Satrurday, June 2nd, 2007, at 2 a.m., jeeps entered Qalandiya refugee
camp in order to arrest M.
Jaffa supermarket was open. Eighteen and a half year-old Tamer Sami Ali
Kusbah has been working the night shift there for the past five or six
months. They were two: Tamer and another worker, and had just begun to
close shop. This is a supermarket that is open nearly every night, in
two shifts. Meanwhile, the jeeps had arrived at Tamer's family home, but
he wasn't there. So they ruined the place inside, trashed it – ran
havoc, broke things, crashed things, and when they were through, they
left. Got in their jeeps and left the camp. Or so it seemed. Apparently
eight soldiers disembarked their jeeps earlier and took a walk. They
came close to the supermarket. The other worker had just closed the cash
register inside and Tamer had just finished bringing in soft drink
cartons and stood with his back to the street, holding a hose and about
to wash the sidewalk at the entrance. The soldiers emerged out of the
dark and opened fire. Tamer was hit in the back by a live bullet that
entered his back and exited his abdomen, and he fell forward. The
soldiers approached him and began beating him, again and again, as he
lay on the ground in a pool of his own blood. Tamer, who had not yet
completely lost consciousness, remembers that another jeep came along
and an officer came out and asked – 'why are you beating him? Can't you
see he's wounded? and they stopped.
Meanwhile an ambulance arrived from Ramallah. But the soldiers decided
to take him themselves. They loaded him into the jeep and took him to
the checkpoint. On the way he fell unconscious. Seemingly at the CP they
decided to call Magen David Adom and take him to the Intensive Care Unit
at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital.
The probable reason for the soldiers to take Tamer Sami Ali Kusbah with
them rather than letting the Ramallah ambulance pick him up, was not to
leave behind evidence of what they had done to him. Still in the camp
people say it was a stroke of luck, for in Ramallah he would surely have
died. Although, apparently arriving at a good hospital does not assure
one of good treatment. It depends who that one is – his or her identity,
race, whether he or she is even considered human.
Tamer's two brothers, 10 year-old Yassar, and 15 year-old Samer were
murdered by soldiers six years ago, about 40 days apart.
On the morning of December 8th, 2001, one of those regular events took
place with children from Qalandiya refugee camp and Israeli soldiers.
Bullets and stones. Stones and bullets. If the children do not throw
stones at the soldiers, the soldiers goad them into doing so, and then
the stones come flying, usually, and then the army shoots. Rubber and
live ammunition and teargas. And if the stones do not come flying, it
shoots anyway. Tamer's brothers are not the only victims.
On that day the soldiers shot at a group of children who ran away, and
the shooting continued while they ran. 10 year-old Yassar fell into a
waterhole. The soldiers arrived and - at very close range – shot his
head with a metal bullet coated with rubber.
He lay dying for eight days, and on Sunday, December 12th 2001, he died.
On January 19th, 2002, on Al Arsal Street in Ramallah, soldiers opened
fire at demonstrators. 15 year-old Samer was shot in the head and
seriously wounded. At that very time a memorial was held for 10 year-old
Yassar, as is custom forty days after death occurs. Many of the camp
residents were sitting with the family when people came and said that
Samer had been shot in the head.
Samer lay dying for six days, and on January 25th 2002, at 5 p.m., he
died of his wounds.
On Saturday, June 2nd, 2007, eight hours after Tamer was shot, Vivi,
Tamar and myself went to Hadassah to try to see him. A friend from the
refugee camp called to tell us. That's how we found out. He was in ICU
b. His condition was described critical. He was being respirated.
Unconscious. Receiving blood. We met, Ishak, Tamer's relative who holds
a blue (Israeli resident) ID, and a friend of the family from Shua'afat,
formerly from Qalandiya. Tamer's mother and father, residents of the
refugee camp, were not allowed to come. They are prohibited entry into
Two soldiers were patrolling the ICU and tried to photograph him, and
the doctor told them to leave. When we went out, we saw the two soldiers
again – sitting there, waiting, wearing uniforms with no unit insignia,
rank signs or any other identifying traces. Only black rifles and ammo
magazines hand-held, and a cell phone-camera.
They were there day and night during the first days. Near him. Close.
When Tamer's aunt arrived to sit by him through the night, one of them
followed her everywhere.
Tamer's parents did try to obtain a permit to come and visit him. His
father was refused. He was told he was security-prevented. Only on
Tamer's third day at the hospital did his other manage to receive a
permit from the Israeli authorities: for only three days. From morning
until 7 p.m.
The first time she saw him was three days after he had been shot. He had
already regained consciousness. She arrived in the afternoon, and from
that moment uniformed soldiers with insignias and tags were constantly
at his bedside. Perhaps he was already conscious. Perhaps that is the
reason. Or the fact that the mother came.
She managed to see him for a few moments before she was ordered away.
That was the day we saw Tamer's mother for the first time. A woman who
had lost her two children. Although she was sent away, although she only
got to see him for moments, there was some relief in her eyes. Because
he was alive. He spoke to her.
Her two little ones were wounded before they died. They did not die
immediately. Now we understood.
She would come again the next day.
The next morning, Vivi went to see Tamer who'd already been moved to
Surgery B ward. He had just been stood on his legs for a moment, still
connected to IV and another tube in his nose, his legs weak, next to him
the physiotherapist and a soldier.
The soldier told Vivi to go away. That Tamer was prevented visits.
At noon the family arrived again, his mother and Ishak, the relative,
and Ishak's mother too, later. Ishak walked in first, before the mother.
He entered Tamer's room. Vivi was last. Hadassah hospital Surgery Ward
B. A fine ward.
Ishak came out before they managed to enter. In shock. He said the
soldier pushed his chest with both hands, that Tamer was not allowed
Tamer's mother broke into tears. Ishak was upset. He said he was calling
a lawyer, and B'Tselem. And went in again. And came out again. Stunned.
Trembling. They handcuffed Tamer, he said. Tamer – who is receiving
blood infusions, whose abdomen is open because a bullet has ripped into
him, a bullet that entered his back and exited his abdomen demolishing
tissue on its way, tearing and ruining, Tamer who is still connected to
IV and to a nose tube, and more tubes – has been cuffed in both his
hands because his family wanted to see him.
"Dirty Arabs", the soldier who just left Tamer's room proceeded to swear
at the family aloud, in the middle of the ward. None of the hospital
staff stopped him, or intervened, or protested. The soldier said he was
in custody. A nurse was overheard saying "there's a family here raising
Apparently the staff regards it as perfectly natural to swear at a
seriously wounded person, handcuff him – a boy tied up to infusions,
with a hold in his belly and his insides trashed, only because a soldier
decided to cuff him. Because he is authorized to this so. Because he
Three and a half hours after being handcuffed, and days since soldiers
have been stuck to him at all times because 'he is in custody' his hands
were freed of the cuffs, and the soldiers – with their backgammon board
– left the hospital.
Tamer Kusbah was in custody. Why? Apparently because he had been
wounded. that is the army's way. The victim is accused. And then, after
the privileged, those of 'right blood' raised their voice in protest and
worked their connections, suddenly he was considered human, visible by
the 'worthies', and was no longer in custody.
His arrest on the one hand, and his release on the other, adhere to the
same principle, the same essence, the same truth: A Palestinian is not a
human being who has a name, an age, an individual identity, and a face.
A Palestinian – whether a 9-year old or a shot in his back by Israeli
soldiers, is a Palestinian. These are his borders and his identity and
his right to life and to human treatment. Just as we witnessed in
That whole time, from the moment Ishak was pushed out of Tamer's room
and the mother was forbidden entry, she cried. For three and a half
hours she cried incessantly. Only when the soldiers left and she went in
and saw him did she stop crying. And she would not leave his bedside.
Although her permit expired. She would not leave, and didn't.
Aya Kaniuk Translated by Tal Haran