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Haaretz: One swift kick

By Gideon Levy

To view original article, published in Haaretz on the 7th June 2008, click here

Even now, six weeks later, his speech and movements are still halting. He says he is emotionally shattered. For him, the moment of crisis was when he awoke from surgery and noticed a plastic jar on the nightstand. The nurse wouldn’t tell him what was in it, but it quickly dawned on him: One of his testicles had been removed. Life will never be the same for Fadi Darabiya.

Darabiya is a 24-year-old construction worker who supported his parents and his siblings. For two years now he has been sneaking into Israel, where he would work at various construction sites in the south for between 10 days and two weeks before returning home for a few days and then starting the cycle all over again. For about NIS 100 per day, almost any young Palestinian is ready to take the risk of infiltrating into Israel. Darabiya says now that he will never go back to Israel to work. He will never forget the day he was captured, beaten by police officers and lay for hours writhing in pain while denied any medical assistance until he was finally released and a relative rushed him to the hospital.

“There are policemen who hate Arabs so much and they constantly want to prove how loyal they are to the state that they would do anything,” Darabiya says now, thinking of the Israeli officer who kicked him in the crotch; one hard kick that caused internal bleeding and led to necrosis, so that the doctors had no choice but to remove one of his testicles. When he sought to file a complaint with the police a few weeks later, he was threatened with arrest for having been in the country illegally. “Either we arrest you and you spend two months in jail and then you can file a complaint, or you give up on the complaint,” a detective named Miriam at the Kiryat Arba police station said. Fadi turned around and walked out, abandoning the idea. The Israel Police are not investigating.

We met Darabiya this week in a furniture store in the town of Dura, south of Hebron, where he has since found work as a driver. He has a neat beard and gelled hair, but his pale face and hushed speech attest to the trauma he has undergone. In Israel, he worked construction in Gan Yavne, Segev Shalom and Be’er Sheva. He spent his nights in the skeletons of the houses he was building. Like everyone else, he returned home through the last gaps in the separation fence in the south. On Sundays, when he and his friends would return to work, they had to be on the lookout for the Border Police officers who lay in ambush for them everywhere, hunting the laborers who come to Israel to build its homes.

On Sunday, April 13, Fadi began working at about 7 A.M. That weekend he and three friends from Dura had, with the owner’s permission, slept in a finished home nearby that was not yet occupied. “Just be careful,” the owner had told them.

Fadi worked on the roof, the others on the first floor. After about an hour, he noticed two mounted police officers approaching. They dismounted, entered the site and apprehended two of Fadi’s friends. The other managed to escape. Then the officers – one, a Russian immigrant, the other from Ethiopia, Fadi says – came up to the roof and trapped him. The Russian took Fadi by the neck and brought him down to the first floor. He took Fadi’s ID card. The Ethiopian grabbed Fadi’s arms and held them behind his back. Fadi says he didn’t try to resist. “Who’s your boss?” the Ethiopian officer asked, and Fadi said that he was a Jew and that he was on the way. The second officer stood in front of Fadi, whose hands were being held behind his back, without a word of warning whatsoever, kicked him hard in the crotch. Fadi felt as if the world was spinning around him. The officers dragged him outside, to two waiting police cars. His two friends were already sitting inside one of them. The second held five other Palestinian laborers without permits to work in Israel, who had been apprehended earlier.

Fadi says he yelled in pain. He was put in the cruiser and driven to the Gan Yavne police station, where he was placed on a bus with other Palestinian laborers. He was in too much pain, however. “I tried to get off the bus, but the policemen wouldn’t let me. I tried again and again, but they stopped me.” Eventually the officers relented, and the bus stopped to let off Fadi. He lay there on the road, half-conscious and shouting in pain. The police refused his friends’ pleas to summon medical help.

One officer gave him a bottle of water, and after about an hour he was returned to the bus. It carried 17 Palestinian workers. By the time they reached Kiryat Malakhi, Fadi realized the injured area was badly swollen and he says he knew he was hemorrhaging. At the town’s police station he again lay on the ground, writhing in agony. He says that when he pleaded for a doctor or ambulance one of the officers said, “You’re lying. You’re trying to escape. You’ll get well by yourself. You don’t need a doctor.”

From 1 P.M. until 4, Darabiya lay on the road next to the police station. No one tried to help him. At about 4 P.M. he was asked to sign a declaration indicating that he had not been mistreated, as a condition for his release. All the laborers were forced to sign. “Because of my condition I had to sign. I knew I needed to get to a hospital.” They were brought to the Tarqumiya checkpoint and sent on their way at around 4:30 or 5 P.M.

From the checkpoint, Fadi called a cousin, who came in his car and rushed Fadi to the Alia government hospital in Hebron. A CT scan indicated that he needed emergency surgery. The doctors said he was bleeding internally.

When he woke up the next morning, after the operation, he saw a plastic jar by his bed containing the testicle that had been removed. It embarrasses him to talk about it. “I was destroyed when I saw that.” After three days he was discharged and sent home to rest for another 10 days. Then he went to relatives in Jordan to recover emotionally from the ordeal.

But before doing so Fadi contacted Musa Abu Hashhash, the Hebron District field researcher for the B’tselem human rights organization, and asked him how he could ensure that proper punishment was meted out to the officer who kicked him. Abu Hashhash advised him to lodge a complaint with the police.

On April 29, after Abu Hashhash arranged for his visit to the police station in Kiryat Arba – no simple matter – Fadi was referred to a detective named Miriam. He told her that he wished to file a complaint against the officer who had assaulted him. After Fadi admitted that he had been in Israel without a permit, Miriam told him: “First we’ll arrest you, for illegal residency, and you’ll pay a NIS 2,000 fine, you’ll sit in jail for two months, you’ll be brought to trial and after that you can file a complaint.”

A police translator suggested that Fadi sit down, smoke a cigarette and consider his options: a fine, two months in detention and only then the right to file a complaint, or to forget the whole thing and go home. Fadi, of course, chose to go home, frustrated, crippled and bitter.

“I’m an emotional wreck,” Fadi mutters softly. “I can’t do physical labor now, and I’ll never go to work in Israel again.”

The Southern District Police Spokesperson’s Office issued the folllowing response: An examination of the evidentiary material in our possession did not reveal any claim of violence against him on the part of the complainant, or even any request for medical care.

After the suspection were questioned they were transported to the Tarqumiya checkpoint. Any claim of violence on the part of police officers must be submitted to the Police Investigations Department so that an investigation can be initiated.