It has come to our attention that on June 6, 2012, Nabil Al Raee, Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre, was arrested at gunpoint at 3:15am by the Israeli Defense Forces at his home in Jenin. This arrest and continuing detention violates Nabil Al Raee’s basic human rights and international law.
Al Raee was held for over two weeks before being allowed counsel and has still not been allowed to see his family. He has not been brought to court or accused of any crime. In the United States this arrest would be illegal. In Israel this arrest would be illegal. Under international law this arrest and detention is illegal, and it should be illegal in the Occupied Territory of The West Bank.
Six times in the last ten months members of The Freedom Theatre staff have been arrested and detained without charge. On May 5, The Freedom Theatre co-founder, Zakaria Zubeidi, was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces. He remains in custody with no clear reason for his arrest and has also not been given access to his family. Zubeidi is well known for his determination to eschew armed resistance to the Israeli occupation in favor of cultural resistance. What we have learned from Zubeidi, the tragedy of Juliano Mer Khamis, and “Arna’s Children” is that we all need more theatre, not less. The children of all refugee camps need more theatre, more arts activity, not less, and The Freedom Theatre stands for more personal freedom and free expression, not less.
Nabil Al Raee is an artist, not a criminal, but apparently in the West Bank, being an artist at The Freedom Theatre is now a crime. The IDF, in its continuing harassment of The Freedom Theatre staff, has taken a man into custody who has chosen to resist through purely artistic means. We believe that Al Raee is being targeted as an effort to intimidate and harass The Freedom Theatre because of its vital work in serving and empowering refugee youth and its artistic expression of political viewpoints.
The theatre community in the United States is gravely concerned about this matter.
We denounce these arrests and detentions. We demand the immediate release of Nabil Al Raee and Zakaria Zubeidi. If they continue to be incarcerated, we demand that they be afforded proper legal protections due to any person under the law: including public hearings where the reasons for their arrests are made public, continuing access to counsel, and immediate access to their families.
For any society that claims to be a democracy, where the rule of law presides over public life, it is necessary that all persons be protected by due process and from unlawful arrest, torture or abuse, including arbitrary imprisonment by the military. For any democracy to thrive, artists must be free to express themselves. Out of solidarity with a fellow artistic leader, we ask that the Israeli and Palestinian authorities reconsider their positions and immediately return to actions that demonstrate respect for the arts and all people’s basic human rights.
Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre
PO Box 592
Tarrytown, NY 10591