ISM: They Will Come Knocking On Your Door + More
3) They will come knocking on your door - Susan
4) The Siege of Nablus - Anne Gwynne
In our last report about the assassination of the Hamas leader in Gaza, the name was mistakenly reported as Nehad Abu-Zed by an ISM witness to the assassination. The name is Riyad Abu Zeid, not Nehad. We apologize for the error.
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3) They will come knocking on your door
Date: February 17, 2003
Author: Susan Barclay
(At a children’s activity recently in Nablus someone asked a room full of children how many had someone from their family in prison. Over half the room raised its hand.)
Military forces come in the night, each and every night to take our men, our fathers, brothers, partners, uncles and cousins. They are taken with M-16’s, without charge, in front of our teary wet, angry eyes in the middle of a deeply dark night. Soldiers bang at our door or simply blow it off with dynamite, enter our house, fire live rounds of ammunition over the heads of our sleeping children at 2 or 3 in the morning. The soldiers search the house, turn everything upside down, rip, break, and damage furniture and any expensive equipment, steal our money, jewelry and cell phones, hit our mothers, beat our fathers, make our brothers strip, and leave in possession of a yet another male from our community.
“Sami was arrested and my uncle…” Hussein says “Last night.” I swallow hard, search for words in the heavy silence and see his face. Sami and my last conversation begins to play again in my mind….“What is there to look forward to? More tanks, more death, more lost friends, longer prison terms, unemployment, closed schools, humiliation, military operations, violations and restrictions?” he quietly asked me.
Nineteen years old. Israeli soldiers came for him in the night at his father’s home on February 12, 2003. 4 men from the Khalili family were taken in 2 days.
Ibrahime, 17 years old, arrested two nights ago (February 14, 2003). I woke to a phone call at 4:20 am and a mother crying, repeating her words in an obvious state of shock “They took him, Ibrahime. They ransacked the house…broke many things..they took him…Ibrahime…” a cracking, broken-hearted voice that echoed in my head for over an hour as I tried to go back to sleep, turning over again and again in whys and hows of this land, of this human-made hell.
I see the Abu Zhour family the next morning in Balata. The youngest daughter, who had two days earlier been gregarious and friendly, is utterly silent. Their rooms have been torn upside down, everything is in complete and utter shambles, clothes are everywhere, covered in a glitter of shards of broken glass from the mirror, crushed tapes, shredded papers, broken toothbrushes and school notebooks.
Israeli soldiers came a little after 3 am and entered the house with force, searching room to room, leaving with a 17 year-old boy: Ibrahime. A boy was hasn’t even finished high school. Tears welled up in my eyes when I saw the contents of a small bag that the soldiers had thrown in disarray in the corner of the boys’ room: clothes, coffee, and socks for Mohammed, the mother explained, another son already in prison (Taken in Nov. 2002). I can not tell you how many families have a similar bag prepared in their homes, waiting, because the reality is that the “democratic” State of Israel regularly prohibits even the Red Cross to visit the prisons.
Mohammed Khilfe arrested one week ago while Internationals were sleeping at his home. Israeli soldiers arrive in the middle of the night, search the upstairs, take Boshar as a human shield to come to Mohammed’s door downstairs and enter the house en masse. They forcefully remove Mohammed from the house after putting his mother on the phone with the Israeli secret police, who casually explained that they were going to take Mohammed and that she’d had better take care of her little 14 year-old or they’d come for him too. I call 5 minutes after the soldiers have gone and the mother can’t even speak…she repeats his name again and again and passes the phone to someone else.
Husam Shakshir, taken on February 12th at 3 am. Soldiers entered their home in the Old City and menaced everyone with M-16’s. They were physically aggressive towards the mother and father and pushed the gentle, nearly 70 year-old man who walks with a cane forcefully to the ground. Israeli soldiers left with their son after searching the entire house.
It happens every single night. A brother, father or son disappears in the dark of night, at a checkpoint, on a trip to the market, or getting a haircut. Arrest after arrest after arrest. For no reason or for any reason. It means beating or torture. Months of imprisonment without charge, and/or because of evidence presented to a judge by the Israeli secret police in private. The Israeli Army is taking everyone, politically active or not, young and old, rich and poor, students, farmers, bakers and carpenters—taking man after man away night after night.
It seems as if each and every one gets harder—harder to lose more family and friends, harder to find reasons, harder to believe they’ll come back home soon, and certainly harder to accept. It may be because every man is one more brother gone in my eyes.
My oldest brother, Michael, is 31. He is a graduate student and has two kids and a wonderful partner. He is not politically active, has no criminal record, loves hanging out with friends and adores his children, like most of the men here. He has a great sense of humor, is highly creative and deeply supportive of his family and wife.
I imagine Michael, Liz, Owen and Dylan waking to US Marines in the middle of the night that break down their door and barge into their home, shooting real bullets, yelling orders at everyone, telling my brother to “Shut up!”, jamming a M-16 in his gut when he speaks up in outrage. Wreaking havoc in what was sound sleep and sacred safety, terrorizing their children and robbing them in an instant of much more than physical possession.
I can see my cousins beginning to scream and cry and Liz and Mike cut so deeply by the feeling of powerlessness as they watch their children’s security vanish, their home pillaged, their rights trampled on, their humanity denied, and then without even a moment to exchange a word or a kiss, my brother, Michael, taken from his home, blindfolded, handcuffed, and dragged away. Liz picks up the clump of trembling boys in front of her and moves them towards the window when the door is slammed shut. His little boys and wife watch, still terrified, as he disappears in M-16’s and shadows, taken by a military jeep far, far away.
You think about beatings, physical force, the various stories you’ve heard about torture and cruelty, interrogations, the weather, is he cold? No idea where he is, for how long, in what conditions or with whom. Disappears. Stolen. Right in front of your children and your eyes. No charge, no reason. To your hundreds of questions there will be no answer.
The world will watch and remain silent, say that you likely deserved it, call your partner a criminal or a ‘terrorist’, assume that if he was taken, there must be a reason and then move right on to business as usual and the morning traffic jam.
Same old story, just another Palestinian “gunman” imprisoned.
No, I said “They came for your brother last night.”
4) The Siege of Nablus
Date: February 17, 2003
Author: Anne Gwynne
“The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
I am numb with anger at what has happened this past week. First, Hassan Algoul, an eight-year-old boy was murdered by the Israelis in Qalqilya on Tuesday and, in retaliation for this outrage, fighters attacked the most dreaded checkpoint in Nablus where many murders of Palestinians have taken place. They ended up killing two Israeli soldiers at least, and wounding several more, but at the cost of their own lives. One I knew. Then, the next night a gang of eight soldiers burst into the Khilfeh house (of the Tel Aviv Martyr, Baraq); they trashed everything and took away Mohamed Khilfeh, Baraq’s brother, in punishment. They did not use violence at that time because my friend Margarethe from Sweden was with him, but they hurt her and I don't know what they did to Mohamed after…
The next night Israeli soldiers burst into a family home in the city and brutally murdered the father of a young family, who had to watch the killing. I spoke with the pathologist who carried out the autopsy, and he described how the young man had more than 60 wounds to his body – everywhere – head, torso, extremities, back and front. Bullets had entered his body from the back and exited through the front. There were many knife wounds - I saw the x-rays and photographs. Before he was killed, they cut off the forefinger of his right hand with which, in the Islamic faith, he must make a sign to accompany his last declaration before he dies. However, in Islam, the signs are unimportant – it is what is in the heart that counts, so here again, they just didn’t get it. There were many knife slashes on the body, and many shrapnel wounds. The frenzied attack was completed by the firing of many nasty little objects about 5 cm long, with a shaft, a tail fin, and a ball of sharp steel needles on the entry end.
I will see this pathologist again next week, when he will arrange for me to have the photographs, and those of many other murder victims. With the permission of the families, we will put them on the internet. Photographs such as those of Rami abu Bakri - you remember the 16 year old who was killed in the Balata Camp about a month ago for throwing a stone? “He had no head” shuddered the doctor. And when our ambulance scraped his remains up he had no rib-cage either, and his heart was lying, clearly visible, in the empty chest cavity.
Like Omar Alloush, the 16-year old from Askar Camp who is still with a chest drain, and pain which makes him want to die, from the huge hole in his chest and lung caused by the shell he received through his right shoulder - for throwing a stone.
Like the two victims of the Zawatta Murders a couple of weeks ago, who were blown to pieces by shells and then shot with multiple bullets after death just to make a point. Perhaps the sight of their organs hanging out of their shattered bodies will wake up people to what is happening here. How many pictures will it take to make a change?
Or the last three murders in the camps where, amongst others, a boy was killed by a tank for having a stone in his hand. The Raffidia hospital has thousands of these photographs and, in time we will post many of them.
I wish I had photographs of the shattered families whose uncles, cousins, brothers and husbands have been kidnapped this week for no reason other than that they are alive. On Tuesday night Hussein Khalili’s young brother, Sami, ate dinner at our flat and left at about 1.00 am. Two hours later he was in prison - for absolutely no reason other than he is the son of Abu Hussein who was the Fatah leader here in the First Intifada. They also kidnapped two of Hussein’s uncles. Last night we waited all night for them to come for Hussein - he is, after all, one of those people the lunatic Israelis* hate most - a peace activist. They did not come then, but at 5.00pm today they took him. They also took a cousin, not the one they were looking for - they could not find him - but, what the hell, any cousin will do.
Operations on a large scale have been carried out in Tulkarem and in Balata last night, and no doubt there will be many more. It is extremely dangerous here now – Susan, a US activist, was shot at within a centimetre of her forehead, the bullets passing only a centimetre above her head as a warning. Every day internationals are shot at at checkpoints. Every day crazed Israeli soldiers snarl out the threat “I want to kill you NOW” to internationals. It is worse every day as the grip of the siege tightens. This is how the Nazi Siege of Stalingrad started. Why is this allowed to go on? I will write more about the sinister effect of the total closure of Nablus tomorrow.
Despite suffering unimaginably, the people of Nablus carry on their daily lives in as normal a way as possible. We have had a week-long New Year Eid Celebration with much visiting, feasting, laughter and love. Unfortunately, the Israelis continued their killing and kidnapping spree through the holiday. Among the victims were Mohammad Shahlan, father of three, killed by a shot to the chest in the Ala’ayn Refugee Camp (they were looking for someone else, but killed Mohammad anyway); Arif B’Shart, 13 years old, killed in Tamoun Village; and 40 year-old Isma abu Heja, who has cancer in the brain and was arrested in Jenin simply because her husband is a bearded Muslim. They have sentenced Isma to six months preventative detention - she has a malignant tumour and may not survive this.
There are now 13, 000** people illegally detained in Israel.
I have not met one man without a bullet, knife or shattered bone wound in the city of Nablus. Sami Khalili is the only boy I met who had not been in the prison - well now that is remedied.
I so much wish that more people would come here and experience a life that only Nablus can offer - such a rich, close and loving community which gives every visitor riches beyond compare.
*This description is not meant to refer to all Israelis, but rather those that command and carry out the brutal policies reported and those that support the continued occupation of Palestinian land.
** Though an exact count is hard to obtain, the Israeli Human Rights group, Btselem, estimates the number of Palestinians detained on security issues from January 2001 to February 2003 to be 4, 815. Of these, over 1,100 are held in administrative detention – taken for no stated reason and imprisoned for an average of six months without ever being charged.
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