The Jenin Freedom Theater, whose founder Juliano Mer-Khamis was murdered several months ago, is about to perform Waiting for Godot under famed Israeli director and human rights activist, Udi Aloni. But after arrest of one of the production’s leading actors, it will now be waiting for Pozzo as well. Over the past week, the IDF has arrested the Theater’s manager, the board chair, and now one of its young actors. Today’s arrest of 20 year-old Rami Awni Hwayel at a West Bank checkpoint, indicates that Israeli authorities are less interested in finding Mer-Khamis’ killer/s than they are in destroying the Theater itself.
The Theater released this statement:
Today at approximately 15:00 hrs one of the third-year graduating students at The Freedom Theatre was taken by the Israeli army at the Shave Shomeron checkpoint between the Palestinian cities, Jenin and Nablus. The student’s name is Rami Awni Hwayel, age 20. He was travelling from Ramallah to Jenin together with his fellow students.
Batool Taleb, one of the female acting students who was in the car with Rami describes what happened: “When they got to our car, they took all our IDs and when they saw Rami’s ID they told him to get out of the car. Once he was out they immediately handcuffed and blindfolded him and put him in the army jeep.”
The students had been rehearsing for their final graduation project directed by the Israeli-American Director Udi Aloni in Ramallah.
“This is devastating. Rami is playing the main role in ‘Waiting for Godot’ and doing an amazing job, he’s so dedicated to the work. He just left rehearsals today for the weekend to see his family for Ramadan.
It’s terrible, we want our Pozzo back!”, says Udi Aloni.
Rami is the third member of The Freedom Theatre taken by the Israeli army recently. On the 27th of July at 3:00AM the Head Technician, Adnan Naghnaghiye and the Chairperson, Bilal Saadi, were captured by a large group of Israeli soldiers.
The consequences of these actions only result in more damage to The Freedom Theatre. The theatre once again calls on its friends and supporters around the world to act in order to stop this outrageous harassment by the Israeli army against a cultural establishment.
When I heard of the arrests last week, I didn’t know what to think. But I presumed that they might have something to do with finding Mer-Khamis’ killer. But with the arrest of the leading actor of the ensemble’s current production it’s becoming clearer that there is no urgency or even interest on the Israeli side in solving the crime. This is no longer a homicide investigation if it ever was one. It has become a campaign of sabotage against the fierce artistic resistance to Occupation represented by Mer-Khamis and his Theater.
In fact, one has to begin to wonder whether given the army’s interest in undermining everything the Theater represents, that his murder might have been commissioned or approved by the Shabak. To those who scoff at this notion I say: much stranger things have happened. To this I also add, that authorities who seek to solve a murder do not harass the victims of the crime, as the IDF is doing. They only do this if they believe the victims themselves are calling too much attention to the inadequacy of the police or the investigation; or that they stand in the way of the army’s maintenance of Occupation itself.
When I heard that Mer-Khamis’ nanny, who witnessed the killing, had been whisked to Israel in order to protect her from the alleged Palestinian killers, I felt some comfort that she was being protected. But now this news becomes more ominous. What if Israel had spirited her out of the country to their jurisdiction to influence her testimony against those it sought to railroad for the crime? If you doubt this possibility then you simply know very little about the Shabak and how it operates.
Add to all this, that the IDF has placed the news of Hwayel’s arrest under strict gag and Israeli media may not report it. This has to be the worst kept gag order in Israeli history as Israeli journalists and activists have been posting Facebook updates and tweeting about it for hours.
The world must demand of the IDF: what are you doing and why are you doing it? Solve the crime and if you can’t do that–hands off the Freedom Theater. FREE Rami Hwayel! Find the telephone number of the nearest Israeli consulate or embassy and call them demanding Rami’s freedom. It’s bad enough that Freedom Theater will never see Godot in this production. Let them at least see their Pozzo.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.