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The Defendant Touched Army Property

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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 toil.

אברהים אבו אלעישIbrahim 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 wrenching.

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 not damaged.”

The prosecution’s representative asked that release be made conditional upon a deposit of 3000 NIS. She also asked that additional conditions be imposed.

The defense attorney: “In view of the family’s dire financial conditions, the circumstances and the minimal damage, one should settle for 100.”

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 legal sport.
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.

ההודעה על מותו של אחמד אבו לטיפה13 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 had happened.

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 said.
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.

Aya Kaniuk. Translated by Ofer Neiman

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