Mer-Khamis’s widow speaks to ‘Haaretz’

Israel/Palestine
on 14 Comments
Juliano Mer Khamis
Juliano Mer Khamis

This is disturbing, an interview with Jenny Nyman, widow of Juliano Mer Khamis, right, the actor/director who was murdered outside his theater in Jenin last April. In Haaretz. The interviewer is Gili Izikovich:

“He was murdered because of the values of tradition and conservatism. It’s a traditional society. And I think there are some people who have a big interest in preserving the status quo – the very patriarchal, conservative status quo. And the theater was threatened. When we staged ‘Animal Farm’ they tried to burn it down, on two occasions. We always walked a very thin line, and we worked hard to get the community on board and to explain to them. We tried to show that it is a means of expression that can be useful to children, to learn how to stand up for themselves and to speak. The theater was becoming more and more successful, and I think somehow the success was what brought it down.”

Are you still active in it?

“Now I don’t have any connection, I can’t have any connection with the theater or with Jenin – so long as nobody’s cooperating with the investigation, or speaking out. There was no public outrage in Jenin against this act, no condemnation was voiced. People should have the courage to stand up in public and say this is wrong. If that were the situation, I wouldn’t have a problem to be in touch or to help them … But what I saw was people who bowed their heads even lower, [went] down on their knees, and said, ‘Okay, just don’t kill me. I will say what you want me to say, just don’t shoot me.’

“It’s like saying, it’s okay to kill somebody for their ideas, we’ll just modify the discourse a little bit if you let us carry on. For me, this is a very big disappointment. It feels like a failure. If you asked Jul [what he would feel] in a similar situation, he would say: ‘Screw them, we’ll close the doors and go work somewhere else where people want us.’

“One of his favorite expressions was, ‘It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.’ And that is what he did, and if they forced him down on his knees he would have left. So he died on his feet, but at least he wasn’t a hypocrite. And I’m not going to be either.

14 Responses

  1. mmm245
    December 12, 2011, 11:33 am

    I have been wondering about Juliano’s wife in the aftermath of his murder. She pulled out of Jenin very quickly, and in this interview she states that she has ‘nothing to do’ with the theater anymore. I find this very suspicious. I’m not trying to minimize the grief of having a husband/father be murdered, but something here does not add up.

    Does she not realize that the people of Jenin have been suffering ever since Juliano’s murder? That the Freedom Theater is raided almost on a weekly basis and that it’s members are being arrested?

    I don’t believe for a second that “conservative extremists” killed Juliano. We know the IDF/Shabak. They would have instantly found the Palestinian(s) responsible for this crime. Why is the murderer still at large? Some very powerful people (hint: Israelis) do not want to find the murderer.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 12, 2011, 2:39 pm

      She pulled out of Jenin very quickly, and in this interview she states that she has ‘nothing to do’ with the theater anymore. I find this very suspicious.

      what do you mean by suspicious? her words, whether one agrees with her opinion or not, rationalize why she would disconnect from the theatre.

      • mmm245
        December 12, 2011, 3:08 pm

        All I’m getting at is that I can’t see the people of Jenin having committed this atrocity themselves. I was just in Jenin four weeks ago, and it is a bustling, modern Palestinian city, much like other population centers like Nablus and Ramallah.

        To have lived and worked in Jenin as Juliano and Jenny did, you would have by necessity gotten to know the character of the city and its people. It’s fine that Jenny left Jenin after Juliano’s murder, but in this interview she seems to be holding the entire population of Jenin accountable for Juliano’s murder. I mean for God’s sake, how many other Palestinians have been murdered and no one is charged with their deaths? You want the Palestinians to mobilize for your husband in a way that is impossible even when one of their own dies?

        As Phil mentioned, this is a disturbing interview. I hope I’ve conveyed a little of what seems to be off in this interview (imo). But fundamentally, you cannot expect justice in Juliano’s case when hundreds of Palestinians are denied even the ability to ask for justice when their loved ones are jailed or murdered.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 12, 2011, 3:33 pm

        fair enough mmm, and please keep in mind people respond to death differently. this was her husband and he was murdered less than a year ago. not everyone responds to death in the same way, i am sure you have heard about the stages, denial, anger, blame..whatever. but let’s not jump to suspicion, that’s all i’m saying.

        also, i know from personal experience when i am hurt even when people apologize or feel bad it is sometimes never enough. just give her lots of room to feel what she is feeling and send her positive energy. she will not hold on to this hurt forever and i am sure she will not be holding all the people of jenin responsible forever either. she’s a grieving widow.

      • W.Jones
        December 12, 2011, 9:32 pm

        Yeah good point. There should definitely have been much more of an outpouring. But at the same time, how can we demand this of them when we ourselves as western countries send more bullets instead of wreaths? :((

      • Ben Lorber
        December 13, 2011, 5:42 am

        the theatre is in jenin refugee camp, not jenin city proper. the refugee camp is down a long road away from jenin, and it does have a more conservative vibe.

  2. Newclench
    December 12, 2011, 12:13 pm

    Arna’s children indeed. My heart aches for this children, but I’m glad they are growing up in Israel. I agree with the logic of that.

  3. W.Jones
    December 12, 2011, 12:21 pm

    So it sounds like there was a very conservative Muslim environment and they rejected the liberal theatre very strongly? I thought there were some things suggesting Israeli involvement, but maybe not.

    I heard that Palestine has been one of the more liberal or moderate Muslim regions, but also that the occupation and accompanying economic hardship and foreign military repression has psychologically pushed people to be more “conservative” or less tolerant so to speak.

    Too bad, it sounds like the theatre was good and brave.

  4. xero
    December 12, 2011, 1:08 pm

    Somehow, I don’t think Juliano would feel that way.It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of people and say what she would like them to say.I feel sad that Juliano is dead and sadder still that his widow will have nothing to with Freedom Theatre and Jenin.

  5. Krauss
    December 12, 2011, 1:19 pm

    This is an important reminder that it is true that many on the left often overfocus on Israel. There’s a lot to do left in the muslim societies surrounding it.
    Both areas need to undergo complete transformation, but pressure has to be even. If nobody talks about human rights abuses like these then they won’t feel the need to reform and reactionaries in Israel will – rightly – be able to claim that the left’s hypocrisy ends when Israel’s borders end(wherever they may be).

    • Donald
      December 12, 2011, 3:55 pm

      “This is an important reminder that it is true that many on the left often overfocus on Israel. ”

      Probably true of some, but in large part because so many on the supposed left “underfocus” on Israel and “overfocus” on the crimes of Muslims. On the whole (not saying I necessarily agree with everything they put out) I like the approach of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Put principles first and let the political chips fall where they may. Then one would find both Israel and its neighbors receiving some pretty severe criticism. However, what one tends to find in the US is that HRW and AI reports are cited without question when an Arab regime is at fault, but this almost never seems to happen with Israel.

  6. mig
    December 12, 2011, 3:12 pm

    Interview in Guardian :

    link to guardian.co.uk

    Another :

    link to guardian.co.uk

  7. American
    December 12, 2011, 5:22 pm

    I get the sense that her main bitterness is that nothing much has been done to find his murders. She seems to blame that on the people in Jenin. Wanting them to stand up to whatever radicals killed her husband. I can see why she might feel that way…that her husband for there for them and they are not now doing anything about his death. But we have to consider that they know they might be targeted the same way for getting more involved in it.
    It does beg the question though why her herself left and didn’t do anything about finding his killers, while expecting the people Jenin, who can’t run and get out, to do it.

    • W.Jones
      December 12, 2011, 8:30 pm

      American,

      What if a women goes to a very bad neighborhood or someplace like Haiti and works with homeless people and battered spouses, tries to raise their cultural level so the spouses don’t get battered, and then gets hurt herself. But then the police and other homeless people don’t do alot to stop it and speak out.

      So maybe the answer is that this is a harsh part of the work- an occupation hazard so to speak. I am not sure what is the best answer.

      The temptation of course is to say look how bad poor African Americans are, but to really understand it and deal the problem one must consider the underlying systemic causes of crime.

      Still, I have alot of sympathy for the widow, even if I fully agree with you that there are good people like the ones working with the theatre who themselves aren’t spiritually strong enough to face the destructive forces ruining the Occupied society from within.

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