ISM Update - April 25, 2005
ISM Update - April 25, 2005
1. Update on Jaber by Hanna
2. Crossing Erez by Ernie
3. Settlers attack an elderly man by Saed Bannoura IMEMC
1.Update on Jaber by Hanna from IWPS (International Women's Peace Service)
April 25, 2005
On Thursday afternoon, 31-year-old Jaber was leaving a hospital in Nablus where he had spent 5 days and been diagnosed with viral meningitis. He was stopped at Huwara checkpoint and detained from 12:30 pm – 10 pm, when the checkpoint closed and the soldiers officially arrested him.
Jaber's health deteriorated during that time. His wife, who is pregnant with their fourth child, was with him and reports that he became delirious after so many hours in the sun with no food or water.
The army reports that after arriving at Salem detention center, he was given water through an IV. We heard nothing else for a couple days – no reason for his arrest, and only vague medical reports from the army whose doctors diagnosed him with everything from a stomach ulcer to heart disease, always with the same conclusion: "Medical condition does not bar arrest."
Finally after many phone calls from organizations and individuals around the world, they admitted he had something more serious and took him to Ha'emek Hospital in Afula. I called the hospital, and the first English-speaking doctor I found was also Palestinian. All the Jewish doctors had gone home for Passover, he told me, so the family could call the emergency room and speak Arabic with any of the doctors if they wanted to find more information. He was extremely helpful, calling me back twice to tell me as much as he knew.
Meanwhile, I kept getting phone calls from the family and friends, saying that his wife was not doing well, the family was worried because he hadn't seemed fully recovered when leaving the hospital in Nablus, etc. Everyone who heard about his arrest was shocked he has no political ties, people kept saying.
The family asked us to try to visit him, so Susy (an Israeli activist) and I went to Afula yesterday. We drove north through Israel, but not far from the Green Line. We passed countless Palestinian Muslim villages (I saw mosques everywhere) and Palestinians walking along the roads. I marveled over the fact that even after Israel's destruction of over 400 Palestinian towns and villages, so many still remain.
We arrived at the hospital and went directly to the ward where Jaber was being treated. His room was not difficult to find, since it was the only one with a closed door and two armed soldiers sitting outside. Susy tried to walk in and was stopped by the soldiers. They would not let us enter, but we were able to talk to the doctor, who had not yet received any information about Jaber's prior medical situation. He seemed frustrated with the army's lack of sharing information. We gave him the phone number of the doctor who had treated Jaber in Nablus, and just at that moment the faxed medical report from Nablus came from friends of the family. The doctor told us he had just done a spinal tap and would soon determine Jaber's illness. The viral meningitis diagnosis was confirmed an hour later.
We paced back and forth in front of Jaber's door a few times, knowing it was unlocked and we could just walk in, but that that probably would not be good for anyone. The soldiers became agitated when we got too close, and were disturbed by our presence. The hospital security guard, however, was somewhat more friendly, and called the DCO to see if we could go into Jaber's room.
Finally an answer came: "No, you can't go in right now. Maybe after many hours you'll be allowed in." So we left the hospital and came back an hour or two later. We were almost sure we would not be allowed in, but thought it was worth a try, another argument, whatever it would take. It didn't take anything. We showed up at the entrance of the hospital and the guard said, "You have permission now." It was surprising, but not unheard of – the army rules and decisions never cease to amaze me in their arbitrariness.
We returned to Jaber's ward, and the soldiers let us in, but said one of them had to stay with us the whole time. When we entered Jaber was sleeping. I said his name softly and he opened his eyes and gave a little moan. I introduced myself, and he greeted me with the customary, "Ahlan w'sahlan" (welcome).
He started to come to his senses a bit as he realized this was an opportunity to notify the outside world of his situation. He was so tired, and so sick, he told us. He kept saying "Biddi amoot"which could be translated as "I want to die" or "I'm going to die." I'm not sure which he meant. Maybe both.
He said the doctor was good, the hospital was good, but if he's taken back to Salem detention center they might as well shoot him.
He was in tears, as he told us he hadn't eaten, drunk, or slept in three days. In Salem, he said, they threw him in a small cell with 9 other people, and did not let anyone out to go to the bathroom from 9pm – 8:30am. He spent the next two days on the floor in pain (there were no beds), where he said it was extremely cold at night. He told us he lost consciousness four times, but didn't sleep at all. Nobody spoke with him while he was there, so if there is to be any interrogation, it has not yet begun.
He still hasn't had anything to eat or drink, he said, only the occasional IV to keep him from deadly dehydration.
I had seen a full tray of food leave his room earlier, and asked him about it. "The doctor told me not to eat for a half hour after the spinal tap," he said. The soldier argued, "The food came two hours later." He asked us to feed him when they brought more food, he really was too weak to feed himself.
He told us to lift up the blanket covering his feet, and we saw the metal cuffs on his ankles, which seemed totally ridiculous. He was too weak to sit up or feed himself, and two armed guards sat outside his room, but he had to be shackled? One of the soldiers said, "It's not our decision, we're only the escorts. We don't even have the key."
While Susy spoke to the soldier I dialed Jaber's wife's number. She picked up and I quickly said, "Hi Khulud, I'm with Jaber, hold on..." and handed him the phone. They talked for a minute before the soldiers noticed and then another minute while Susy argued with the soldier about why he should be allowed to talk on the phone. When he hung up, Jaber handed me the phone, thanked me, and smiled for the only time all day.
The doctor pulled me aside at one point to ask about my organization. When I told him about IWPS and what we do, he asked why. It was a personal question: Why do you come from America to do this? I told him I'm American and my tax dollars go to support Israel's occupation of Palestine, and I'm Jewish and my name gets used to oppress Palestinians as well.
We stayed with Jaber for over an hour, feeding him pudding, water, and juice (when I asked for a second cup for the juice, one of the soldiers said, "This is a hospital, not a restaurant"). Jaber asked for another blanket and pillow, which the nurses brought. He asked me what day it was, and I told him – Sunday, April 24. He begged us to go to the Finance Ministry in Ramallah, where he works, and see if they can do anything to help. He also stressed the importance of sending the photos that Anna had taken of him being arrested at Huwara to the newspapers, and giving them to his family.
I told him people from all over the world already knew about the situation, that the army and hospital had been getting calls all night, that he had to hang in there for his family, etc. "Just don't let them send me back to Salem," he kept saying,"or I'll die."
For those of you who want and are able to do something for Jaber, please call Israeli authorities and demand to know why they continue to hold a sick man with no charges.
Israeli Army phone numbers (these numbers are what you dial from the US – those of you outside can hopefully figure out which number to dial from where you are DCO in Jenin: (011-972) 4-640-7312 or (011-972) 4-617-9207 DCO "Humanitarian Office": (011-972) 2-997-7733
2.Crossing Erez by Ernie
I just got back to Jerusalem this evening from Gaza and it was so hard to do, a simple thing like crossing through a checkpoint - leaving the Palestinian authority's area of control back into Israeli controlled territory - that i now believe all my paranoia about security isn't paranoid after all. Somehow my passport got "flagged" again as some kind of trouble- maker and I was interrogated for quite a while. I am told it usually takes an hour or so to get through this "boarder" (which feels like an international boarder, but isn't, in fact), but it took me almost 5 hours all told.
The result is they let me through without trying to deport me because I was able to produce a valid connection to an Israeli, the fellow at the college that is hosting my visit to Israel. I don't think that any of the church stuff I told them all about impressed them at all, even though I could produce all sorts of evidence about what I was actually doing in Gaza - visiting all kinds of Christian people, sites, and organizations.
The fact that I had the business card of the "Palestinian center for human rights" in my pocket, along with many, many other cards of places I visited, caused genuine alarm. I can't tell you how infuriating that made me feel. In what kind of society is monitoring human rights policies and practices some kind of a crime? I have to say it made me feel so sorry for the state of things in the collective Israeli psyche. Anyway, I'm just sputtering now and I am sorry for that. Of course, there were also Palestinians struggling to get through the checkpoint too - and they are the lucky ones. Most Palestinians have had no chance at all of leaving or entering Gaza for the last 4 -5 years. I saw a few workers lucky enough to have daily work permits for Israel returning home for the evening. There were maybe 30 of them at most. There used to be thousands everyday who went to work in places like Tel Aviv - usually doing manual labor and other service work. Actually the manager of the hotel in Gaza city where I stayed said he used to be a life guard on the beach at Tel Aviv. The first ever Palestinian one. He has not been permitted to work there, or leave Gaza at all, for the last 5 years. One old woman today got pulled aside like me for interrogation. She had serious infirmities (from diabetes) to the point where she could not see to dial the phone I loaned her to call her family to tell them what was happening to her and where she was. She could barely walk when she was cleared and the guard escorted her to the entry point into Gaza (she was trying to get in while I was trying to get out). I don't know how she was going to make it the whole way walking through the absurdly long tunnel to the other side. Thank god she wasn't carrying anything. I had trouble hiking it myself with just my few bags.
Besides the tunnel is a complex maze of remotely operated gates and turnstiles culminating with metal detectors and some kind of full- body scanners that have the health professionals in Gaza very concerned.
At one point on my way through the maze I was told over a loud speaker by some unseen Israeli soldier watching us on some monitor to hold the baby who was being carried by the very old man in front of me, so they could scan him. I don't know what was wrong with the baby, but the child was clearly seriously ill. Low birth weight perhaps. Listless and emaciated. The lack of humanity in that experience was a horror. The Israelis must really think all Palestinians monsters to treat them this way. It is so sad. And that wrong thinking creates such suffering - on both sides of the barbed wire. When the security officer decided he could find no reason to keep holding me he said, "You know they killed a car of Americans in there 2 years ago". And so what is that supposed to mean to me? Because once out of desperation a terrible act of violence was committed by Palestinians against innocents, it means no one in Gaza should ever be trusted again, that they are untouchable? Of course I know that is not the only act of violence committed against innocents by Palestinians, but my point is, what about the systematic and ordinary violence committed by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians every day? What about the children in Rafah that the Israeli's killed last week for playing soccer? I wish I could have said this to him and we could have had a real discussion. There is plenty to talk about. But I knew that if I said anything of the kind, I was going to jail and not back to Jerusalem.
3.Settlers attack an elderly man written by Saed Bannoura
An elderly man was seriously injured when a group of settlers from the Alon Moreh settlement hurled stones at him and severely beat him as he was herding his sheep on his land near the settlement.
Aziz Hanani, 70, from Beit Dajan near Nablus, said that he was attacked by five settlers who stole his cane and beat him with it for approximately twenty minutes, causing serious injuries, mainly to his head. Hanani added that three of the settlers also hurled stones at him during the attack.
A tractor driver passing near the area later on saw Hanani laying on the ground, and took him to his home, from where he was transferred by ambulance to a local hospital in Nablus.
A nephew of Hanani said that his uncle suffers from diabetes. "This is unbelievable, intolerable, we are living on our land, taking care of our fields, we never attacked anybody, never harmed anybody, yet they attack us with this brutality", the nephew added.
Abu Akram, a resident of the village called the Israeli police about the attack. The police department dispatched one police car one hour after they were informed on the attack, and made no effort to track down the settlers involved in the attack.
"If a settler was attacked, and mildly injured, the police would have arrived immediately and attacked our village, but since the injured man is a Palestinian, they showed up an hour after the attack", the resident said. Also, Abu Akram added that the police said that they would investigate the event, but similar promises in the past have rarely been followed up on by Israeli police.
The police took a statement from Hanani, who informed them that he would be able to easily identify at least one of the settlers, the most violent of his attackers.
Settlers of Itamar and Alon Moreh settlement have carried out several attacks on the Palestinian residents in the Nablus area.
The residents demanded that the Israeli police act against the increasing numbers of settler attacks against unarmed Palestinians