Saturday, December 31, 2005
With no Palestinian state in sight, aid becomes an adjunct to occupation
Israeli policy is the root cause of need in the occupied territories, but donors pay up without challenging it
Saturday December 31, 2005
This month has seen a flurry of high-level activity designed to fund the Palestinians under occupation. A private sector investors' conference took place in London to discuss ways of boosting the Palestinian economy. It followed the G7 finance ministers' meeting at the beginning of December, which pledged its support, saying that "economic development of the West Bank and Gaza is an indispensable element of lasting peace in the region". And in the summer, the G8 summit at Gleneagles promised the Palestinian Authority an annual $3bn for three years. Next March, the donor countries will decide their allocations to the PA.
Sounds good. But will these donors pause to consider that Israel's occupation of Palestine is set to continue so long as they remain prepared to underwrite it? The Palestinians' dire need for help is indisputable: the PA is virtually bankrupt and has asked for an immediate injection of $200m, just for basic services, between now and next February. Humanitarian aid alone, however, will not solve the problem.
Working in Ramallah, as I have been, makes this fact glaringly obvious. The kidnapping of aid worker Kate Burton and her parents in Gaza this week is a sharp reminder of the political context of aid. Normally, international aid reaches the Palestinians directly, but also through myriad international NGOs. They are thick on the ground in Palestine: it was estimated in 2003 that were 38 in Ramallah alone and 60 overall, in addition to 80 Palestinian NGOs funded by them. The relationship of funders to NGOs here is complex and potentially coercive. There are consequences for the ablest and best-educated Palestinians, who now work for these NGOs, increasingly distant from the less fortunate in their own society, on projects that do not necessarily reflect local priorities.
The need for renewed funding often obliges NGOs to shape their agendas to those of donors, sometimes in contrast to their own beliefs. In 2004, for example, the US Agency for International Development insisted that Palestinian NGOs pledge not to support anyone with "terrorist links" as a condition for further funding. More blatantly, the EU threatened last week to withdraw all funding if militant groups were allowed to participate in forthcoming Palestinian elections. Subtler forms of pressure are also common, and will inevitably affect the political decision making process.
I found Ramallah was crawling with do-gooders of all nationalities. Being kind to Palestinians is now a big industry, spawned initially by the Oslo Agreement of 1993. At the time, the international community thought this would lead to the emergence of an independent Palestinian state. International aid poured in to support the nascent Palestinian Authority, to build up the infrastructure damaged by decades of Israeli occupation. From 1995 onwards, $7bn was spent on this enterprise, and more was promised following Gaza's evacuation last August.
Underlying this aid was the assumption that a two-state solution was the desired aim, and that the Palestinians would need help to prepare for statehood. So, until 2000, much aid was directed towards state-building projects and those fostering a "positive climate" for peace negotiations. The second intifada that erupted in 2000 halted this process. Donors were forced to switch from state building to emergency support, now running at $1bn annually. The EU and member states bear the brunt of this financial burden. The US also contributes, though far less than it does to Israel. Since 2002, it is the Arab states that have rescued the PA from collapse. Most aid is for humanitarian relief and rebuilding basic infrastructure destroyed by Israeli military assaults.
The Palestinians are today the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world. According to the 2004 World Bank report, they are suffering "the worst economic depression in modern history": 75% are impoverished, and unemployment rates are 60-70% in Gaza and 30-40% in the West Bank. Without external support, the Palestinian infrastructure and basic services would not survive. The Palestinians have been robbed of their agricultural land and industry and had their trade devastated by Israel's closure regime. They have fewer jobs in Israel, which plans to stop using Palestinian labour in 2008. They have virtually no independent sources of livelihood left.
The donors well know the causes of this desperate situation. At a conference in Ramallah last July, the World Bank's representative, Nigel Roberts, candidly admitted that Israel's occupation was the problem. Yet the funding continues, as if for all the world the Palestinians were victims not of a deliberate Israeli policy, but of some natural disaster. In the context of an occupation that denudes the Palestinians of their land and resources, keeps them imprisoned in ghettoes, and controls every aspect of their lives, what should be the rationale of international aid? Without doubt, emergency relief is vital to Palestinian survival and cannot be lightly withdrawn. But should not the root cause, Israel's occupation, be addressed too? Otherwise aid becomes merely an adjunct to the occupation.
By paying up without caveat, donors in effect relieve Israel of its obligations under international law. As the occupying power, Israel must deliver assistance and services to the Palestinian population. As high contracting parties to the Geneva conventions, the donors are obliged to ensure Israel's compliance with the law. None of this has happened. Instead, international aid has rendered the occupation cost-free. It has even enriched Israel's economy: according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, for every dollar produced in the occupied territories, 45 cents flows back to Israel.
Aside from the recent EU criticism of Israel's policies in Arab Jerusalem, which were quickly downplayed, the donors have made no serious attempt to challenge Israel's actions, not even to demand compensation for its destruction of Palestinian projects they had funded. On the contrary, the process of preparing Palestinians for western-style "statehood" has accelerated. Foreign funded projects for "democratisation", "reform", "capacity building" and other imported buzz words have doubled. In the absence of a Palestinian state or any hope of one, this becomes an exercise in cynicism. The donors' efforts to ensure the Palestinian security services can fight "terrorism" (ie resistance to occupation), while Israel's army freely assassinates Palestinians, bombs them and demolishes their homes, is immoral.
By focusing on the effects of occupation rather than ending it, the donors have made the conflict into a scramble for socio-economic survival. But distancing the Palestinians from their national struggle can only help Israel impose its final terms on them. If that is not to happen, then the donors must resolve their dilemma: not abandoning the Palestinians to their fate, and not challenging Israel, are incompatible. Facing up to the bully is a moral imperative, and, ultimately, the only practical way forward.
Ghada Karmi was an information consultant to the PA based in Ramallah
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Friday, December 30, 2005
This is about the checkpoint nearest our home, the Qalandiyah checkpoint. Just redone and worked over to provide full humiliation.
In 9 small paragraphs Amira captures a small percentage of what it feels like as a Palestinian to be humiliated on a daily basis. Add 39+, or 58+, years to this and you will have the full picture.
2006 will not be a good year in Palestine.
From inside the Ramallah cage,
"we Israelis have created and continue to create an economic, social, emotional, employment and environmental crisis on the scale of a never-ending tsunami."
Last update - 11:07 28/12/2005
It's not all in the details
By Amira Hass
Each detail described here, every shred of reality, is liable to be considered as a whole, which would dim its severity. Detail: Hundreds of people gather each morning at three narrow steel revolving doors, and the gates do not turn because some unseen person has blocked them by pushing a button. The number of people crammed behind them grows and grows, and they wait for an hour, and the anger at another day being late for work or for school is piled on top of previous residual tensions brought on by anger, bitterness and helplessness.
However, it is not the crowdedness and waiting and anger that define the checkpoints and roadblocks, or in this specific instance, the new Qalandiyah checkpoint. Nor is it the crowdedness and compressed atmosphere of the rest of the inspection route, before the magnometers and the closed rooms in which the soldiers sit and inspect documents, or the other revolving doors. Or even the other "details": the cameras that make the soldiers and commanders seeing and unseen, the snarling voice in the speaker that issues commands in Hebrew, the terrifying concrete wall above and around, and the devastation left by Israeli bulldozers and planners outside the cage that Israel calls a "border terminal," in what was once, and no longer is, a continuous stretch of residential neighborhoods, soft hillsides and the Jerusalem-Ramallah road.
Nor are the 11 "detainees" at the inspection route's exit an adequate detail: nine teenage boys aged 18 and under, one adult, and a 23-year-old university student, all of whom committed a serious crime on Monday: After waiting in vain for the steel gates to turn, which would lead them to the inspection route, on their way to classes and work, they decided to jump over the fence - one hoping to get to an English test on time, the other fearful of being fired if he again arrived late to the printing press where he works. But they were caught. The student was handcuffed from behind, and was sat down next to a guard booth in the closed military compound. The other ten were placed outside the compound, in the mud that became thicker with every drop of rain. And the soldiers demanded that they sit down. They could not sit, because of the mud, and only went into a kneeling position. After half an hour, the bent knees begin to hurt more and more, and the pants are soaked with water and grow tight over the knee. The hands turn cold, but the soldiers don't change their tune: "Sit, I told you. Sit."
But the cold and the rain are not the story, nor is the soldier eating his combat rations and watching the detainees apathetically, nor the telephone calls by this writer until after two hours they are permitted, how compassionately, to stand up, nor their release - including that of one individual whose frozen hands are imprinted by deep red cracks from the handcuffs, nor the fact that the 14-year-old in the group had to wait another 20 minutes after his release until the soldier who took his birth certificate (after all, he does not yet have an identity card) could be found. The question of whether the detention would have continued longer had the writer not been present is also marginal.
Also of secondary importance is the decision to open the "humanitarian gate" (which is intended for the passage of those in wheelchairs, parents with baby strollers, and Palestinian cleaning workers employed by a contracting firm), in the morning to women and men above the age of 60. Another detail that in itself diverts one's attention from what is important.
What is important is that the army and the Israeli citizens who design all of the details of dispossession - and the roadblocks are an inseparable part of this dispossession - have transformed the term "humanitarian" into a despicable lie.
Through the checkpoints, road closures, movement ban, and traffic restrictions, through the concrete walls and barbed wire fences, through the land expropriations (solely for the purpose of security, as the High Court of Justice, which is part and parcel of the Israeli people, likes to believe), through the disconnecting of villages from their lands and from a connecting road, through the construction of a wall in a residential neighborhood and in the backyards of homes, and through the transformation of the West Bank into a cluster of "territorial cells," in the military jargon, between the expanding settlements - we Israelis have created and continue to create an economic, social, emotional, employment and environmental crisis on the scale of a never-ending tsunami.
And then we offer a little turnstile in a cage, an officer who is briefed to see an old man, a bathroom and a water cooler - and this is described as "humanitarian." In other words, we push an entire people into impossible situations, blatantly inhumane situations, in order to steal its land and time and future and freedom of choice, and then the plantation owner appears and relaxes the iron fist a bit, and is proud of his sense of compassion.
However, even the important matter - that is, the humanitarian deception - is only one detail in a full set of details in which no single detail is representative in itself. Isolated fragments of the reality are read as being tolerable, or understandable (security, security), or may make one angry for a moment and then subside. And among all the details, the reality of colonialism intensifies, without letup or remission, inventing yet more methods of torture of the individual and community; creating more ways to violate international law, robbing land behind the legal camouflage, and encouraging collaboration out of agreement, neglect or torpor.
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Beyond "Munich": The Ten Movies Steven Spielberg Has Yet To Make
Imagine if we were in a parallel universe in which Hollywood gave Arabs and Muslims a fair shake. Here are ten films (all based on true stories) that are just waiting for Spielberg's magic.
By Mas'ood Cajee, December 8, 2005
Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg's latest film "Munich" focuses on Israel's efforts to avenge the tragic killings of its athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Although the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is ripe with great ideas for potential blockbuster films, Hollywood flicks about the conflict have tended to remain formulaic and dehumanizing.
Spielberg hopes "Munich" will be different, and claims he didn't want to make "a Charles Bronson movie — good guys vs. bad guys and Jews killing Arabs without any context." Critics say Spielberg is too pro-Israel to make a fair film about the conflict.
Imagine for a second it is Opposite Day. Imagine we're in some kind of Twilight Zone parallel universe in which Hollywood gives Arabs and Muslims a fair shake. What kind of movies about the Middle East would we then be chomping Goobers, Junior Mints, and popcorn to at the local twenty screen multiplex?
Maybe these movies might actually be made by some of the 125 Palestinian kids Spielberg is giving video cameras to document their lives. Perhaps a talented few will go on to become big-time Hollywood directors. Here are ten potential films — all inspired by actual events — that are just waiting for the magic of Spielberg & his wannabes:
1. King David Hotel: The bombing of the King David Hotel, which served as headquarters of the British administration in Palestine, killed 91 Arabs, Jews, and Brits in 1946. Two future Prime Ministers of Israel, David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin, masterminded the attack. Disguised as Arabs, members of Begin's Irgun placed 350kg of explosives inside the building. In this action-packed thriller, David (Pierce Brosnan) — a British officer ordered to hunt down the killers — falls for Margaret (Uma Thurman), an American journalist working for Life Magazine. But is Margaret really in love or is she a secret Zionist assassin out to stop David in his tracks?
2. Nakba: A story of innocent love in a time of war and tragedy. Layla (Penelope Cruz) & Salam (Orlando Bloom) are a Romeo & Juliet against the backdrop of the 1948 Nakba, the Palestinian national catastrophe. During the Nakba, over 700,000 Palestinians fled — voluntarily & involuntarily — their homes. Can their love survive conflict?
3. USS Liberty: When Israeli boats and fighter jets attack the US Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty in the middle of the 1967 Six Day War, 34 US servicemen are killed and 173 are wounded. The official word from Washington and Tel Aviv is that the attack was a mistake. But Brad Pitt & Tom Cruise, who play surviving officers from the Liberty, swear vengeance after discovering that the attack was actually part of a plot to start World War III.
4. Sabra & Shatila: It's 1982 and the war in Lebanon rages on. British war correspondent Robert Fisk (Star Wars star Ewan MacGregor) hides in the camps of Sabra & Shatilla, while a Lebanese militia aided and abetted by Israel slaughters thousands of Palestinian refugees. Sahar (Sandra Bullock) is a Palestinian mother determined to protect her family at any cost.
5. Vanunu: A political thriller set in Israel, Australia, Thailand, England, and Italy. "Syriana" star George Clooney plays Mordechai Vanunu, the nuclear technician who exposes Israel's nuclear weapons program and pays the ultimate price. Nicole Kidman plays Cheryl Bentov, the American Mossad agent who seduces and kidnaps him.
6. Hebron: A story of tragedy and torn loyalties. In 1994, Brooklyn Jewish doctor Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshippers in Hebron, killing 29. Palestinian American Mazen Khalili (Tom Hanks), a State Department official assigned to investigate the massacre, struggles with his job responsibilities and his roots. Leah Rabinowitz (Meg Ryan) is a Jewish American journalist who discovers a dark family secret that will change her life forever.
7. Qana: On April 18, 1996, Israeli shelling of a UN Compound that shelters Lebanese refugees kills more than 100 & injures over 300 men, women, and children. Jessica (Angelina Jolie) is a UN worker determined to let the world know what happened after witnessing the atrocity. Yossi (Robert De Niro) is a Mossad agent assigned to kill Jolie.
8. Gaza: Chris Hedges (Harrison Ford), a New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem, files stories from his hotel room. Hedges reaches a turning point when he witnesses Israeli soldiers killing young Palestinian boys for sport, then defies his editors by writing stories that humanize Palestinians. David Schwimmer & Sarah Jessica Parker make cameo appearances as the parents of Muhammad al-Durra, the 12 year old Palestinian boy killed by Israeli troops in 2000.
9. Rachel: Rachel Corrie (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the idealistic young American activist crushed to death by the Israeli army with a Caterpillar bulldozer. Sally Field, well-known for her role in "Not Without My Daughter", plays Rachel's mother.
10. Refuseniks: When a fellow soldier commits suicide after killing an unarmed pregnant Palestinian woman (played by Natalie Portman) in cold blood, two young Israeli soldiers (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) decide that the occupation and the killing of Palestinians is immoral and unjust.
Mas'ood Cajee lives in San Joaquin County, California.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Published in This Week in Palestine
Issue No. 93, January 2006
Turning the page, again
By Sam Bahour
The pages of the Palestinian political history book turn very slowly, incredibly slowly. By the time you read these words, Palestinians will have headed to the voting booths to elect municipal and village councils in what has become a saga of multiple waves of local elections with a continuous series of postponements. Furthermore, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections are set to take place on the 25th of January, more than half a decade late.
As in most societies, elections in Palestine ought to be the virtual fingers that turn political pages, usually closing a chapter and starting anew. Yet this has not always been the case here. Under a traditional leadership, with a stagnated political environment of internal hegemony and external military occupation, elections have been used over the years to entrench the already entrenched polity. Add to this the multi-pronged foreign interventions into Palestinian society politically, economically, and socially and elections have become watered down to the point where they are no longer enough of a force to turn the pages of history.
All of that is about to change, at least we hope so. More importantly, we hope that such a change will move our political life forward and not create a multiplicity of participation while paralyzing society at all levels. The fear of paralysis is real. Few countries, including countries-in-the-making like ours, renew every level of government in a short 12-month timeframe. Add to this the still evident lack of legal and legislative recourse, and the jitteriness in the Palestinian streets starts to make sense.
A new President was elected on January 9th, 2005. The election was boycotted by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and even so, President Mahmoud Abbas faced serious competition for the first time ever, taking 62% of the votes. Three waves of municipal and village council elections were orchestrated throughout 2005. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad participated and won significant seats across the Palestinian areas. More than a political systemic shift, in my opinion, this was a result of several factors: Palestinian despair after being battered by Israel for five years, following 38 years of occupation and 57 years of dispossession; the failure of the appointed municipal and village councils to be held accountable; and a loud and clear message to FATAH that it can no longer claim a monopoly on Palestinian politics. This message will be brought unequivocally home during the PLC elections.
The PLC elections of January 2006 will reshuffle the internal balances of power. Even before the elections, the process has shaken the very foundation that is supposed to carry the process forward. The election law was dealt with, by an expired PLC body, as if it were a t-shirt to be ripped apart with the winner getting the largest piece. All of this while Israel systematically moves ahead with destroying any remnants of a political horizon while daily ripping through what little remains of historic Palestine by continuing, unfazed, in building its illegal Separation Wall on Palestinian lands.
As lacking as the electoral process is, it does begin a historic process of elections in a multi-party environment. Elections do wonders in and of themselves; that is, if the political system itself has an acceptable level of confidence. Such a level of confidence has been nearly lost in Palestine and, in consequence, regrettably, we will not realize the full power of elections this time around. Instead of expecting wonders, we should be positively looking at this one-year election season as concrete that has now been poured. What remains to be seen is whether it will actually dry in time and remain in place to hold the Palestinian political house together.
Regardless, we should remember the insightful words of the renowned Israeli journalist living in Ramallah, Amira Hass, when she suggested that Palestinians would be better off to start acting like a serious national liberation movement rather than fall for the trappings of statehood without a state. She said: "The Palestinian people [are] capable of withstanding terrible trials and tribulations: physical, psychological and economic. It can certainly face those trials if they become a means within the context of planned, coordinated and deliberately led strategic action meant to break the rules of the game that faked peace and statehood, rules that were set down in the days of Oslo and are coming back to deceive us now once again."1
Hass boldly went on to say that, "In impersonating an ordinary 'government' to the world and to its people, at best it [the Palestinian Authority] is perceived as a corrupt and failing organization and at worst, as a sub-contractor for the bureaucracy of the occupation."2
Dr. Ali Jarbawi, a professor of political science at Birzeit University, recently said it point blank: " these [results of both Palestinian and Israeli] elections will set the stage for a third, 'springtime' intifada."3
Our future can only be shaped by our own hands. Are we ready, not only to turn the page, but to rip out and then rewrite the last chapter of the chronicle that has imprisoned us in occupation like never before?!
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian city of Al-Bireh. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994). He can be reached at email@example.com
3 Published on 5 December 2005 in bitterlemons.org
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005
"So let's call a colony a colony, let's call occupation what it is, let's call a wall a wall. And maybe express the reality of war by showing that it represents not, primarily, victory or defeat, but the total failure of the human spirit."
From the Los Angeles Times
2005: SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Telling it like it isn't
By Robert Fisk
ROBERT FISK is Middle East correspondent for the London Independent and the author, most recently, of "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East," published last month by Knopf.
December 27, 2005
I FIRST REALIZED the enormous pressures on American journalists in the Middle East when I went some years ago to say goodbye to a colleague from the Boston Globe. I expressed my sorrow that he was leaving a region where he had obviously enjoyed reporting. I could save my sorrows for someone else, he said. One of the joys of leaving was that he would no longer have to alter the truth to suit his paper's more vociferous readers.
"I used to call the Israeli Likud Party 'right wing,' " he said. "But recently, my editors have been telling me not to use the phrase. A lot of our readers objected." And so now, I asked? "We just don't call it 'right wing' anymore."
Ouch. I knew at once that these "readers" were viewed at his newspaper as Israel's friends, but I also knew that the Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu was as right wing as it had ever been.
This is only the tip of the semantic iceberg that has crashed into American journalism in the Middle East. Illegal Jewish settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land are clearly "colonies," and we used to call them that. I cannot trace the moment when we started using the word "settlements." But I can remember the moment around two years ago when the word "settlements" was replaced by "Jewish neighborhoods" or even, in some cases, "outposts."
Similarly, "occupied" Palestinian land was softened in many American media reports into "disputed" Palestinian land just after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in 2001, instructed U.S. embassies in the Middle East to refer to the West Bank as "disputed" rather than "occupied" territory.
Then there is the "wall," the massive concrete obstruction whose purpose, according to the Israeli authorities, is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from killing innocent Israelis. In this, it seems to have had some success. But it does not follow the line of Israel's 1967 border and cuts deeply into Arab land. And all too often these days, journalists call it a "fence" rather than a "wall." Or a "security barrier," which is what Israel prefers them to say. For some of its length, we are told, it is not a wall at all so we cannot call it a "wall," even though the vast snake of concrete and steel that runs east of Jerusalem is higher than the old Berlin Wall.
The semantic effect of this journalistic obfuscation is clear. If Palestinian land is not occupied but merely part of a legal dispute that might be resolved in law courts or discussions over tea, then a Palestinian child who throws a stone at an Israeli soldier in this territory is clearly acting insanely.
If a Jewish colony built illegally on Arab land is simply a nice friendly "neighborhood," then any Palestinian who attacks it must be carrying out a mindless terrorist act.
And surely there is no reason to protest a "fence" or a "security barrier" words that conjure up the fence around a garden or the gate arm at the entrance to a private housing complex.
For Palestinians to object violently to any of these phenomena thus marks them as a generically vicious people. By our use of language, we condemn them.
We follow these unwritten rules elsewhere in the region. American journalists frequently used the words of U.S. officials in the early days of the Iraqi insurgency referring to those who attacked American troops as "rebels" or "terrorists" or "remnants" of the former regime. The language of the second U.S. pro-consul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, was taken up obediently and grotesquely by American journalists.
American television, meanwhile, continues to present war as a bloodless sandpit in which the horrors of conflict the mutilated bodies of the victims of aerial bombing, torn apart in the desert by wild dogs are kept off the screen. Editors in New York and London make sure that viewers' "sensitivities" don't suffer, that we don't indulge in the "pornography" of death (which is exactly what war is) or "dishonor" the dead whom we have just killed.
Our prudish video coverage makes war easier to support, and journalists long ago became complicit with governments in making conflict and death more acceptable to viewers. Television journalism has thus become a lethal adjunct to war.
Back in the old days, we used to believe did we not? that journalists should "tell it how it is." Read the great journalism of World War II and you'll see what I mean. The Ed Murrows and Richard Dimblebys, the Howard K. Smiths and Alan Moorheads didn't mince their words or change their descriptions or run mealy- mouthed from the truth because listeners or readers didn't want to know or preferred a different version.
So let's call a colony a colony, let's call occupation what it is, let's call a wall a wall. And maybe express the reality of war by showing that it represents not, primarily, victory or defeat, but the total failure of the human spirit.
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[ePalestine] San Francisco Chronicle: New Page in Israeli-Palestinian Relations Whither the road map? Sharon -- no negotiator
San Francisco Chronicle
New Page in Israeli-Palestinian Relations Whither the road map? Sharon -- no negotiator
- George Bisharat
Thursday, December 8, 2005
Ariel Sharon is distinguished in Israeli politics by three characteristics: vision, pragmatism and ruthlessness, incorporating a willingness to allow violence toward political ends. This was most clear during 2002 "Operation Defensive Shield" when Israeli forces crushed the infrastructure and governing capacity of the Palestinian Authority. These characteristics have been repeatedly demonstrated over the past four years of his tenure as Israel's prime minister.
They also underlie his recent decision to abandon the Likud Party and establish the new Forward Party. Some American commentators have lauded this move as one that will crystallize political force at the "center" of Israeli politics, lead to a more "liberal" Israeli government and thus reinvigorate the peace process. This is like describing Sharon's new party as "to the left of Attila the Hun." That, certainly, is better than being to the right of Attila -- that would be Bibi Netanyahu and the remnants of the Likud. But no one should imagine that reconciliation with Palestinians nor even negotiations are anytime imminent, no matter the outcome of Israel's spring parliamentary elections.
Several years ago, when American neoconservatives began speaking of a "New Middle East," longtime Israeli commentator Uri Avnery identified this plan's original source: Ariel Sharon. Avnery, author of a political biography of Sharon, noted the similarities between neocon rhetoric and Sharon's visions for a Middle East safe for Israel. It is unclear whether the aims of either truly include democratization of the region, or merely weakening any potential challengers to Israeli regional hegemony -- formerly Iraq, and now Iran and Syria. One of the reasons that the Israeli government supported our Iraq war was the expectation of more favorable conditions for Israel's long-term territorial expansion into the West Bank. That is exactly what has occurred.
Sharon's vision is dark, assuming implacable Arab-Muslim hostility to Israel. He is not wrong in that, although the cause of that hostility is not the timeless anti-Semitism he imagines. Rather, Israel's takeover of British Mandate Palestine in 1948 and the subsequent expulsion of many Palestinians, along with the continuing colonization of the West Bank, have devastated countless lives. Sharon is determined to create permanent bulwarks to seal off Israel from the remaining Middle East, such as the barrier under construction in the West Bank.
Sharon has openly declared his desire to complete the final phase of Israeli state-building: establishment of permanent borders. The Zionist movement, while accepting the partition of Palestine in 1947, never accepted all of the partition's terms. Israel's founders omitted reference to borders in Israel's 1948 Declaration of Independence. The reason was the drive for territorial expansion that is still at the heart of Zionism and Israeli state policy. With Israeli power at an historical apex, the time is ripe for Sharon to complete this long- deferred task.
Sharon's vision of the permanent borders is becoming increasingly concretized -- literally -- in the construction of the barrier. No nation invests $4.5 billion in a structure that will be dismantled a few years later. The only uncertainty involves what will happen to the east of Palestinian population centers in the West Bank. If the barrier completely encircles Palestinian towns and villages, then Israel will permanently exert control over about 50 percent of the West Bank. Otherwise, Israel will annex more like 20 percent of the West Bank. Neither of these is a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians. Hence negotiations are not likely to start soon, or, if they do, will end quickly and fruitlessly. Unilateralism will continue to be the coin of the realm.
Sharon's pragmatism is evident in his ditching the Likud, when its ideologues demanded permanent control over all of former British mandate Palestine. It was also evident in his earlier exploitation of ideologically motivated settlers of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to accomplish his own pragmatic and strategic ends. Sharon had never shared their messianic ideology, according to which God had ordained all of the land of Israel for Jews. That is why he was capable of enforcing decolonization of the Gaza Strip.
Sharon's historic willingness to employ violence -- running back to the slaughter of 69 Jordanian villagers in Qibya in 1953 under his command, and including the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, that killed some 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians -- is manifested in the ongoing assassinations of Palestinian "terrorists." This program has resumed notwithstanding the hudna, or truce, for the most part observed by Palestinian groups since February. Decapitation is a tremendously effective way to neutralize organizations, and Sharon (as well as other Israeli leaders) have taken the heads of Palestinian resistance leaders for decades.
Pulling out from Gaza, abandoning Likud, creating a new party, not negotiating on the barrier and further West Bank expansion, taken together, constitute a huge gamble. It is admirable at some level that Sharon pursues his vision with such daring and efficacy. On the other hand, the character of the vision matters profoundly. Some of the greatest visionaries in history have also been among its greatest villains.
George Bisharat, a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.
Page B - 9
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi- bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/12/08/EDGQFG42TQ1.DTL
©2005 San Francisco Chronicle
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Saturday, December 24, 2005
Not to ruin your holiday spirts, but the two news items below, both written by Israeli journalists and published in the Israeli newspapers are worth sharing. Both are exemplary of brave journalism.
As many in the world celebrate the Holy Land tonight, few, sadly, are aware of the reality of the people of the Holy Land. Few will be praying for the 6 children of Mr. Shawara. Few care to remember that Bethlehem is separated from Jerusalem by US-backed Israeli soldiers. Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Holy Land, to most, have lost any real meaning...they are only to be recited in chorus with no emotions or conscious.
Drink, be happy, be marry...when you're done we will still be here...struggling to end what has become a globally-sanctioned occupation.
Wondering of the power of religion, when stripped of human meaning,
Last update - 11:45 23/12/2005
Twilight Zone / Dusty trail to death
By Gideon Levy
On Sunday morning of last week Mahmoud Shawara, a laborer, mounted his mule and set out from his home in the village of Nuaman to look for work in the neighboring village of Umm Touba. At about 9 A.M., he was arrested by a Border Police unit that detains workers who do not have an entry permit to Israel every morning.
The Border Police ordered Shawara to get into their jeep. He refused. He did not want to leave his mule unattended. At 9:30 his brother saw him for the last time, healthy and sound. At 4 P.M. a resident of Umm Touba named Mohammed Hamadan noticed a mule galloping toward the village and dragging something behind it. From a distance, Hamadan thought it might be scrap metal. As the mule came closer, Hamadan saw that it was dragging an injured, battered man. The mule, he says, was galloping down the slope and looked frightened. He stopped the animal and then discovered that the person being dragged across the ground was Mahmoud Shawara, from the neighboring village, whom he knew well. Shawara's left hand was roped to the mule's neck. He was unconscious and barely breathing. His skull and face were smashed on the left side and blood was pouring from him. He managed to utter a few broken, unclear words or parts of words and then stopped breathing.
Hamadan untied Shawara, laid him on the ground and pressed on his chest to restart his breathing. He then summoned an ambulance from the clinic of the Meuhedet health maintenance organization in the village. Shawara was taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, where he was admitted to the neurosurgical section of the intensive care unit. At the end of the week, during which he did not regain consciousness, Shawara died of his wounds. He was 43, a laborer and the father of nine children, who went to look for work in the neighboring village.
How was Shawara killed? Did the Border Police abuse him physically and tie him to the animal and then spook it, bringing about his death from blows to his head from rocks as the animal lurched down the hill? Was he beaten and then tied to the mule, which was then sent on its way? Or is the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department correct in claiming that this was a riding accident - Shawara tied himself to the mule, fell off it and was seriously injured.
People in Nuaman told us this week that the Border Police regularly tie people who are "illegally present" in Israel (shabahim) to their animals. We will cite the testimony of another Palestinian worker who was tied to his donkey by Border Policemen a few weeks ago as he lay on the ground, face down, with his hands tied behind his back and a cinderblock on his back, placed there by the Border Police. Between Nuaman and Umm Touba, two peaceful villages above a spectacular valley, lies the dragging strip.
Close-up of the horror: the face of the dead man is smashed. Shawara's body lies on the floor in his house, covered by a Palestine flag and a sheet from Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem (even though he died in Hadassah). The house - an "illegal structure" - has no roof, lest it be demolished by Israel. A blue canvas covers the home to protect against the elements.
It is afternoon, a few minutes before the funeral procession is to begin, on Sunday of this week. Someone places a Hamas flag on the deceased, over the Palestinian flag and the Shaare Zedek sheet. The women of the family are crying inconsolably; the firstborn daughter, Kauther, 24, is about to faint. Before the body is taken from the room, the face is - unusually - covered, in order to conceal the injuries. The governor of Bethlehem, Salah Taamri, is standing outside with all the local dignitaries. The funeral is restrained, difficult. There is only one extremist outcry: "Ya, Jew, ya pig, we will stomp you underfoot."
The villagers are convinced that Shawara was killed by the Border Police. But when a Border Police jeep suddenly shows up in the middle of the funeral, for a quick, provocative look, the restraint is maintained. This is the way of the hill people: they are sparing of speech and very apprehensive. Nuaman lies on the open road to Jerusalem, between Bethlehem and the Israeli capital, east of the Har Homa neighborhood, in a place where the separation wall has not yet been completed. The Border Police are here every day and people are afraid to talk.
Exactly a week earlier, Shawara set out from his home for the last time. His brother, Daoud, left his home at about 7:30, on foot, making for Umm Touba, which lies within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, and where there is sometimes work to be had in construction or farming. Daoud relates that after a short time, a Border Police jeep arrived and arrested him and the other laborers, six in all, who had set out from the village. None of them had a permit to work in Israel. Not long afterward Mahmoud arrived, too, riding his mule. He too was on the way to look for work, as was his daily custom.
The Border Police detained him, too. They confiscated the orange ID cards of everyone in the group and ordered them to go to the police station in Talpiot, in the southern part of Jerusalem. After some negotiation, Daoud says, the Border Police took them to the station in the jeep. Mahmoud refused to get into the jeep, saying he could not leave the mule by itself in the open. An argument broke out, but the Border Police did not use violence against Mahmoud, says his brother Daoud. Daoud was taken away in the jeep and his brother remained behind with the mule and the Border Policemen who stayed with him. After a brief interrogation and after signing an undertaking not to enter Umm Touba again, Daoud and the others were taken to the new Rachel checkpoint - at Rachel's Tomb, by the entrance to Bethlehem - and sent on their way.
Daoud never saw his brother alive again. Arriving back in the village at about 12:30 P.M., he was unable to find Mahmoud. It is a small village of 170 residents, one fatality until last week, stone houses on the edge of a spectacular valley in the east, the Har Homa settlement in the west. They are Bedouin, members of the Taamra tribe.
At 4 P.M. Mohammed Hamadan saw the galloping mule, leaving behind a cloud of dust. It was making its way along the trail that goes down to Umm Touba, which is flanked on both sides by piles of garbage. We are now walking along the path from Nuaman to Umm Touba, a trail which the mule followed, at least in part. It is a rocky trail. A few hundred meters separate the place where Shawara was arrested from the place where he was discovered tied to the mule. Six and a half hours separate the time at which Shawara's brother saw him alive and well and the time he was discovered tied to the mule. No one knows what happened in those hours.
Hamadan is now looking for signs of blood on the trail followed by the mule, but the rain has apparently washed everything away. He saw no wounds on Mahmoud's body, only on the shattered left side of his head. He was tied to the mule by a rope of black cloth. Here is where he stopped the mule, grabbing its reins, on the slope. The workers in the adjacent warehouse for construction materials also saw the event. The owner of the business, Ahmed Abu Their, was the one who called the ambulance. He says that he saw Mahmoud tied to the mule but was afraid to approach.
The men, their faces grim, are sitting on the ridge and waiting for the ambulance to bring the body from Hadassah. The women, in black, are sitting in the shadow of the dead man's home and keening. Young people fly Palestinian flags on the roofs of the houses and on the fence of the cemetery that lies below the village.
The convoy is approaching from the valley, the Palestinian ambulance in front with red lights blinking. An Israeli army jeep watches from afar, parked on the security road that was paved along the separation wall that is being built as the "Jerusalem envelope." No one in the village knows where the border lies here between "the territories" and "Jerusalem." When the wall is completed, it will all become clear. In Nuaman only one resident has a Jerusalem ID card (blue); everyone else is "territories." Neighboring Umm Touba is "Jerusalem" but not all its residents have blue cards, either. A man next to me wipes away a tear. The body is taken from the ambulance into the house. Inside the deceased's face is uncovered, the face of a peasant, mustachioed and wounded - and is immediately covered.
The village's lawyer, Daoud Darawi, who works in the Palestine branch of Defense for Children International (DCI) in Ramallah, is demanding an international investigation of the circumstances of Shawara's death. "They did to him what the whites did to Indians in America," he says. He tells about two similar cases. In the nearby village of Dar Salah, Border Police in a jeep struck a donkey on which Walid Amiya was riding, knocking him to the ground. He survived. In nearby Wadi al- Humos, they tied Maamoun Abu Ali to his donkey and tried to send the animal on its way. He too survived. (We will come back to him later.)
According to attorney Darawi, the Border Police have been in the area for about a month. Since their arrival, cases of abuse of laborers looking for work in the neighboring village have increased. "Come one day at 5 A.M. and you will see what goes on here every day with the Border Police," the lawyer says. Mahmoud Shawara's family filed a complaint with the Police Investigations Department (PID).
The Justice Ministry spokesman, Yaacov Galant, said this week on behalf of the PID, "Our best investigations, which we conducted from the moment the complaint was received until last Friday afternoon, indicate that there is no connection between the activity of the Border Police and the injury and death of the individual. Apparently he was warned about the mule, told not to ride it. It was a wild mule. Apparently he mounted it, rode it and also tied himself to it." Has the investigation been thoroughly concluded? Galant promised to check and get back to me. A short time later: "At the moment there is nothing new. We have not gotten one testimony that would connect the Border Police [to the event]. We will be happy to receive other testimonies. In the meantime, no one can point to a specific connection between the Border Policemen and the case."
Maamoun Abu Ali is a construction worker on a building that is going up in the Doha neighborhood in the southern section of Bethlehem. We tracked him down on Tuesday of this week. A smiling bachelor of 20, he still carries the scars of his encounter with the Border Police in the valley below Nuaman. Abu Ali is from the neighboring village of Abadiya. About two months ago, during Ramadan, he was riding his donkey on the way to nearby Wadi Humos to buy a chicken for the break- fast meal at Shahar's butcher shop. It was slightly after midday. Suddenly a Border Police jeep pulled up next to him. "Where are you going?" Abu Ali was asked, and he replied, "To buy a chicken." The Border Police checked the items the donkey was carrying and then examined Abu Ali's papers. A shabah. Bingo.
With the animal's reins they tied Abu Ali's hands behind his back and made him lie on his stomach on the ground, face down. The Border Police like to "punish" the shabahim they catch. Abu Ali relates that they placed a cinderblock on his back and then whipped the donkey to make it walk. Abu Ali's donkey is old and stubborn, or maybe he only obeys his master - whatever the case, it refused to budge. Abu Ali says he also pulled with his bound hands, so the donkey would not move. It is not difficult to guess what would have happened if the donkey had panicked and started to gallop, with Abu Ali lying face down, hands tied behind his back to the animal. At one point one of the Border Policemen also stood on Abu Ali's back, one foot on him and one foot on the cinderblock, to put pressure on him.
The abuse went on for about a quarter of an hour, Abu Ali says. Finally the Israeli troops gave up trying to make the stubborn donkey move and ordered Abu Ali to get up. They spoke Arabic. Abu Ali says that one of them covered his eyes with his hands and another struck him once in the face with a stone. He still has a scar on the right side, below his lip. They threatened him, saying that "if he wandered around here again, he would be killed." They then sent him on his way. Abu Ali did not file a complaint with the Police Investigations Department. He wanted to complain to the Palestinian police and have them pass on the complaint, but was dissuaded from doing so by the policeman in his village, who told him, "People are getting killed here, so be thankful that you're alive and healthy."
"Let us tell the world what they are doing to us, about the disgusting occupation we live under," the elderly Mohammed Abu Ranar Adum, one of the village headmen, says in his eulogy. The funeral is about to disperse in silence. In the shade of the olive trees, at the edge of the village, on the brink of the valley, stands the mule, tied to a tree. A brown, strong animal. When we approach to take its photograph, the mule shows signs of panic, turns its head aside and tries in vain to break loose.
Last update - 01:20 14/12/2005
`I refused, and he hit me'
By Amira Hass
Fourteen-year-old Taher Ouda from Madma, a Palestinian village south of Nablus, was the subject of a story in Haaretz last week. Under Israel Defense Forces orders, he was kept in arm and leg restraints and under around-the-clock guard by two military policemen at the Schneider Children's Medical Center, following an operation on his leg. At the time, the IDF Spokesman said he was kept in the restraints since he was under de facto arrest.
According to the version related by the soldiers, Ouda had intended, together with other youths, to throw Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles. As the soldiers were chasing the youths, Ouda tried to throw a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers, at which point he was shot and wounded in the leg. Ouda, who works with his father delivering cooking-gas canisters in the village, hotly denied the allegations: He was bringing a gas canister to a neighbor at the edge of the village and found himself in the middle of the gunfire. The incident occurred on the evening of Wednesday, November 30. He sustained a fracture in the femur, and a torn tendon. Ouda was operated upon that evening. A long steel rod was fixed by four screws along the length of his leg. It prevents him from bending his leg.
On the morning of Sunday, December 4, four days after he was wounded and brought to the hospital, the military policemen had him discharged. A Schneider spokesman explains: "Upon completion of the hospital treatment, the youth was released, with instructions for continued treatment, but only after the medical staff ascertained through the IDF that he would be transferred to a facility where he would be able to receive suitable medical treatment."
During the initial days of arrest, Israel Police or Shin Bet investigators routinely interrogate Palestinian detainees, in order to obtain confessions that would provide the basis for an indictment (or incriminate additional persons). But on Monday evening, December 5, Ouda was freed and sent home. Amid the hugs and kisses, the warm welcome and the numerous visitors, he talked about the "suitable medical treatment" he had received after his transfer from the hospital. He was never officially told where he was or who was holding him. Which may explain why he alternates between "soldier" and "policeman" in his account of what happened (although it was evidently a Israel Prisons Service facility).
Police and Shin Bet spokesmen told Haaretz that they had no connection to Ouda, and were not involved in any interrogation. It turns out that the Military Police were responsible for him on Sunday, until he was handed over to the Prisons Service on Monday, December 5.
`I told the soldiers I was cold'
"After breakfast on Sunday," Ouda told Haaretz and MachsomWatch activists, "I watched a movie, and then the soldiers received a message. They took me out of the hospital. I asked what time it was, and they said it was 10 A.M. I was dressed only in the hospital robe and a coat. No underwear or pants. I tried to explain to the soldiers [they did not speak Arabic, and Ouda does not speak Hebrew - A.H.] that I wasn't dressed, and that I was cold, but they didn't care. I asked where we were going, and the soldier said he didn't know. All of this was by sign language. The soldiers pushed the wheelchair. My injured leg dragged along the floor, in front of the wheelchair. One of the soldiers attempted to arrange the leg (so that it would not drag along the floor), but couldn't. In the bag that was with me was underwear that had been sent from home, a cell phone my father gave me, some chocolate and a notebook that my father sent to the hospital, with a letter from my sister in it. In the notebook, I'd also begun to write a journal in the hospital.
"They put me into an army car. There was no room to lay down, only seats. One soldier was sitting near the driver and another soldier sat in back. The car made a lot of stops. Each time, the driver would get out and then come back. My hands were tied the whole time. My legs were not bound.
"We got to a big plaza, where I saw police cars and offices. I also saw soldiers in handcuffs. I asked what time it was, and they said it was 2:00. I sat in the car for half an hour or so, and then they took me out. One of the soldiers who was guarding me in the hospital, and who wore a skullcap, shook my hand and said good-bye. He looked into my eyes and I saw he had tears in his eyes. They led me into a van that was parked there. They stood me up in it, on both legs, including the injured one. They handcuffed my hand to an inside handle above the window. I bent my healthy leg, and I stretched forward the injured one, which cannot bend. My head and [upper] back were hunched over the whole time, because I am taller than the handle was.
"Somebody appeared. I noticed two leaves on the shirt of the uniform. The door opened from the side and was left open. He was holding a folder, he pointed to it and said, `Sign.' I refused. He slapped me across the face. He didn't ask anything, he only insisted that I sign. He would go away and come back every few minutes, each time demanding that I sign. I refused. He slapped me and kicked me in my good leg and then left, and came back a short while later, and then demanded again that I sign. I again refused, and he hit me.
"It went on like this until the evening, at which time they took me out of the car. I guess that it was around 10 P.M. Throughout this whole time I didn't eat or drink, and they didn't let me go to the bathroom. They only hit me. In the evening they came and removed the leg restraints, but my hands remained cuffed. They led me by foot to a jail that was there. Again they demanded that I sign `so that you can get out,' and I refused. They didn't read out to me what was written; it was in Hebrew. They put me into a room that had two bunk beds. I asked to eat, and the soldier brought me some mysterious food, and I didn't eat. I asked to go to the bathroom. They let me go to the bathroom but they didn't help me, even though it was hard for me. They just yelled at me.
"I wanted to sleep, and I laid down on one of the beds. The door opened, and a soldier ordered me to stand up. Another soldier came, took off the handcuffs, but the cuffs were still around one of my hands, I don't remember which. He was holding a briefcase, and demanded that I sign. I refused. He demanded three times and I refused three times, and then he stood me up, ordered me to put my hands at my sides and he spread my legs apart, by kicking at the good leg. And I was wearing only the hospital robe and a coat. He slapped me in the face a few times. And then he put the cuffs back on my hands, and I went to sleep. They brought me a big coat with a hood to cover myself up [apparently a sleeping bag - A.H.].
"On the morning (of Monday, December 5), the same soldier who had brought me the food the previous evening came into the cell. This time he brought me water, a tomato and a few peppers. I ate. Another soldier led me to the car that had brought me there from the hospital. I could tell because of the driver. I was handcuffed. In the car, they cuffed my legs, too. Before starting the car, they blindfolded me with a rag. We drove for an hour and a half or two. I felt that we drove through a tunnel. At one point the driver switched off the engine and began speaking with someone outside. While we were driving, my [injured] leg was constantly being shoved around. Later on they removed the blindfold."
Slaps and a punch in the stomach
"We got to a place that I guessed was a prison. They took my bag from me. They put me in a very narrow cell. I couldn't stand up in it, I could only lie down, bent over. I couldn't stretch my legs. Someone came and demanded that I sign. I couldn't see who it was because I was lying down, with my head on my arms. I was afraid that the leg would not heal, and I missed my mother. I refused to sign, but they told me that it was only my signature to the fact that they had taken my cell phone. After what I guess was about two hours, they removed me from this narrow cell. I asked them to help me carry the bag, but they refused. They sent me to an ordinary prison cell, all by myself. I didn't cry, I was only shaking from the cold. On the way from the solitary confinement cell upstairs one of the detainees warned me about `birds' (asafir) - who try to get you to talk.
"Again a soldier came in, one I didn't recognize, and demanded that I sign, and again I refused. I laid on the bed. The soldier tied my hands above my head to the bed, and cuffed my feet to the bed. He started to slap me around. After 20 or 30 slaps, he punched me in the stomach. I felt I wanted to throw up. He punched me again, and this time I did throw up. He released my legs and uncuffed my hands from the bed - but they remained cuffed to each other. He threw me a little toilet paper so I could wipe up the vomit.
"They put someone, a Palestinian, in my room, who was bound hand and foot. He asked me why I was arrested. I told him that there was nothing against me, and that if I wasn't released that night, I would be released the next morning. He told me that he'd killed a settler and was sentenced to 15 years, and he told me not to be afraid of him, that he wasn't a collaborator. But I felt he was a collaborator. I told him I wasn't afraid (to tell him what I'd done), it was only that I hadn't done anything, and I would be released, if not today then tomorrow. He asked me how I was so sure of myself. After a while, a soldier came and took him out.
"By now it was evening. I was awfully tired, and I went to sleep. Someone came in dressed like a doctor. I asked him what time it was and he said it was 6 P.M. He told me to arrange my things, because they were taking me to court. Then they removed the metal handcuffs and replaced them with plastic cuffs. A prisoner who was there gave me sweatpants, a shirt and sandals, but only after an argument with the soldiers. I'd been barefoot ever since they took me out of the hospital. He also brought me a crutch. From the other prisoners I heard that I was in Ramle. But two minutes later they took the crutch away from me.
"They put me in a car, sat me behind the driver, and I stretched my injured leg forward. A policemen sat down next to me, and to make room for himself he pushed my injured leg. They tried to blindfold me with a garbage bag, but when it didn't work, they covered my head with the garbage bag. My hands were cuffed very tightly. Every so often the driver, who was a soldier, would turn around and slap me and demand that I lean my head down. As he was turning around to slap me, I felt that he collided or brushed up against another car, apparently a truck. After that, he still managed to get in a slap. I think we were driving for about two hours. I sweated a lot, and I nearly suffocated from the plastic bag over my head. The leg was hurting me a lot, and so were my hips, which were bound by a belt. I thought we were on the way to the court, and when they pulled me out of the police car I suddenly realized I was at the Hawara roadblock.
IDF Spokesman denies
The IDF Spokesman's response: "On the afternoon of December 4, the detainee was about to be handed over to the Prisons Service. Since his transfer to the Prisons Service was delayed, a team of military policemen and the detainee made their way to the Military Police base in Tel Mond. Around 7 P.M., the Prisons Service made the decision not to process the detainee until the following morning. Accordingly, the detainee was held in a separate detention cell in the Military Police base.
"When he entered the lock-up, there was a need to carry out a procedure of deposition of property, and therefore an Arabic-speaking soldier explained to the detainee that he had to sign the document to confirm that his cell phone was deposited. The detainee refused to sign the deposit form. Until the time that he entered the detention cell, only the detainee's hands were bound. Once he entered the detention cell, the handcuffs were removed. The detainee's stay in the Military Police base was closely supervised by the base commander, an officer of the rank of major, who confirmed that his treatment was humane and according to regulations. We emphasize that the detainee was not beaten or handcuffed to a vehicle.
"On the morning of December 5, 2005, the detainee was transferred to the Prisons Service facility in Ramle by a team of military policemen. That evening, at around 7 P.M., a directive was issued by the Samaria district of the Israel Police, stating that the detainee should be immediately released.
"A team of three military policemen was entrusted with his transfer from the Prisons Service facility to the Hawara roadblock. The detainee was transferred from the Prisons Service with a plastic bag tied around his eyes. In the course of the journey no exceptional event took place, and the allegations of violence committed against him are groundless. The Military Police car did not have a collision with any other car. The trip lasted approximately one hour, at the end of which the detainee was transferred to a Civil Administration officer who was waiting there." Nevertheless, the IDF Spokesman informed Haaretz that these were the results of an initial inquiry, and that an investigation of the event continues.
The Prisons Service reported, "The detainee arrived at the central hospital of the Prisons Service on December 5, 2005 at 11:35 A.M., and his processing was approved by the chief medical officer of the Prisons Service (due to his being injured). The detainee was released that same day by the Prisons Service at 6:10 P.M. and was taken by the Military Police. The detainee spent these hours in a hospital room and was held separately, because he is a minor."
Maher Talhami, the attorney for Physicians for Human Rights who met twice with Ouda and took down an affidavit, says that on the basis of his own experience, the beating of minor Palestinian detainees in order to have them sign confessions is routine. This view is shared by attorney Khaled Quzmar, who represents minors in military tribunals for Defense for Children International.
What makes this case atypical, say the two lawyers, is that Ouda insisted on not signing, was released early, and was able to tell about his arrest only a few days after it occurred.
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