a particularly heinous practice
One of Israelís many crimes against the Palestinian people is that of
recruiting collaborators. The lines that Israel has crossed in this
regard will be remembered - with good cause - as a particularly sordid
This happened last Thursday evening at Qalandiya Checkpoint, as
Mohammad, along with the other beggars, was standing near the long line
of cars from Ramallah bound for Jerusalem. A car stood in line. In it
was a religious man, says Mohammad, a religious Jew who apparently lost
his way. Got confused. Children nearby who saw him Ė for whom he is a
settler, which he might very well be Ė threw stones at him. Or perhaps
one stone, Mohammad thinks, but not sure. For he took off and did not
see what ensued.
The next day Mohammad came to the checkpoint again, as always. With a
pile of disks for sale. For that is what he does. And four soldiers came
out of the checkpoint compound, looked around, saw him and told him to
come along. What have I done, he said. And they said, you throw stones.
And he told them, I donít throw stones. They said again, you threw
stones at the religious guy, and they hurled all his disks on the ground
and they got smashed, and they gripped him and shackled his hands in
back, and took him with them into the checkpoint.
At the checkpoint, he says, they got him into a room near the
turnstiles, and four men entered with him Ė two soldiers and two
policemen, and they began to beat shackled Mohammad again and again.
Kicks, slaps, blows, over and over again.
He knelt on the ground, he hung his head to protect his face, he says,
and they went on hitting him, and in his heart he just thought how much
heíd like to throw stones at them right this minute, the stones he never
threw, but he didnít do anything and he didnít say anything, because he
knew they would only hurt him more.
While they hit him they kept on saying, you were throwing stones. And he
said he didnít, and they hit him again. And again they said, you were
throwing stones, and hit him. And at a certain moment, one of the
soldiers showed him someoneís photograph and said, this is you, itís
your picture. And Mohammad told them, Itís not me. Look, thatís not me.
But it didnít make any difference to them. And once in a while they kept
hitting him. And then after some time, he couldnít say how long, they
showed him some pictures, and said: Do you know them? And he said, I
donít. And they said, come work with us, Mohammad. And he said, no, I
donít want to. Iím no spy. Let me go. And they hit him again.
Then someone in uniform came and told Mohammad,sign here, and he signed
something without knowing what it was, in Hebrew. And he didnít want to
ask so as not to be hit again.
And I think, and I remain silent, about what he signed for them. Was it
the usual form in which he confirms that he has not been hit nor has
anything been stolen from him etc. The form that everyone is obliged to
sign, especially after being hit. Or was it something else.
Iím dying to kill them, he said. They can offer him a million. Still he
would never agree to work with them. Dying to kill them, he muttered
again and again, restless.
More time went by, he couldnít tell how long. Then someone else came
into the room and body-searched him. When he was through, he took him
out, and two others waiting outside took him to the police station at
the checkpoint, where he waited for about three hours.
After a three-hour wait, he was taken to Abu Yussef of the Security
Abu Yussef, of course, is not his real name. Captain Abu Yussef. Which
is how the Security Services usually call themselves. Captain this or
that, with some pseudonym or other.
After entering Abu Yussefís room, he was unshackled and offered coffee,
and Abu Yussef was nice to him, he says unsmilingly, and told him to
make himself comfortable. And he really drank his coffee quietly.
After a while, Abu Yussef suddenly asked Mohammad, your fatherís name is
such and such? Right? And you live in this place? And your little
sisterís name is so and so?
They knew everything about me, Mohammad said. Everything. Where I live.
My sisterís name. Everything.
We want you to help us, the Secret Services man continued, while they
What am I, a spy? Exclaimed Mohammad, upset.
Help us and weíll let you go, Abu Yussef explained with chilly
simplicity. If you donít help us, weíll arrest you.
But I didnít do a thing, I threw nothing, that picture was not of me,
why all of this? He made his transparent claim. And Abu Yussef paused,
and then repeated, as if Mohammad hadnít said a word, help us, work with
us, and weíll give you what you want. Weíll give you money. Youíll be
I donít need money, thank God, Mohammad said and patted his trousers'
pocket. I donít need anything.
But youíll get a permit, the Secret Services man persisted, and go
wherever youíd like. You are security-prevented right now, after all.
You want to work, donít you? So work with us.
And Mohammad said, if I want to go into Jerusalem, Iíll go by myself. I
donít need anyoneís help. And time went on, until Abu Yussef got
annoyed, said Mohammad, because again and again he refused to work with
them, and Abu Yussef told people to come and take him out, and they came
and shackled him again and took him away.
What does Abu Yussef look like? We asked.
Elderly. Big and fat.
After being taken out of Abu Yussefís room, and taken back to the room
where they had hit him earlier, another soldier in uniform came and
showed Mohammad once again the pictures heíd been shown before, and the
soldier asked Mohammad: Who are these people in the photos? And Mohammad
said, I donít know, and he really didnít know. So, until evening time,
this went on, and once in a while he was hit again, and then they let
Thereís the soldier, he says. And points at the checking post barring
the vehicles from moving freely. This is one of the fellows who hit me.
He hit hard. Go now. Go take his picture. And we thought, what could
ever happen to a soldier of the Occupation Army who hits a Palestinian,
lawfully. When the law is on their side. And we thought to ourselves,
how normal that soldier looks, and how easy it is, apparently, to do
terrible things, and how hard it is to bear this truth.
Then I asked him if this was the first time he was asked to collaborate.
And he said it was the second time. And told us about the first which
had been not too long ago.
It was around the time they came looking for his uncle Ismail and his
friend Aduan for all sorts of things. They came to the checkpoint, found
him, took him to Beit El. To Captain Asher. Who told Mohammad right
away, bring us Ismail and Aduan and weíll give you anything you want.
And if you donít inform us about them, the captain threatened, youíll go
So I told them, okay, send me to jail, Mohammad says.
And he was jailed for four days, during which he was interrogated and
threatened and they tried to pressure him into collaborating. And after
four days they let him go.
A month later, after Ismail and Aduan were caught, the same Captain
Asher of the Secret Services phoned him and told him to come to Jib
Crossing right away. That if he doesnít show up, the captain warned,
heíd be picked up at home.
Saying a Secret Services man will come to pick someone up at home is a
serious threat. Because Mohammad knows just as Captain Asher knows, that
if he will be picked up at home, everyone would know heíd been summoned
for a Secret Services interrogation, and the inevitable question whether
he agreed or not in his interrogation would stick to him like a his own
shadow. It would stick to him and taint him and make him suspect.
This is a regular, intentional tactic by which, frequently, summons to a
Secret Services interrogation are handed to persons other than the one
summoned. In the village. At the checkpoint. Always in public. Always in
a crowd. Or most of the time. And clearly the point is not merely to
recruit the collaborators, but rather to do it in a way that
incriminates those who are being pressured, especially to sow mistrust
amidst the Palestinians. To incite and disintegrate any social immunity.
Mutual solidarity. Trust. To poison and decompose society from within.
And this is the deeper purpose largely underlying the industry of
So Mohammad, who naturally feared looking like someone whom the Secret
Services come to pick up by car, hurried to where Captain Asher told
him. Jib Crossing. And the captain waited for him there, indeed, and
took him in his car to Givíat Zeíev settlement. He has a Skoda, Mohammad
said. A Skoda car. And Captain Asher told him that his uncle Ismail said
he had worked with him. And Mohammad said, then have me confront Ismail.
And Captain Asher did not confront him with Ismail, and did not answer
Then Captain Asher said, come help us, and weíll give you what you want.
And Mohammad said, no.
And Captain Asher said, if you donít work with us, youíll never get a
permit. And you wonít find work. And you wonít enter Jerusalem. Because
he knew Mohammad wants a permit.
And Mohammad told him, Iím not a spy. Iím not a spy. Iím not a spy. And
Captain Asher did not answer. Only drove him to Jib Crossing, and threw
him out there.
Until the next time. Which has already taken place. With Captain Abu
Yussef. Nor is it the last time. And how many times will he withstand
the beatings. And the threats.
I asked him about his shoes, they seemed good ones for some reasons. And
he told me dismally that they are indeed some brand, Iíve forgotten
which. But theyíre torn, he added, and showed me. And I saw they were
torn. And I saw his tooth was broken and not fixed. And how young he is.
And many other things.
Meanwhile Ahmad, Mohammadís uncle, sat down next to us and said,
yesterday we cleaned windshields, Rauf and I, and the Israeli police
came and asked, ďAre you Rauf?Ē He said yes. So they shackled and took
him away. Do you know him?
And I said, maybe. Only I donít remember the name. And he said, this is
a nice guy. And I thought to myself, naturally heís a nice guy as Ahmad
says, or a good boy. Or child. Only now theyíre probably showing him
photographs and saying to him: if you donít tell us who they are, if you
donít collaborate, weíll jail you, or take from you or not give your
sister the medical care she needs. And some captain will offer him
coffee, and make him feel at ease. And say, come work for us. And maybe
heíll say, no, Iím no spy. I donít want to. And heíll be made to sign
and be tainted with the stamp of his refusal. And that means that at any
checkpoint anywhere heíll always be taken aside and made to wait for
hours. As a hint, that this is the fate of anyone who refuses them. And
when he will want to study or need medical care for himself or for
someone close to him, he will be told, no, unless you work for us. And
the moment will come when a summons to this or that captain of the
Secret Services will arrive, in public on purpose, so that everyone
would know that he has been summoned by the Security Services and
everyone would suspect him. And finally he is likely to surrender. For
he is dead anyway. And the dead cannot be killed. And his life will be
ruined. More than will seem to him at that moment. And after Rauf they
will take this one or the other. For they are godless. Because for them
Palestinians are transparent at best, or cockroaches at worst.
For that is Occupation.
Since this conversation at Qalandiya on Saturday, a friend called and
said his son came for his semester break from the Jordanian university
where he has been studying, and as he crossed Allenby Bridge, he and
other students coming on home leave just like him were given a summons
for Captain Aiman for the following week.
His voice broke as he said this, knowing more than his young and
inexperienced son does, that a door of no-choice has just been cast into
his young life from the moment Captain Aiman stepped into it.
And most likely next week, as the father knows, his son will be summoned
into this or that room, and offered coffee, and told to make himself
comfortable, and told the names of his brothers and sisters, and finally
told that if he wants to proceed with his studies in Jordan, he must
work for them. And he will say no, he will not want to work for them.
But when he will return to Allenby Bridge on his way back to school at
the end of his semester break, he will probably be detained and not
allowed through, for no apparent reason. Or perhaps he will be ordered
to wait. And he will wait. And he will be taken to the captainís room at
Allenby Bridge, and offered coffee. And told to make himself
comfortable. And that if he wants to study in Jordan or be cured of
cancer in Egypt or be issued a work permit or live and breathe, he must
work for them, and they will rule his fate - in their commonplace,
sordid, coldly cynical way.
Aya Kaniuk. Translated by Tal Haran.