Not content to wage war on armed militants (of whom there are very few these days in the West Bank), earlier today the famed special forces of the Israeli army staged a daring raid on Jenin’s Freedom Theater. In a bold tactical stroke, they woke up a night watchman at 3:30AM by throwing hunks of concrete at the theater entrance. They then strip searched him and made him afraid for his life. Those bold national heroes then arrested a Theater board member and abused the theater general manager, a British citizen. When he called the Israeli civil administration, which has sometimes been known to intercede in the most egregious situations, they hung up on him.
I can’t figure out what’s so dangerous about the Theater’s work. Perhaps the performances of Orwell’s Animal Farm in France? Or The Magic Flute? Is there a message of subversion and a call for insurrection I missed in them? Or perhaps they didn’t like the message of support for the Gaza flotilla on its website?
Given that the founder of Freedom Theater, Juliano Mer-Khamis was assassinated outside the venue a few months ago, this comes as a brutish insult from the Israeli authorities. First the Occupation criminalizes resistance through violence. Then resistance through non-violence. Then they criminalize art and expression.
Everyday Israelis believe that somehow these acts of oppression are located far from them. What they don’t understand is that this rot infects from the outside and works its way in. There will come a time, and not very long, when they’ll criminalize artistic expression inside Israel and Israeli Jewish theater managers will be arrested for expressing themselves. That is, if Israeli cultural institutions haven’t become so co-opted that they no longer offer an alternative to the prevailing nationalist consensus.
H/t George Hale, Jared Maslin, Suzysauce.