Ihad just completed an analysis of a major story – South African Justice Richard
Goldstone had backtracked from his report, claiming that Israel had not
committed alleged war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
dramatic story because Palestinians frequently cite the Goldstone Report, since
the author is a famous Jewish jurist. Israelis, citing the same point, called
him a misguided, foolish, self-hating Jew.
But after turning in the story
to my Jerusalem Post
editor, I read about someone I had encountered briefly
online, Juliano Mer-Khamis, who was murdered on Monday in Jenin, shot dead by
masked gunmen believed to be Palestinians.
Mer-Khamis was an
actor-producer who was a quiet, but effective, rebel against the growing
fanaticism, and he was doing much to help bring about peace.
trying to reach out to him when I launched the Israeli- Palestinian Comedy Tour
in November 2006. The tour was intended to help bridge the animosity and
misunderstanding between the two sides, and featured myself and three other
comedians – Israelis Charley Warady and Yisrael Campbell and my African-American
Jewish friend Aaron Freeman. We kept missing each other.
People told me
what I was doing was a good idea, but cautioned that there were people who would
try to bring it down. I had some protection, though, because I am a Christian
And that made me an anomaly – one that is fast disappearing
– that made it hard for extremists to target. At least back then.
writings denounced violence by both sides, but my criticism of Israel was always
the extremists’ showcase.
They tolerated my criticism of Hamas and the
religious fanatics because I was Christian.
OVER THE past few years, the
voices of hatred have increased in volume and scope. They still represent a
minority, but religious fanaticism continues to grow.
As a Christian of
Orthodox parents, I have become an easy target. Christian Palestinians are
tolerated as long as we toe the line. If we question the growing hatred, not
just in Israel but in Palestine too, we are targeted.
websites, like Ikhras and KabobFest, began attacking me. These sites exploit
Palestinian suffering for their own selfish goals.
They don’t want
Palestinians to rise out of their misery because it might harm their
Mer-Khamis was the son of a Christian Palestinian father, Saliba
Khamis, and an Israeli Jewish mother, Arna Mer, an activist for Palestinian
rights. He had been targeted by the religious fanatics. His message was one that
challenged the conventional norms. He wanted to make Palestinians and Israelis
Mer-Khamis co-founded the Jenin Children’s Theater in 2006 with
Zakariya Zubeidi, the former commander of the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin.
I had met with Zubeidi in Jenin a year before, discussing my ideas for Comedy
for Peace. Despite his involvement, the theater was targeted by arsonists twice,
and the threats against Mer- Khamis continued.
Religious fanatics were
not just angry at his attempts at “normalization” with Israelis, but also that
he proposed such ideas as having co-ed theatrical productions, despite
prohibitions on the role of Muslim women in public activities.
point, Mer-Khamis wanted to stage the famous play Animal Farm, in which one of
the main characters is a pig. The idea that a Muslim would play a pig, even in a
theatrical production, so offended the religious fanatics that Mer-Khamis’ life
was again in danger.
“NORMALIZATION” REPRESENTS one of the worst crimes
in the eyes of these extremists, whose influence on the Palestinian future
continues to grow.
Religious loonies have made it an annual celebration
to attack the Christian mayor of Taiba, the only all- Christian village in the
Taiba is the home of Taybeh Beer, and the religious fanatics
believe any form of alcohol is haram – the ugly word of Arab religious
Every year when Taiba hosts its annual festival, religious
extremists attack the mayor in some form or another, vandalizing his property
and even setting fire to his car one time.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas
fanatics have threatened female journalists who refuse to wear a head covering,
and in the West Bank they have threatened organizers of fashion shows, dances
and other activities the small-minded extremists believe pose a threat to their
Palestinians are watching the prodemocracy protests in the
neighboring Arab countries with envy, hoping to do the same in the territories.
But we can’t cry for real democracy as long as the violent religious fanatics
roam our streets preaching intolerance and hatred. It is a major growing problem
Whether on hate websites, on the angry streets of the Gaza
Strip or in places like Jenin, small handfuls of fanatics hold our future as
Palestinians hostage to their insanity. They drag everything down to the lowest
common denominator. They are incapable of achieving anything
The fanatics are incapable of building a country called
Palestine, and the murder of Mer-Khamis reminds us again of how easily they can
shoot it down.The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio
talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com