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Published:July 27th, 2011 19:38 EST
Israeli Special Forces Take Over Freedom Theatre

Israeli Special Forces Take Over Freedom Theatre

By Donna Cavanagh

When I was a senior in college, a friend of mine left school to join the Army and Special Forces.  I wasn`t shocked because the CIA and military was on campus recruiting people for these positions.  On a lark, I tried out for the CIA. Okay, is that the wrong term?  I think the correct term is I interviewed with the CIA. I got as far as the lie detector test which asked if I had ever smoked pot or if I had knowledge of anyone who smoked or sold pot.  In my defense, I was in college in the 1980s. I can`t believe they found anyone on a college campus who could answer "no" to these questions truthfully and if they did, I am pretty sure that this person would have been considered socially backwards and maybe even maladjusted.  I never knew anyone who went beyond the lie detector test except for my friend (who I still don`t know how he passed the lie detector test), but I heard that if you did pass all the requirements that you got to choose to train for espionage work or for Special Forces duty. 

I don`t know if this was true, but that was another good reason for me NOT to get picked. I had just been through 16 years of catholic school, so I thought I had done enough time in a military environment. 

I don`t mean to make light of Special Forces or the CIA or any national security organization. I know that no matter what country these highly trained individuals hail from, they have a job to do and that sometimes that work is "dirty".  I know that they have to kill dangerous enemies and participate in covert operations, and always their lives are on the line, but sometimes even the most genuinely patriotic organizations can make mistakes. 

Case in point:   the recent attack on the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp in the north of the West Bank in occupied Palestine.  Israeli Special Forces threw heavy blocks of stones at the entrance of the theater. When a night guard and student answered the door, he was forced to undress. His brother was handcuffed and the general manager of the theatre and also the co-founder who were British and Swedish respectively, were rounded up and forced to squat in a room surrounded by the heavily armed Special Forces.

Now, did the Israeli Special Forces think the cultural venue, whose goal is to empower children whose lives have been torn apart by violence and war, and give them a positive and creative outlet, was a haven for terrorists or something like that? I don`t know.  But I do know that not only were these people threatened, but other people from the theatre were held against their will or hauled off to jail or to some secret holding facility. 

I have to wonder if someone`s orders didn`t get screwed in this situation. Don`t Special Forces have to do months of surveillance before they make a move like this?  I would think before you make people strip or drag them off to jail, you should be damn sure that they are enemies.. 

Maybe the Special Forces people did not like the shows at this theatre?  The attack and the capture of the people who work there could be an over-the-top dramatic critique, but I suspect a thumbs down review would have been sufficient to get their point across. 

The only other theory I have in this massive assault on this cultural venue is that maybe someone in the Special Forces team`s family tried out for a part and didn`t get it.  Maybe, this was their way of letting the theater people know they were not happy with their actor choices. 

To be honest, I don`t know why that theatre was singled out by the Israeli Special Forces, but I do know that the British general manager and the Swedish co-founder wanted to straighten out the misunderstanding, but their objections and pleas were rebuffed. It`s sad that there was one place where trauma and violence ceased to exist, but now that feeling of security that those children and students experienced in this theater is now destroyed. 

I hope by now, if the Special Forces unit realizes their mistake, it will find a way to return the people they took from the theatre. Just drop them off; no harm, no foul.  The theatre is asking for international help in getting their people sprung.  Hey, as they say, The show must go on, but if your people are hidden away in jail somewhere, it`s pretty tough to stick to that ancient showbiz mantra.