A top Palestinian security official said police had arrested a member of the Islamist Hamas group over the assassination of award-winning Arab-Israeli actor and director, Juliano Mer Khamis.
April 5, 2011 - 12:00am
"One of those arrested is a prime suspect in the killing, he belongs to Hamas and is being interrogated," the official, who declined to be named, said on Tuesday,
Jenin governor Qaddoura Moussa also declined to reveal details about the suspect in Monday's killing of Mer Khamis, 52, who was shot dead by a masked gunman, but he added that a number of other suspects had been held and were later released.
Juliano Mer-Khamis in Tel Aviv, March 29, 2006.
Photo by: Daniel Tchetchik
Western powers, including the United States and European Union view Hamas as a terrorist organisation. It took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 in a brief war with security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"The security forces have arrested a number of people, there is an ongoing investigation," Moussa told Reuters.
Mer Khamis, the son of a Jewish mother and Christian Arab father, ran the Freedom Theatre in Jenin's refugee camp in the northern West Bank for several years. He was driving his car near the theatre with his infant son and a babysitter when the gunman ordered him to pull over and shot him.
Palestinians in the Jenin area and in the West Bank seat of government in Ramallah held memorial vigils for Mer Khamis.
"This is a sad day for the Palestinian people, you cannot find anyone here who is not against the killing except for the killer," said Qasem Ahmad from Jenin refugee camp.
Mer Khamis' project generated hostility from some Palestinians. In an interview in 2009 after the Jenin theatre was torched he said: "We are under attack from a small group of people who think the arts are undermining the Palestinian struggle," he said.
"They put out leaflets calling me a Zionist Jew whose hands should be cut off."
His documentary entitled Arna's Children about his mother and the theatre group won the Best Documentary Feature in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival.
The Jenin refugee camp, where Mer Khamis lived with his partner and children, is home to some 16,000 Palestinians. It was the scene of some of the fiercest Palestinian-Israeli fighting in the second intifada, or uprising, in 2002.
The United Nations Middle East envoy, Robert Serry, said in a statement: "I am shocked and saddened by the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis, he was a unique, talented actor and director and was also a symbol of co-existence and peace."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the murder as an "ugly crime".
Born in the Israeli-Arab city of Nazareth Mer Khamis served in the Israeli army as a paratrooper and portrayed Israeli Jews in many of his roles both in film and on stage.
He appeared in almost 30 movies, including "The Little Drummer Girl" a 1984 American thriller based on the John Le Carre book of the same name that starred Diane Keaton.
"Juliano Mer-Khamis was one of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them."
Gideon Levy remembers Juliano Mer-Khamis: An Arab, a Jew, a human being
5 April 2011
A little over a month ago, Juliano Mer-Khamis stood on the stage of his Freedom Theater at the edge of the Jenin refugee camp.
Directing his remarks at the young, noisy group of children making its first-ever visit to a theater, he said: "This is a dangerous show, with subversive messages. Whoever talks will be thrown out of the hall."
A hush came over the audience. For the next 75 minutes, I watched one of the loveliest, most stylish, political plays I had ever seen.
None of the children interrupted the show, with the exception of one infant who burst into tears at the sight of the servant hanging on a rope.
The Freedom Theater presents "Alice in Wonderland," by Lewis Carroll. Directed by Juliano Mer-Khamis, with Udi Aloni as playwright.
I first saw Mer-Khamis in another time and another place. It was in the late 1980s, when he stood for a number of days in the front yard of the Israel Fringe Theater festival in Acre, his naked body dipped with oil as part of a one-man show that knew no end. Years later I caught "Arna's Children," a brilliant film which he co-directed with his dying mother, Arna Mer, the founder of the theatre in Jenin and the daughter of the doctor who cured malaria in Rosh Pina. It is arguably the most moving film ever created about the Israeli occupation.
Since then, I have met him on numerous occasions, always in the camp. This tall, strapping, handsome man who oozed charisma, a Jew and an Arab on account of his parents - perhaps a Jew in the eyes of the Arabs and an Arab in the eyes of the Jews - decided to devote his life to Jenin, where he lived as an Israeli and as a human being. One of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them.
The seven bullets extinguished the light of courage that he radiated. "Jule was murdered," a trembling voice belonging to a refugee camp resident on the other end of the phone told me. My voice also trembled.
'Israeli actor's murder in Jenin most likely pre-meditated assassination'
Zakariya Zubeidi, the Palestinian former militant who went on to co-manage the Freedom Theater with slain actor Juliano Mer-Khamis, tells Haaretz that the shooting was 'not a simple operation'.
5 April 2011
The murder of Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis in Jenin on Monday was most likely a pre-mediated and well-planned assassination, Palestinian former militant Zakarya Zubeidi told Haaretz.
"There is one organization or body, central, big, behind this act," said Zubeidi, who once headed the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in Jenin and went on to co-manage the Freedom Theater in the West Bank city with Mer-Khamis. "This was not a simple operation. There is a big hand directed."
Security forces and bystanders beside Juliano Mer-Khamis' car, where he was shot to death in Jenin on April 4, 2011.
A lone masked gunman waited for Mer-Khamis at his car near the theater, said Zubeidi, and shot him at close range. It was still not yet clear who stood behind the murder, but Zubeidi said the Palestinian security forces were investigating with vigor.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Monday condemned the murder, declaring in a statement: "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."
Jenin police chief Mohammed Tayyim said Mer-Khamis was shot five times by a masked gunman. His body was brought by Palestinian ambulance to a nearby checkpoint, and then transferred into Israel.
Mer Khamis was born in the Israeli-Arab city of Nazareth to a Jewish-Israeli mother and an Israeli-Arab Christian father. He served in the Israeli army as a paratrooper and portrayed Israeli Jews in many of his roles both in film and on stage.
In 2006, Mer-Khamis opened the Freedom Theater. Zubeidi was appointed co-manager in an attempt to subdue the ongoing threats voiced against both the institution and Mer-Khamis. The theater itself was torched twice in the past, and the threats persisted despite Zubeidei's appointment.
Some of the criticism focused on the fact that the theater offered co-ed activities, despite prohibition in the Islamic moral code.
Objectors were also outraged when Mer-Khamis staged the play "Animal Farm", in which the young actors played the part of a pig, which Islam considers an impure animal.
Mer Khamis said he had planned to stage The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a satire of armed resistance, but shelved the idea after someone smashed the window of his car.
Director Amos Gitai, who directed Mer-Khamis in the 2000 film "Kippur," said in response that he was "shocked" by the murder. "There are people like Juliano, who are radical people, try with their own bodies to serve as a bridge over the gorges of hate. And in Juliano's case its real, he is a larger than life," Gitai said.
"We have been served so many warning signs and calling signs, that I don’t know what will become of us," he added.
Director Avi Nesher, who directed Mer-Khamis in "Rage and Glory" in 1985 said that he felt like a member of his family had died. "He was one of the most talented people I ever worked with," Nesher said, adding that "it is hard to imagine who would want to kill him and why, and it is very disturbing, in the most profound way.""I don’t understand the murder," he added. "He was a man who was totally there to deal with the things he believed in and I find it hard to understand the twisted rational of the people who did this."
"He was a special person, brave but crazy to do what he did," said fellow actor Alon Abutbul.
IN MEMORIAM - JULIANO MER-KHAMIS
6.30-8.30, Wednesday April 6 2011
THE MOSAIC ROOMS, A.M. QATTAN FOUNDATION
226 CROMWELL ROAD, LONDON SW5 0SW
0207 370 9990
As a mark of respect to the memory of our friend and colleague Juliano
Mer-Khamis, and in protest at his appalling murder yesterday in cold blood outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, Rachel Shabi's planned talk on her book NOT THE ENEMY - ISRAEL'S JEWS FROM ARAB LANDS will be combined with a tribute to Juliano's rich career as an actor and theatre director to his brave struggle for freedom, dignity and equality in Palestine/Israel