Mer-Khamis and binational resistance movement
Those who knew Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Nazareth-born actor and director who was shot in Jenin on Monday, will have to be the ones to write about him; all that the rest of us can do is write about the milestones in his life.
Juliano was lucky. He was born Palestinian and Jewish, Jewish and Palestinian. This angry man was beset by conflicting yet complementary identities. He was the long shadow of an imagined binational community from the 1950s. Like a Peter Pan who refuses to grow up, Juliano embodied the potential of a shared life (ta’ayush in Arabic ) while striving for equality. The son of a Jewish mother and a Palestinian father, he was born to two cultures, and chose to live in both. He saw no need to explain.
Juliano Mer-Khamis was angry. But the Palestinians must conquer their anger, like rage against the Jewish enclave in the middle of the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
My guess is that Juliano wasn’t entertaining illusions; sustaining blows from all sides, the potential of ta’ayush shrank. Ta’ayush is the sane vision, but the chance that it will be realized is increasingly slim. There are some who fantasize about the days of the Messiah to avoid thinking about the days before the next disaster strikes. Juliano’s was the offspring of a fantasy of ta’ayush. His birth was the outcome of a fantasy of ta’ayush, and his death is a disaster.
Juliano was angry. His rage was the kind that only a Jew like him, who was born on the left and craved equality until the end, can allow himself to express as a way of life. Palestinians must conquer the anger, mellow it; they must tame it, repress it, sublimate it. That’s the only way to stay both alive and sane (without getting arrested, wounded or killed ) under the conditions of physical and non-physical violence dictated by Israel.
Oy, this coarse violence, which reeks of rationalism and supremacy and pretends to be enlightened. It is found in every detail of life, moment by moment, from cradle to grave. It is found from a expropriation order and an accompanying map to the firing hole of a watchtower; from the Interior Ministry expelling Palestinian Jerusalemites from their home town to the blocking of return to the Galilee village of Bir’im; from the racist responses of Jewish youth in opinion polls to the drone that homed in on children playing on the roof in Gaza. The violence is always there, from the Jerusalem municipal taxes despite the ruined roads and uncollected garbage to the security cameras in the Jewish neighborhood/Crusader shtetl in Silwan; from the lush green of a settlement to the Palestinian cistern destroyed by an Israeli bulldozer; from the permits granted to individual ranches in the Negev to the incrimination of Bedouin as “infiltrators.” In short, from the Jewish to the democratic.
This violence has so many different angles that it can drive you mad. Juliano was lucky to be an artist, and madness was one of his paintbrushes. Through the theater he founded in Jenin, Juliano allowed himself to criticize repressive aspects of Palestinian society. One would guess he did so as a left-winger, as an actor committed to the artist’s oath of truthfulness, and as a Palestinian. Let’s hope that the killer will be found, and then we’ll know if a Palestinian artist was killed because of his courage to live in a way that disrupts the order, or if a Jewish artist was killed because he gave himself permission to overtly criticize a society that is not his, according to some, or if a left-winger was killed because he was disrupting the norm. Or perhaps all three together. Even if he was killed for some other reason, Juliano was still an artist and a Palestinian, a left-winger and a Jew.
Now that the prospect of the sane vision of ta’ayush is small, what is left? The path. This is the option of a binational resistance movement, which wants to topple the Gadhafi-like, Mubarak-like, Assad-like rule of one people over another.
There are some who insist on fantasizing about a binational movement as a historic necessity, as a logical antithesis to the ideology of the demographic separation that has become the bible of the Oslo process. The truth must be said: In the meantime, most of those who harbor such a fantasy are Jewish. Thus do we soften the contradiction between love for the people and the place on the one hand and the abhorrence of the enlightened violence on the other.
Through his life and his body, Juliano Mer-Khamis embodied the possibility of a binational resistance movement. The killer, whatever his motive, was aiming for the body. In his death, Juliano has bequeathed us the possible.