The Defendant Touched Army Property
On the afternoon of Tuesday July 20th, 2010, as Tamar, Vivi and I were
on our way to the Qalandia refugee camp to visit Nibal Shechade and hear
about the arrest of her son Ayub, the child-beggars who roam around the
line of cars on their way to Jerusalem ran to us and told us that
Ibrahim Abu alA'ish had been arrested that morning. Our hearts sank.
Two soldiers came, said Rami Shawamre, and took
Rauf, his brother Hussam, and Ibrahim. Rauf and
Hussam were soon released, they added. And they are still holding
Ibrahim. And he is at Ofer [detention centre], so they say.
“Why, what did they say?” we asked. “We don’t know,” said the children.
“Maybe they photographed him with the camera on the watch tower, at the
checkpoint,” said Rami. “Or maybe he threw stones.” “Or some informant
said something about him,” added Mu’min, Ibrahim’s brother, and Abdallah
his second brother reiterated this speculation. We chatted with them
some more, then said goodbye and they ran back to their arduous, sad
Ibrahim is already 16 years old, but he looks
much younger. And not only does he look that way. He is. A neglected,
wild, good-hearted child from the Qalandia refugee camp. One of 14
brothers and sisters, the father earns almost nothing, and they all live
in penury. He has been around the checkpoint for years, tattered and
lost. When he was little, he spent plenty of time doing beggary, asking
for money. But even then, when he once noticed that I was thirsty, he
ran and bought me water with his last pennies. And when another soldier
beat me, he ran back and forth in between the soldier’s blows, picking
up the papers that fell from my bag, in spite of the danger. Not long
ago, he told us that he had left school for good, and it was sad.
Nowadays he sometimes sells water or wipes the windshields of cars and
the pennies that he sometimes earns he brings home, but most of the time
he is simply there by the checkpoint, strange and wild and heart
On Thursday the 22nd little Ibrahim Abu alA'ish was brought before a
judge. Tamar Fleishman has written about this on the
MachsomWatch site. She
was present at the military court at Ofer on that day, and happened to
witness Ibrahim’s trial.
“…I went in just as the judge (Moshe Levy) announced: “[The defendant
has been] charged with sabotaging an army installation by damaging a
blocker, an iron rod, which belongs to the security forces”. That is,
Ibrahim was caught shaking the metal rod posted in the square at the
front of the checkpoint, which is used for blocking a traffic lane.
The defense attorney asked that the boy be released: “The boy caused no
damage. It was just child’s play at the checkpoint, at the Kalandiya
crossing, it’s a game played by all the children, and the barrier was
The prosecution’s representative asked that release be made conditional
upon a deposit of 3000 NIS. She also asked that additional conditions be
The defense attorney: “In view of the family’s dire financial
conditions, the circumstances and the minimal damage, one should settle
The judge’s decision: “There is a past
conviction for stone throwing in 2009. After reviewing the file… it
is indeed more of a youthful act of mischief than an attempt to
seriously damage an army installation. I have deliberated and read the
file, and under these circumstances, my ruling is that he be released
from custody under these conditions:
1. payment of 750 NIS
2. own-bail of 2000 NIS
3. third party bail of 3000 NIS
Many times the children of the Qalandia refugee camp are detained under
false pretenses. This can happen due to the soldiers’ unrestrained and
racist joy of arrest, and because such are the norms, and because it’s a
Many times they are detained because someone else gave their name.
Mostly because that someone, just as little and scared as them, had been
told that if he gave the interrogators fifteen names, they would let him
go, or that if he didn’t, they would beat him or kill him. So he gives
names, in most cases. And this is how they get detained. One after the
other. And for the occupation forces it doesn’t really matter whether
these youths and boys did anything, even from their own point of view.
I recall that time when a soldier who ran and caught a boy because he
had allegedly thrown stones told me, when I shouted at him that it was
not that boy who had thrown the stones: So what, and then he added, he
will surely throw in the future.
But this time I dare say that perhaps the allegations against Ibrahim
are founded. Even though until I meet him and he says so himself, I
obviously can’t and don’t want to say anything certain, it’s just that
from my acquaintance with him, it’s not improbable that he did shake
that metal rod as they claim, just like we have seen him shaking many
things in the past.
So with respect to this, I am willing to believe that in this case
Ibrahim indeed shook that iron rod as they claim.
That he damaged army property.
13 year old Ahmad Abu Latife damaged army property, too.
It happened around seven years ago. He and a few boys and youths crossed
the fence (the wall had not been built then) and threw stones towards
the plot of land that was called the “airport” back then, and the
soldiers from the checkpoint began to chase them. Most of the minors
managed to climb and cross the fence back towards the camp, but Ahmad
Abu Latife was caught in the fence. No one knows, maybe this was due to
his shirt getting tangled up in the barbed wire, or maybe he froze with
fear, but he was the only one who did not manage to flee.
First they shot him near the legs, and then they shot him in the back,
and then he died.
I remember that a few days later I was at the Qalandia checkpoint. The
checkpoint commander then was a soldier named Sagi Neuman. I am almost
certain that was his name. In the refugee camp and around the checkpoint
there was a bad mood and the events were being discussed all the time.
Ahmad. and also the other boys from the camp who had been murdered like
that by the soldiers in recent years. 14 year old Omar Matar, and
Tamer Kusbah’s brothers, 10 year old
Yasser and 15 year old Samer, who were murdered one month apart, and the
others, almost at the same location all of them, or nearby.
In any case I probably didn’t hold myself back and said something about
this to the soldiers, or just to him, to the commander. About what had
happened. Perhaps I was upset. It is likely that he initiated the
conversation because even back then I was not initiating almost any
conversations with the occupation soldiers. But I don’t remember and it
doesn’t really matter.
So we spoke, the soldier and I, and I told him that even from their
point of view, according to their regulations, that is, the soldier who
shot Ahmad Abu Latife disobeyed instructions. You too think it is
forbidden to shoot a fleeing person, it’s your law too, no? I asked.
And surprisingly, checkpoint commander Sagi Neuman corrected me and said
that the soldier who had shot fleeing Ahmad in the back was indeed
following orders. The open-fire instructions, he explained, say that if
damage is being done to army property, the officer may instruct a
soldier to shoot one live bullet. And the fence Ahmad Abu Latife was
climbing, it is army property. And therefore, he went on explaining,
shooting him with live ammo as he was fleeing was definitely in
accordance with the instructions.
I remember that in spite of what I had seen soldiers doing and saying, I
was shocked. I expected, as it had happened before, to be told that
Ibrahim was endangering the soldiers, throwing Molotov cocktails, that
he started, that the soldier had no choice but to shoot him because he
felt his life was in danger. Or that it was not the soldiers who killed
him, but Palestinians who shot him. And that he was not a boy but a
grown man. An armed militant. A terrorist. And that they were defending
themselves from him.
Stuff like that.
But the astonishing thing, for me, was that the soldier and those around
him described the events exactly like the Palestinians in the camp and I
had seen them. Indeed, Ahmad Abu Latife was shot in the back as was
running away from the soldiers at the checkpoint, the soldiers told us.
Indeed he was thirteen years old.
Twelve and a half.
They did not deny and did not change reality and did not distort what
The only thing that was unique in the soldiers’ point of view, was that
they thought it was permissible, that’s all. That it was all done by the
book. And in any case, nothing happened, and what am I upset about, they
After all, Ahmad Abu Latife had damaged army property, I was told again,
and they wondered why I was insisting and why I was astonished. No? It’s
not like that?
And they also added a question: what do I have in common with them?
Them, meaning Palestinians.
They said this too.
I am sure that Ibrahim Abu alA'ish, who may have touched army property,
as they claim, will not be executed like Ahmad Abu-Latife. Because they
do not execute through the courts, but by other means. It is more likely
that little Ibrahim will sit in prison for a while, maybe a few months,
more or less. And his poor family will have to pay, of course, and God
knows how or if they will come up with the money.
But in the end, he will be released, quickly or not so quickly, until
the next time, or until the one after, and he will probably flee from
the soldiers after having shaken a fence or a roadblock or something
else called army property if you will, and then they will shoot him.
Because he damaged army property, and because that is what they do.
And I am not saying for one moment that death is like detention and that
Ibrahim’s detention is analogous to Ahmad’s death. What I am saying is
that for the occupation forces it is one and the same. And it is only by
accident that one is dead and the other will probably not die this time,
even if he did damage army property as they claim.
Because both of them, both of these children, are invisible and not real
and not human in the eyes of these various executers. Because if they
had - in the view of these soldiers and prosecutors and judges and
wardens and policemen - been human beings in the full sense of this
term, they simply would not have been able to shoot Ahmad Abu Latife in
the back or stay silent in the face of such an act, when someone else is
committing it. Or arrest Ibrahim Abu alA'ish and prosecute him because
he had shaken a metal rod.
They simply would not have been able to do this.
They would not have been able to.
Translated by Ofer Neiman