Friday, April 15, 2011

Assassinating Hope

From the translation of an op-ed in El Imparcial, a new prestigious Spanish digital daily, April 2011, by Ely Karmon, PhD, Senior Research Scholar, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and The Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzlyia, Israel:

...On April 4, 2011, the Israeli-Arab actor-director and pro-Palestinian political activist Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead by a hooded assassin outside The Freedom Theatre, which he founded in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin. The theatre provides children and youth of the refugee camp with opportunities to develop creative skills, self-knowledge and confidence as a model for social change.

Juliano, son of a Jewish mother and a Christian-Palestinian father, both communists, was a unique cultural and activist figure. He opened the Freedom Theater in 2006 in partnership with UNESCO. UNESCO head, Irina Bokova, condemned the assassination and described Mer-Khamis as “a social committed artist” and “an ardent defender of peaceful co-existence.”

...In a “scenario” prophesized by Juliano a year ago in a documentary movie, he said he will finish by a bullet shot in his head by a young Islamist Palestinian angry of him corrupting the “Islamic youth” and his presence in the Jenin refugee camp with his blonde Finnish wife! A suspected Hamas assassin was arrested by the Palestinian security forces.

After the Hamas violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 a boost of Islamization and radicalization process began. School girls are instructed to wear head covers and full-length robes otherwise they risk to be suspended. The High Judicial Council instructs female lawyers to come to court wearing Islamic dress. On Hamas Television Channel all female announcers wear veils. Hamas forbids mixed gender swimming at sea and mixed gender ceremonies.

Under Hamas rule several Salafi groups proliferated in Gaza and opened an all-out war against internet coffee shops, shops that sell women lingerie, but also against Palestinian Christians. They attacked the YMCA library, the Rahabat Al Wardia School run by nuns, and the Beit Lahiya UN School.

The uprisings in the Arab world have raised the hope for a democratization process and a brighter future for the beleaguered Arab masses, after decades of autocratic rule. But at the same time, the specter of organized Islamist movements taking control of Egypt and Tunisia, Syria or Libya and imposing a strict Islamist way of life à-la-Iran or Taliban, poses a great question mark on the revolutionary outcomes of the uprisings.
In Tunisia, the assassination of a priest, anti-Semitic incidents, a series of Islamist attacks against prostitution houses have shaken the public. Several weeks ago some 15,000 people demonstrated against Tunisia's Islamist movement, calling for religious tolerance.

In Egypt, Sheik Mohamed Hussein Yacoub, a prominent Cairo cleric, generated outrage by claiming the country belongs “to the observant” and “those who object could emigrate to North America.“ Salafi activists in Upper Egypt cut a teacher’s ear accusing him of renting an apartment to prostitutes. In the oasis of Fayoum Salafists destroyed places selling beer. Dozens of Salafis staged a protest in Cairo, accusing the church of abducting Camilla Shehata, a Coptic priest's wife who some believe converted to Islam and is being held against her will. Elsewhere in Egypt, Coptic Christians evacuated 340 female students from their university dorms to church-affiliated sanctuaries over concerns for their safety.

Jordanian Salafists were taking advantage of the atmosphere of openness witnessed these days to demand Islamic law be imposed on the state and called for jihad as the "way to liberate Muslim lands from autocrats."

The emblematic assassination of a renowned, ardent, secular pro-Palestinian artist bodes badly for the future of the Palestinian society, for the prospects of a peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians and if exemplary for the trends in the “new” Arab world, for the future of this region and its relation with the outside world.
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