Another week in Hebron; another unpleasant Saturday night.
Another week in Hebron; another unpleasant Saturday night.
I can't believe that this coming Thursday evening I will be finishing my stint with CPT. It's hard to remember everything that's happened in the last week, so I guess I'll go by pictures. Last Sunday, I stayed with friends in Jerusalem, and saw this cartoon in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz:
However controversial the Obama-Netanyahu remarks were in the rest of the world, the people here do not care a whole lot. Diplomacy has rarely produced anything good for Hebronites, so most people are just clenching their jaws and raising their children.
On Friday, I took the current CPT delegation out to Al Bweireh with Hani Abu Haikel to have some really good food at our friend, Zbeideh's. I first met her last winter, when I was shivering outside while monitoring the children coming home from school. She brought me hot tea and then a purple jacket, which she later refused to let me return, telling me to give it to someone else who needed it. While we were there, Hani got a call from his son, saying that settlers had one again burned their olive trees, some which were more than 1000 years old. I urged Hani to go home, but he insisted on staying with the delegation, because, he said with his usual practicality, there wasn't a lot he could do, given the time it would take him to get there.
Yesterday, I spent a pleasant afternoon with Atta and Rodeina and their kids in the Beqa'a. I'll leave it to my colleague Markie to describe the visit. A friend had sent them a new computer, and after the disappointment at not having an adapter for the plug, the kids were still able to find some games using battery power. But when Atta played a DVD of footage taken last year of settlers attacking his farm, the battery got used up pretty quickly. (I spent too much time this morning trying to edit it in the Windows Movie application.) Atta said it was just as well that the battery ran down, because the kids need to be preparing for exams. Another disappointment was that we cannot access settler wireless for the internet. Given how much land the settlements of Kiryat Arba and Harsina stole from the Jabers, it seems only fair.
When I got back to the market, I had a migraine, so I left my colleague Esther Mae to follow the TIPH people as they monitored the Saturday settler patrol. These afternoon events share a dual purpose: one is simply to inform people about the buildings that were once the Jewish quarter of Hebron in 1929. Another is to assert the dominance of the Hebron Settlers and the soldiers who are there to protect them. These settler tours for the last few weeks have been pretty orderly, but in the past, settler boys and girls would often attack the shopkeepers and damage their merchandise. When Esther came back she said the tour had been uneventful, but shortly afterwards, she said two boys had come to the door saying that settlers were stoning people in the market. As usual we got there after it was too late to do anything.
Back to bed with my migraine, and then two young men showed up at our door. The Palestinian Police are not allowed to be in the Old City, so they have deputized youth to be visible on the streets to keep drugs out and report other petty crimes. They have special shirts, and a couple of nights ago a soldier arrested one of them, saying he was not allowed to wear this shirt in the Old City. (The soldier was wrong. The commanding officers of most units know the function of these young men, but every time the brigade in town changes, soldiers have to learn that the young men are not Palestinian Policemen.)
The young men had come to thank us and the delegation for standing with them, but spoke not much English. We called a young man with good English (learned from American movies) whose brother had been arrested a few weeks ago. He lives just a few minutes away and was eager to translate. Then he said he wanted to bring a friend whom he had told us about in the release below tomorrow evening so we could interview him. I called Sarah, the delegation leader, who was with the group in At-Tuwani, and she agreed that the interview was a good opportunity for the delegation to learn about the most targeted demographic group in Hebron, and maybe Palestine: teenage boys.
Sunday feels so much like Monday here.
Soldiers detain and abuse 14-year-old boy; new documentary describes Israeli imprisonment of Hebron minors
24 May 2011
On 10 May 2011, fourteen-year-old A.* was returning from a football (soccer) match with two other friends to his home near Bab il Baladiye, the entrance to the Old City. Some younger boys were throwing rocks at the Bab il-Baladiye checkpoint and when soldiers emerged from behind the wall to deal with the stone throwers, they grabbed A.
For the next six hours, A. remained blindfolded in the soldier camp, wrists bound behind his back with plastic handcuffs. One soldier kicked him and kept yelling at him to admit he had thrown stones, which A. steadfastly denied. Around 3:00 in the morning, a soldier who spoke Arabic arrived, told the other soldiers that A. had NOT been among the boys throwing stones, and brought him to the Palestinian police station, where A.'s uncle worked. He slept there until his mother came to pick him up at 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
When CPTers visited A. on 13 May to fill in the details of his story, his eighteen-year-old brother, K., told them that he had many more stories to share of soldiers abusing teenage boys in the area, usually after they had been accused of throwing stones. In at least two instances, the boys in question had been standing in an area talking when the soldiers grabbed them and sent them to Ofer prison, "They choose the ones that seem weak; I don't know why," K. told the CPTers. One friend, who, according to K. is "absolutely nonviolent," was picked up by soldiers and falsely accused of a knife attack. After a harsh interrogation by the police, the friend was sent to Ofer. He found his six months in prison not as bad as he thought it would be, but he had to repeat a year of school afterwards.
K. also related other instances of soldier abuse. About a year ago, he, A., and three other friends were walking on Shalala Street when soldiers lined them up against the wall and began beating them. If they tried to raise their heads, the soldiers slapped them. When they eventually let the five boys go, soldiers told them that if they ever saw them on the streets after 8:00 p.m., they would be arrested. K. and several of his friends said Israeli Russian, Druze, and religious soldiers are the most likely to beat Palestinians.
Gerry O'Sullivan, a former member of the Ecumenical Accompaniers in Hebron and friend of CPT's Hebron team, recently created a documentary about the arrests and imprisonment of minors in the Hebron area titled, "Stolen Children; Stolen Lives." It is available in two parts on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zaeERjVReE