crime…a gross violation of humane values and against the morals of our people.”
In an eerily portentous interview with Ynet in 2009, the same year the theater was torched, Mer-Khamis said he feared for his life:
Watch: The murder scene captured by Israeli news media
Watch: Mer-Khanis explains the Freedom Theater
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