How to Create a Shahid – Interview With a Young Palestinian | Machsomwatch
אורנית, מהצד הזה של הגדר

How to Create a Shahid – Interview With a Young Palestinian

Everybody has a story, and that of a Palestinian under the Israeli occupation will always be sad and harsh, full of despair and bitterness.

From a report:

Beit Iba Checkpoint (Nablus), Wednesday, 25.6.08 am

Observers: Rina Z, Inbal R (reporting) 

No changes in the checkpoint routines. Not especially long lines. And yet, one morning, one checkpoint, two stories...

How to Create a Shahid - Interview With a Young Palestinian

Muhammad, resident of Bani Naim in the Hebron Mountains, speaks a quiet Hebrew, is skinny and very short, perhaps suffered from malnutrition. Aged 18, he looked like 12. He crosses the checkpoint with a box of toys - orange dogs with heads rising and dropping on a spring. He has a friendly chat with two soldiers, one a military policeman and the other a DCO representative. He told them that he will return to the checkpoint with a knife, and shows them a release paper from a military prison. The DCO rep, a regular army man, nods understandingly. Nothing that Muhammad said is strange in his eyes, given his familiarity with checkpoints. When Muhammad leaves the checkpoint, we invite him for a coffee at Amjad's snack bar and asked to hear from the beginning (any comments in parentheses are mine - Inbal R).

"I had a forged ID card, I worked in Israel, 15 hours a day, made 300 shekels. They caught me, put me for five days in Muscobiya [the Russian Compound in Jerusalem]. I got three months conditional imprisonment for two years, not to return to Israel. When I came out, I went home. I have seven sisters and a small brother. My father worked in a Tel Aviv bakery. Now he doesn't work. My brother, Iyad, is 13, works in Beersheba [an illegal], for Beduin - earns 30, 40 shekels a day. I want to make 200, 300 shekels a day, like when I was in Israel. I came here [ the standard of living in Nablus is higher than Hebron], started to sell household utensils. I would come each time to the checkpoint, would pass, make a living, sell knives, cloths, toys, all sorts of things. I was caught by the officer, K., who told me: ‘forbidden to pass with knives.' I told him: ‘Okay, last time, now I want to pass.' He said to me: ‘You don't pass.' He stuck me in the Jora [the prison pen], hit me, slaps, kicks. I wanted to cry. He left me and I escaped from the jora.

"My friends told me, go back, take your ID. Friday [13 June 08] I came with a friend of mine to the checkpoint [to take the ID]. They took me to the jora, put tight handcuffs on me, and closed my eyes. They told me, now you go to detention for four days. They took me to Huwwara. I gave them a phone number and they informed my family that I was arrested.

"My father wasn't interested. He was not at home, he didn't know, didn't ask, nothing happened, the important thing is that I bring him money. My mother took 1700 shekels, gave it to a lawyer [he was very proud that she was willing to spend such money for him]. The lawyer only took 300, got me out of detention after five days. They gave me a release paper, didn't take me to trial, nothing.

"Now I want to return to prison. They told me that if I sit there a month, they bring my mother 1000 shekels. They told me, what will you do for that? Bring a [large] knife to the checkpoint."

Question: "You know that the soldiers at the checkpoint can panic because of the knife, and kill you?"

Muhammad shrugs and says: "I want money, food in mother's home." He finishes his coffee and asks if he can go...

Who's is My Story?

At Beit Iba Checkpoint (Nablus`) there is ongoing confrontation between the taxi drivers, busy catching customers, and the soldiers who push the drivers away from the area of the checkpoint. Roughly twice a day the soldiers arrest a few drivers and hold them for some hours. Usually it passes peacefully, but not for Hitam. This is what happened, according to him, two months ago: 

A soldier came to disperse two drivers, and hit them. Hitam intervened and told the soldier: "Why don't you talk to them instead of using your arms?" The soldier put Hitam in the jora and beat him brutally. Hitam lay in the jora from 10:00 in the morning until 21:00 at night. At 21:00 they took him to the army base at Shavei Shomron, and at midnight took him in an ambulance to hospital. He was diagnosed with a fractured skull, broken shoulder and an injury to his finger. When released from hospital, he submitted a complaint with the help of MachsomWatch, and an inquiry was opened by Military Police Investigations.

Thus far Hitam's story, and it is to be assumed that the soldiers have a different tale.

Something of the prevailing mindset of the checkpoint rulers can be learnt from a small handwritten slip of paper that a soldier gave Hitam in place of his confiscated ID card. The paper is reported as written, but for a few words that we could not decipher [Nov 05 is the name of the company in Haruv Battalion - not the date!].

"Hitam, I'm a taxi driver who went wild at Beit Iba Checkpoint two days ago (with taxi) Eyal Military Police Shlomi squad leader Haruv.

"I was arrested received medical treatment and my ID card at Battalion Aid Station 93. Please transfer to DCO Awarta for new ID card. All problems SMS Eyal Checkpoint ‘Bongi.'

"------ ------ [two words undecipherable] Nov 05"

We were intrigued by the use of first person, when the soldier took upon himself to speak in Hitam's name, but described the situation from the army's viewpoint. This piece of paper is a model, not only of inarticulate military language, but also of colonialism.

There is also the unexplained operational gap between two verbs in a sentence: "I was arrested received medical treatment..."