Ofer - Interrogation of Witness
Translation: Marganit W.
Courtroom 4 – Evidentiary Trial
Judge: Sigal Turjeman
Defense: Akram Samara
Bilal Abu Asba – ID 852367025
Dafa’a Azam - ID 910634211
The two men, arrested at the village of Silwad, are accused of attacking a car driven by Batya and Yehuda Shteyer, settlers from Beit-El, who were on their way home on 12.9.13.
Batya Shteyer, (Witness No. 10 in the court’s records) answered the prosecutor’s questions, describing how they were driving on the road between Shilo and Eli, when a silver Mitsubishi Lancer suddenly turned around and blocked their way. Her husband slammed on the brakes, but their car was damaged in the front by the other car. A man got out of the car – described as a “giant”, big and fat with a threatening mien and carrying a stick. He broke the front window on the driver’s side and beat her husband brutally, while grunting incomprehensibly. Another man, described as “ thin and tall” came to her side, opened the car door, then closed it and walked away. Throughout the incident, she was shaking and praying. Then the attacker drove away and the couple drove to Ofra. To the prosecutor’s question she answered that the violent man wore a striped T-shirt and that she recognized him in court. Following the incident, she wanted to call security, but discovered that her glasses were gone, and with it her purse with ID, credit cards, a book of Psalms and money. She realized that the attacker, who had opened her door, took her belongings. The couple then drove to the “War Room” at the security headquarters and reported the incident. An ambulance was called to treat the husband. Half an hour later the investigator who took their statement, received on her cell phone. It was a photo of the suspects caught in Ofra. The woman recognized the two men (by the striped T-shirt). She also described how the cruel attack had affected her psychologically and changed her life: they are reluctant to leave their home and certainly don’t drive at night. Each trip is fraught with fear and anxiety. This was the story that unfolded in court.
In cross-examination, Atty. Samara focused on memory and identification: how could they see the attackers at nightfall on an unlit road, why did the witness describe the defendant – a man of regular stature – as a giant; perhaps the ID had been lost before; maybe the damage to the car (presented to the court) had happened before.
Then the husband, Yehuda, was ushered in. He, too, described the frightening incident: he thought he was going to die there.
The cross examination by the defense was very long, and went past lunch time. There were more than 20 other cases in the docket. The hearing was adjourned, despite the defense’s protest.
So much for the frightening incident. But there was a big shadow hanging over this hearing: we have a car, two peaceful citizens, a purse, a checkbook, two vicious thugs, a book of Psalms, a cell phone, but nobody notices the elephant in the room. The court has “Judaized” the entire incident, not just by using Hebrew exclusively and obliterating the Palestinian context. When the defense tried to undermine the couple’s testimony and pinpoint the exact location, he mentioned the settlements along the way: Ofra, Shilo, Eli, Beit El – all settlements built on Palestinian land in the occupied territories. Are there no Palestinians villages along that road? The question reflects the reality of the occupation, but there was no mention of it in the hearing: the couple reported to the War Room (whose name is telling enough) which, just like the military court, exists in order to enforce the laws of the occupation, to wit: to investigate violent acts against the army and the settlers, not the other way round.
It took the investigators only 30 minutes to obtain a picture of the suspect and send it to the phone of the investigator at the War Room. In view of the total helplessness of the police when it comes to crimes against Palestinians inside Israel, you must realize what an efficient network of intelligence allows the investigators in the War Room to get a photo of a suspect in half an hour.