The Freedom Theatre Under Attack








As reported by Mondoweiss, last night at 3am, Israeli troops entered the home of my host in Jenin, Nabil Al Raee, Artistic Director of the Freedom Theatre, and arrested him at gunpoint.  The soliders gave Nabil and his wife Micaela no explanation for their actions, and their intrusion terrified his three-year old daughter.  Nabil is currently being held in a nearby military prison.

Jenin is in Zone A of the West Bank, under Palestinian control and administration, and this arrest by the IDF violates the Oslo Accords.  To be arrested without charge also violates Nabil Al Raee’s human rights.

As the co-founder of British Writers in Support of Palestine, I have issued a statement condemning in unequivocal terms this violent, illegal and repressive act, which is part of a systematic campaign of intimidation clearly directed at the Freedom Theatre itself.  As I reported in my last post, the IDF investigation of the murder of founding Artistic Director Juliano Mer Khamis has only ever been directed at Freedom Theatre Staff, and has now been officially closed, ignoring significant forensic evidence.  And for the last three weeks Freedom Theatre co-founder Zakaria Zubeidi has been held without charge in a prison in Jericho.

My thoughts are with Nabil and Zakaria and their families and friends at this dark and uncertain time.  I also stand by and redouble my advice to readers to visit Jenin.  The town is a challenging and complex place, but as the Alternative Tourism Group states, any threat to internationals in the West Bank is minimal.  By our presence there, and reportage, we support Palestinian culture and rights, and maintain a vigilant watch on Israel.  The IDF conduct midnight raids not only to maximize the terror they cause, but also because they fear witnesses to their violations of international law.  The more people visit Palestine, however, and see the reality of life there for themselves, the harder it is for the IDF to escape the spotlight of international scrutiny and condemnation.

Press Release from The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, northern West Bank June 6, 2012

At approximately 03:15 am the Israeli army entered the home of Nabil Al-Raee, the Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre, and took him to an unknown location.

Nabil’s wife, Micaela Miranda explains what happened: “The dog started barking so I went outside and saw soldiers jumping over the gate and come into the yard of the house. They asked for my husband and I asked what for, that it’s my right to know and it’s my house. The soldiers replied that they were not going to tell me. They then took Nabil, brought him to an army jeep and drove off. We are very worried because we don’t know where they took him and why.”

Jonatan Stanczak, Managing Director of The Freedom Theatre: “I live on the floor above Nabil and when I heard what was happening I tried to go down to talk to the soldiers because I speak Hebrew. The house was surrounded by masked Israeli soldiers and three of them immediately pointed their weapons at me and pushed me back into the house.”

Attempts were immediately made to contact the District Coordination Office of the Israeli army but to no avail. More than half the employees of The Freedom Theatre were recently called to interrogations by the Israeli army, including Nabil Al-Raee. All came to the appointments as scheduled and answered to their best of their knowledge the given questions even though they were intimidated and even threatened.

Jonatan Stanczak continues: “I don’t understand why they do this after they know they could simply have made a phone call to Nabil and he would have come to answer any questions or concerns that they might have. Since this has happened so many times in the past, I can’t interpret it as anything else than an ongoing harassment of the employees of The Freedom Theatre and their families by the Israeli army.”

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