It took a while to wrap my head around the implications of the assassination of Juliano Mer Khamis.
It was like hearing that a long standing landmark had been knocked down. That the scales had been disastrously reset.
The Freedom Theatre’s place in the hearts and lives of its members cannot be underestimated. Nor the weight of the legacy of Juliano and his mother Arna in Jenin.
So tragedy lines the first building block in a complex situation.
The second is re(mis)presentation of progress. The Freedom Theatre was a symbol; of art, of tolerance, of expression, of healing and of hope. It felt like all these things had suddenly taken a staggering step backwards.
The third – division. Not the one that gets all the publicity. Not the one between two warring factions who have become so tunnel visioned in their hunger for power that they seem to have lost sight of what their job really entails.
Newer divisions criss crossing their way across an already fragmented land.
Notices were posted around Jenin saying that Juliano and the Freedom Theatre were collaborators intent on spreading Western culture. That their behavior sullied the memory of martyrs and those who died for Palestine.
The notice demanded that parents stop sending their children to the theatre and that any who continued to support it would be met with the same fate as Juliano. This sentence was followed by a helpful addition in parenthesis “(with bullets)” in case the heavy handed hint could possibly have flown over anyone’s head.
The killing of Vittorio Arrigoni, soon after, strikes a similar chord.
People intent on helping Palestine killed by Palestinians; it sits uncomfortably. Juliano himself was half Arab.
Small, extremist groups within Palestinian society - seemingly operating
independently - slowly taking out elements that, with the best intentions, are working towards helping Palestine.
I know it is the nature of extremism but that this intolerance is taking such precedence over the the will of the majority and the good of those involved in a situation like that of Palestine breaks my heart.
I cannot say what is best for Palestinians nor their future. It’s not for me to say that the presence and work of people like Juliano and Vittorio gives hope and alleviates pain.
It does however seem to me an inalienable truth that the brutal killing of those who dedicate themselves to a cause, to a people, to a nation, because of a difference in ideology is more than a crime against the victims.
It is a crime against the cause itself.