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April 11, 2011

The Lure of Clichés

A New York Times headline writer apparently couldn't resist.

A story involving the arts, performance, and a radical political activist who crosses lines in the Middle East. It must, too, be a story about peace. Right?

That's how it should look in a Hollywood tale. And so this story about the slaying of actor and director Juliano Mer Khamis, published on April 7, was given the headline "Building a Stage for Mideast Peace Before the Final Curtain."

Except a "stage for peace" is not what the story is about. Reporter Isabel Kershner, at least, managed to resist the romantic story line, opting instead to soberly relay facts about Mer Khamis and his theater enterprise.

For one, the reporter explains, a number of his Palestinian actors "became hardened fighters" in the early 2000s and attacked soldiers and civilians alike.

The youngest of them joined Islamic Jihad and was killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers. His brother, known as the joker of the group, went on a suicide mission with a friend, fatally shooting four women in the Israeli town of Hadera before police officers gunned them down. A third led a group of militants and was killed.

Were these bloody attacks renegade acts that transgressed against the "peaceful" philosophy of Mer Khamis's theater? Not exactly.

Kershner notes that

Today, the core of the Freedom Theater staff and its supporters say they do not oppose armed struggle and that the Palestinians may resist the Israeli occupation by all means.

So the core staff is not opposed to "resistance ... by all means," a phrase generally understood to include suicide bombings and other attacks against Israeli civilians.

Perhaps they believe the killing of Israelis is a small price for Palestinians to pay for the goal of future peace between two independent states of Israel and Palestine? Again, no:

Mr. Mer Khamis could not accept a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he felt would essentially mean division.

Would the New York Times use the word "peace" to describe a hypothetical Israeli cultural institution whose leader opposed a Palestinian state, promoted Greater Israel and accepted violence in the service of that cause? Of course not. But consistency is not the newspaper's forte.

Posted by GI at April 11, 2011 12:12 PM

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