Israeli troops arrest Jenin theater artistic director


Israeli troops early Wednesday arrested a member of the Freedom Theatre in the West Bank city of Jenin, the group’s managing director said, calling it part of a pattern of “harassment.”

The theatre’s Israeli-Palestinian director, Juliano Mer-Khamis, was killed in April 2011 in the city’s refugee camp by an unknown gunman, and since then Israeli troops have arrested several members of the theatre.

“The soldiers came around 3:00 am (0000 GMT). I live upstairs so I came out to see what was happening,” Jonatan Stanczak told AFP.

He found the troupe’s artistic director Nabil al-Raee surrounded by Israeli forces, who refused to say why they were detaining him.

“The only answer you get is a gun in your face. When I went out I had three guns pointing at me, I was half-naked because I didn’t want them to think I had any weapons,” he said.

The army confirmed the incident, saying Raee “was arrested overnight in Jenin on suspicion of involvement in illegal activity,” without providing further details.

Stanczak accused Israel of a pattern of discrimination, saying employees at the multinational theatre had cooperated with the murder investigation of Mer-Khamis but had experienced “intimidation” in return.

Raee’s arrest was “a very clear indication of their intention to harass the members of the theatre,” he said, noting that around 10 Palestinian staffers had been summoned to Salem army base in recent weeks and interrogated “in a very intimidating and threatening way.”

“Usually these interrogations start with ‘We know you are the one who killed Juliano, why did you kill him?’“

The theatre was first established as the Stone Theatre in 1988 by Mer-Khamis’s Israeli mother, Arna Mer, who wanted to create a space where local children could escape the violence of the first intifada (1987-1993), which had begun several months earlier.

Fourteen years later, it was destroyed in 2002, during the second intifada (2000-2005) when Israeli troops launched a massive operation in the refugee camp - then a major militant stronghold. It was rebuilt in 2006 by Mer-Khamis.

Palestinian police launched their own investigation into the murder, but no one has been charged in the incident.