By Missy, Giuseppe, Gary and Sebastian
At approximately 9 PM August 14th, human rights workers (HRW) living in Tel Rumeida went to the checkpoint to investigate a rumor of abuse of a Palestinian man by the soldiers there. They noticed at the checkpoint a small man crouching in the corner of an impromptu soldier’s post to the right of the checkpoint. He had his T-shirt pulled up over his head.
The human rights workers asked the soldier standing near the entrance/exit of the checkpoint to check on the condition of the man in the corner. They called to him in Arabic and the man had pulled his shirt from his face before I spoke to him, but then pulled his shirt up again, appearing afraid. The soldier told them to shut up and then told the Palestinian man, inches from his face, several times in Arabic, “Uskot! Uskot!”, which means “shut up”. A HRW then told the soldier he wanted to offer the guy a cigarette, and the soldier agreed. The HRW was able to look at the man quickly and see that he was having a difficult time breathing. The other soldier inside the checkpoint room came out and told the HRW to leave the guy alone and go away from him. The HRW calmly walked away and reported the man’s condition to us.
This situation went on for about half an hour. During this time, one human rights worker called the Humanitarian Office of the DCO (an adminstrative branch of the Israeli military) twice, to report that the man was possibly injured and might need medical attention. I also told the DCO that the soldier appeared to be under the influence of some substance or was acting mentally unstable. The soldier had been going from being hyperactive and talking about his past history of doing “crystal, meth, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol…” to taking his helmet off and hanging his head with a blank stare on his face. The soldier had also offered me pizza several times, walking close to me with box open; he also asked if I wanted to drink vodka. He offered the same to other HRWs, who refused.
The soldier then became agitated and said that he hated all Arabs and wanted to shoot or kill them. He said that terrorists had killed his family when he was a small child, and that he spent many years before the military doing drugs. He went on to talk about doing methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol, and said that when his family was killed, his brain was dead. He said that since joining the Israeli army he was a new man. He also commented that he had been in the Army for two years now. The soldier then moved the detained man, who appeared to be autistic, behind the door to the right of the checkpoint and said that he could go and beat the man if we wanted, and then asked us repeatedly if we wanted him to beat the man. The HRWs calmly replied, ‘No’.
Another HRW then got water and asked if he could offer water to the man; the soldier took the bottle and said he’d give it to the man. The HRW followed the soldier and attempted to assess the man’s condition again. He asked the Palestinian man to lift up his shirt, but could see no injuries. The man still appeared to be having a difficult time breathing. At the one hour mark, the unstable soldier went to the Palestinian man and said in Arabic, “Tayib, halas?” which means, roughly translated, “Ok, enough?” The Palestinian man was rocking back and forth and said ‘yes’. The soldier let the man get up and he began to walk away.
At this point, another soldier’s jeep with four soldiers inside appeared from Shuhada Street. They stopped the Palestinian man and began checking his ID again. The unstable soldier went to the jeep, and then about five more soldiers arrived from the hill. The autistic man stood near them, rocking back and forth. The unstable soldier then approached two of the human rights workers standing nearby, “What? What’s the problem? You are gay, and your friend is a bitch,” he said. The soldier was holding his gun in a downward but forward position. He then swung his gun towards his back and put his hands forward, as if to push or hit the HRW. The HRW put his hands up in the air as if to block a possible blow. Another soldier came to the unstable soldier and pushed him away.
The unstable soldier became aggressive and from about ten feet away, he put his gun up and pointed it at an HRW’s head with the flashlight lit. The unstable soldier then took his gun and pulled it up over his head. He then took the barrel end in his hands and swung the butt of the gun at her head. The HRW ducked and four soldiers surrounded the unstable soldier and led him to the military jeep. The other soldiers had removed his gun, vest and helmet from him. He attempted to come up the hill, but was stopped; he then went yelling and screaming towards the checkpoint. All the HRWs left at this point.