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The secret service is trying
to turn Eyad into a collaborator.
This is his story.
 
In text and video.





 

     
 
                       The secret service is trying to turn Eyad into a collaborator. This is his story.
                
 text and video.
 
 

 

 
 

Few days ago, soldiers destroyed Eyad's stand. Because Eyad said no.

Since the year 2000, Eyad Shawamrah is being asked to collaborate. Since the year 2000, he refuses. First they froze the 'family unification' he applied for, then they hinted that would harm his wife and said they would arrest her, then they put him on the GSS blacklist (prevented from obtaining any kind of permit) because he refused yet again, then they threatened to destroy his stand, again and again, and stole his scales several times, and tied up his workers, and sent a collaborator to stab him.
On Wednesday morning they crushed his food-stand to the ground, and whatever they didn't manage to break, they took.
Because Eyad said no. Again.

The pressure on Palestinians to collaborate and betray their own people is deep and vile and as old as the State of Israel. Physicians for Human Rights have published a terrifying report lately, describing Gazan Palestinian cancer-patients in life-threatening condition, sent to hospitals elsewhere that can offer them treatment not available in Gaza. They (and their escorts) are required to collaborate with Israel against their own people in order to obtain permission to travel, and if they refuse, they are sent home to their near-certain death.

Palestinians living under Israeli Occupation since 1967 have practically no fundamental human rights, as are anchored in international conventions to which Israel, too, is signatory. Rights that Israel denies the Palestinians as a matter of course.

The denial of Palestinians' rights is usually a-priori and inherent, so that in order to obtain them the right to health, for example, or education or freedom of movement or livelihood or the saving of lives they have to pay. Betray.

In other words, many of these inaliable rights often lie at the far end of a 'talk' with the General Security Services officer.

They came at eight, began demolishing at ten, and at half past ten they were already gone. About twenty soldiers, two DCO jeeps, a Hummer, a bulldozer and a truck. Something like that. First they loaded stuff. The containers which we fill with watermelons, worth about 2000 NIS. Confiscated, as it were. Then they broke everything else.
Eggs broke by the hundreds. And all the vegetables. And the cash register, crushed. And the refrigerator, smashed. I paid 2000 NIS for it. It contained food for my worker Imad who used to sleep here.
I wasn't here when they destroyed everything, but my worker was here, sleeping. He heard them speaking Hebrew. He was curled up in his blanket, in the back. When they started demolishing the stand, he realized what was happening. He leapt up, broke a plank in the ceiling and ran off. If he hadn't, the stand would probably have been demolished right on top of him.
Thank goodness he saved himself. He has his family to feed, poor guy. He's from Jabba'. Luckily he got away alive.

I've had the stand for three years now. They came a long time ago and handed me instructions to dismantle it. So I left it, for a long time, a year and a half.
Then a poor guy came along and said, I want to make a living. A guy with no money at all. He asked if he could use my stand. So I decided to try and get back to work, I like it when I earn a living and others do too. So I worked and worked and no one said anything.

Then they started threatening me. They said I have to move back a bit, not by the roadside. That it's a disturbance. So I moved my stand back. Here I am, behind the pillar. It doesn't bother the municipality, or the soldiers. Just for the sake of it. And that big sign over there, that's Abu Mazen's son, Tareq. He gets a lot of money for it. Here's the pillar, and I am behind the pillar, because I moved the stand. And he is right on the roadside, but I'm the one whose stand they demolish. Not because it's close to the road. Because it's Eyad.

So suddenly a few months ago the soldiers came and took my scales. That's worth about 600 NIS. They took them once, twice, the third time they came around, they had a pain-clothes-man with them, an officer out of uniform. This officer has already come around several times. In a white car. Here's his name, written on this piece of paper. But every one of those guys has three names. They're GSS.
What's the story? I asked the officer. What do you want? Why are you guys after my stand? I moved it. I'm clean. I'm married and have children. My worker has children. And another poor guy who works with us and has kids.
So the GSS guy tells me: I'm from Beit El (the Civil Administration HQ, another word for the GSS). Come to Beit El. We'll talk there. See what we'll do.
I said, Beit El is far for me, I can't make it.
I didn't go and I am not willing to go there. I know their answer: they'll tell me to work with them. That's their answer. Collaborate with us and keep your stand. Here's a blue (Jerusalem) ID. Collaborate and get your family unification. They want Eyad to be their eyes and ears here at the junction. Tell them who comes in, who goes out. Fuck them, and their authority. All I want is to make my own living.
About two days after that guy came, it was the very first day of Ramadan, there were exactly five workers here. Soldiers came along, got them into the stand, tied up their hands, blindfolded them and took them away in jeeps to Ramah army base. That's across the way over there, not far from here. I just got here and saw them tied up. I kept my distance. Stood over there and asked people about it. They didn't know why those five were picked up. It was two minutes before the breaking of the fast. After they went away, I came to the stand. I stood around and waited. I was worried about the guy from Gaza who is not registered at A-Ram. Poor guy, just got married.
I waited and waited, for hours. Then the first guy came. I asked him what happened. He said, I don't know but I cried and cried and they let me go. The second guy came along. What happened? He said he didn't know. That was the guy from Gaza. He was released. But they're looking for you, Eyad, he told me. Eventually they were all released and came to the stand. The last one to arrive said he was told: Tell your boss that if we catch him here, we'll show him what's what.
That's me, they're talking about.
See? They picked them up and tied them up like dogs. Why? What have they done? Throw stones? What were they, terrorists? Fuck the army.
Just because they want me. You know what those guys were told over there? "Nice holiday we gave you, huh?" On purpose and all. And how they threw them there, like dogs. Tied up. And the workers told them: We've been fasting all day. We'd like some water. And they were told: wait. You've fasted all these hours, can't you wait another two hours now?
What kind of bastards are these?

I waited for two days. I stayed in the stand the whole time. This old guy from Gaza came. Sat with me here. I decided to go to the landowner and get me a signed paper from him that he leases his land out to me. Because I keep having trouble with the soldiers. And a lawyer friend told me, get a document from him. I get back and the guy from Gaza tells me, the soldiers had just been here with their jeep, photographed the paper, photographed me and told me I better not hang around with Eyad.

Let them come to my house, it's just a few meters away. Let them come and arrest me. Why don't they come to me? They know where to find me. They know where I live. But they don't want to arrest me. They want me to collaborate with them. But I don't want to. They've been trying to get me to work with them since 1998. Even more so since 2000. I don't want to. Why should I burn myself out for them? They think I'd turn informer? I'm no informer.
They want us to keep our noses in the ground. They want us to shit in our pants the moment we see an army jeep.

My brother, they stabbed him here in the stand. The army sent the guy who did. He's a collaborator, works with them. He stabbed him. It's not the first time they're looking for me.

The Palestinians are prevented from making a living, not just as a means to pressure them into collaborating. Methodically, strategically.

At all the checkpoints, throughout the years, throughout and along the roads, soldiers of different units harass the vendors and keep them from working.

The stands keep getting demolished time and time again in the same area by soldiers.

The official reasons keep changing:

because it disturbs other Palestinians, when it is obvious that it does nothing of the kind, and since when does Israel care about Palestinians.

Because a British Mandate law (dating from the 1940's at the latest) forbids vending by the roadside. And sometimes because of rules from the Ottoman Empire period (until 1918).

And at times because it conceals something. Or reveals something.

And at times because it's prohibited, period.

The reasons vary, but the purpose is always the same. To deny livelihood.

And so, because the soldiers have been thus instructed, or just to satisfy their occasional urges, the soldiers can destroy the Palestinians' sources of livelihood in an ever-repeating routine.

And the soldiers can prevent them from working, as in Eyad's case, to get them to collaborate.

It all begins and ends with the fact that a Palestinian is not human. Not really.

If he were, it would not happen.


A day before my stand was destroyed they stuck a note on it. Imad was sitting inside, they didn't see him. They came in, took pictures, photographed the goods inside, and put a note on the stand.

I'm here near the stand, sitting here with the guy from Gaza, and kids were throwing stones from behind. Do you think it was really the kids' idea to go throw stones at night? It was a collaborating bastard who told the kids, here, take some money and go throw stones. To get me in trouble.
So I went, and in the morning they came and ruined everything.

Look at the eggs they broke. Fifty cases. And the vegetables, look how they trashed them. Isn't it a pity? I'd take them out and give them to the poor. Such a pity.

And why don't they close that guy down? Look over there, that stand on the road. Because that guy works with them. He told me so. A few times when the soldiers took away my scales, he went up to them right there in the middle of the road, and took the scales off their jeep, and gave them back to me.
What does that mean?

It means that they want Eyad.

I just want to feed my children. Not to build any fancy houses. Just my own little corner. To feed my children and live in peace.

Now I'm a goner, Aya. Don't know what to do. Many people live off this stand. Not just me. Seven or eight families live from this stand.

They grip every person where it hurts. Here, it hurts me not to live with my family, to care for the stand. They know just what is most important for us and then they make sure to grab it. To apply pressure.

There was a Qur'an in the stand, and it got ruined. Why? Don't we respect your Torah? I once saw a stolen car that had a Bible and phylacteries inside. I took them and gave them to a Jew I know. Ask him, he's still alive. Why, do I hurt your Torah?

God willing, things will work out.

The stand is ruined. Crooked, broken piece of metal. Wooden planks. Hundreds of smashed eggs and rotting vegetables and garbage and bits of photographs and crushed cans. People pass along, crying out: What happened here? And Eyad says: the army. Lots of bumblebees buzz around the spoiled food. The air reeks, putrid. Eyad and his workers sit on the ruins, idle. Once in a while someone says something, another curses, they sit down again. One of them suddenly gets up, moves something with his foot, a piece of torn mattress or some other thing, then sits down again. Sometimes someone stops his car and joins them and asks and they tell him a little bit and chat and then he leaves.

What shall I do, Aya? What have I done to them to be treated this way?

Soon snakes will come here. This used to be a good spot. Lit up all night. The neighbors liked having light. They could walk in the field without fear. I would clean here every day, go home at noon, take a two-hour nap and be here the rest of the time. It was a good place. Good for people. And there was some money.

Jews used to get lost around here and I would tell them how to get back, through Hizma. We all had a living. I gave leftovers to the poor. You won't believe how poor people have gotten. I gave them eggs and vegetables. They have nothing. Absolutely
nothing. What am I going to tell that man who has nothing and whom I used to give food? That I haven't got any? What am I going to tell him?

They will not leave me alone. They will ruin and take everything that is important to me. They've burnt me down, Aya. They just won't leave Eyad alone.

And we sat some more with Eyad and some of his friends and his brother. And in spite of everyone around us fasting, they offered us glasses of Coke and we drank.
And time went by. Again and again people stopped and asked what happened and why. And after they heard, they cursed the army and some soldiers in a Hummer drove by a few times, loudly and demonstratively, sporting the trappings of their violence and domination with disturbing pride.

I'll build, Eyad suddenly said. No matter how many times they demolish, I'll rebuild.
You know, I got a note a while ago, turning down my application for family unification. Enough. That does it.
But I'll not collaborate. My children will say they had a good father. They will never say their father was a collaborator. An informer. Me name is not something anyone can take away from me.

September 2008

Translated by Tal Haran

 
      
 

 

 

 
 
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