Guardian article 09/18/2012

Guardian letter published 09/19/2012

17 September, 2012

Dear Editor,

A world renown theater, The Freedom Theater of Jenin, is about to experience the death of its co-founder, Zacharia Zubeidi, who is imprisoned by the PA and is on an ongoing hunger – and fluid - strike.

Unless he is released by the PA, he only has three days left to live. Today, Zubeidi, who has been imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority since May 13 without being charged for any crime, was sentenced to another 19 days in prison.

Zakaria Zubeidi co-founded the theater with Juliano Mer Khamis in 2006 when he decided to fight the Israeli occupation through theatre and art rather than armed resistance.

Zubeidi has responded to his continued imprisonment today by declaring that he is resuming a full hunger strike and from this point on would not eat, drink or speak. "This court and this judge made an unfair decision against me,” Zubeidi said in an extremely weak voice. “I've been in prison for a long time without evidence. This morning the doctor told me I have three days to live if I don't drink water. So this court has decided to kill me.”

Zubeidi was supporting himself on the railing as he stood. He took off his shirt, revealing a noticeably thin torso, and pointed out the multiple bullet wounds he had obtained from his years as a fighter against Israeli occupation. “I have been a freedom fighter since I was born, and it’s unjust for me to die here.” "This decision is unjust and means you want to kill me, but I want to choose how I will die. In four days, there will be a funeral from Jericho to Jenin", Zubeidi concluded.

On 17 March 2011 members of New York Theatre Workshop had coffee with Zubeidi and Mer Khamis in Jenin, after seeing their stunning and brilliant production Alice in Wonderland. When Erin Mee asked Mer Khamis and Zubeidi what they would want people to know about The Freedom Theater, Zubeidi said: “That the Palestinian people are alive. That we live under occupation.” He quoted the poet Mahmoud Darwish, saying: “On our land in Palestine, we deserve life.” When speaking about what he wants for himself, Zubeidi said he wanted to be able to have a cup of coffee overlooking the sea – which, because of the terms of his amnesty agreement with Israel for laying down his arms, was impossible: he had been confined to Jenin.

In our conversation, translated by TFT staff member Rawand Arqawi, Zubeidi said: “We are occupied people, but [I think] we [the Palestinians] are free, and the rest of the world is occupied, because the world’s governments cannot make a decision to free the Palestinian people, so they are occupied in the mind. The Israelis are also occupied because they have fear inside them.” Zubeidi pointed out that when he was imprisoned in an Israeli jail, although he was inside the cell and the Israeli soldier had the key, “we were both prisoners.”

Zubeidi has not been charged for any crime, and he has, until recently, been denied access to his lawyer.

We demand his release. Contact the Palestinian Authority.


Oskar Eustis Artistic Director, Joseph Papp Public Theatre Jim Nicola Artistic Director, New York Theatre Workshop Naomi Wallace playwright Erin B. Mee Assistant Professor of Dramatic Literature at New York University Rashid El-Enany Professor Emeritus, University of Exeter, UK Linda Chapman Associate Artistic Director, New York Theatre Workshop Najla Said performer Ismail Khalidi writer Sturgis Warner director Nehad Selaiha Theatre Critic, Al Ahram Daily, Cairo Menha El Batrawi Theatre Critic Al Ahram Daily, Cairo Kathleen Chalfont actress Jennifer Marlowe journalist and writer Josh Perlstein Associate Professor, CCSU Rachel Silverman Artistic Assistant, New York Theatre Workshop Betty Shamieh playwright Mariam Said Jordan Elgrably Director, Levantine Cutural Center Inea Bush Engler Vanessa Redgrave Alice Walker Nathalie Handal poet/playwright Amy Schrager Lang Syracuse University Nitin Sawhney Assistant Professor of Media Studies, New School for Public Engagement Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, New York City The Freedom Theatre, Jenin