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Madama shepherd beaten and detained by the Israeli army

2 November 2009

Madama farmer On Monday 2 November, Ma’mon Amen Fayis Nassar, a 35 year old man from Madama, near Nablus, was beaten and subsequently detained for 5 hours by Israeli soldiers with no reasoning given. In the morning, he had gone out to his family’s land some 3 km from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar and was clearing the lands of weeds while his sheep were feeding, when he was approached by three Israeli soldiers.

The soldiers promptly attacked him, striking his forehead with a riffle and kicked him while he was lying down. They shouted at him that he was a terrorist and when he grabbed a stone to defend himself with, still on the ground, they pointed their guns at him and told him that they would kill him if he didn’t drop it. He did as ordered and the soldiers handcuffed him with plastic strips, still punching him in the stomach and chest.

He was then forced into a jeep and taken to Huwwara prison, having the strip repeatedly tightened around his hands (a very painful procedure) and still being punched while he was defenseless and at the mercy of the soldiers. After this ordeal, he was put into the prison for 5 hours without any charges.

While awful, this story in itself would surprise few Palestinians. They are used to being at the mercy of the army and they know how brutal and vicious it often is. What makes this story somewhat special is that Ma’mon is mentally disabled, suffering from bouts of epilepsy and difficulty speaking and thinking after he suffered a traumatic head injury in 2004.

Yet, neither Ma’mon nor the rest of his family are unaccustomed to punishment by the Israeli army. The family told us that while their village used to be a peaceful area, there had been attacks on them every year since 2002. They recall at least 20 attacks on Ma’mon alone. Being a shepherd, Ma’mon is among the most vulnerable Palestinians, as he often has to spend a lot of time alone in the fields without other people to witness was happens to him. In 2006, he and his brother were attacked in the field and their house was soon raided by the army, killing one cow and a large number of sheep and chickens. During this ‘military operation’, all of the family was rounded up and handcuffed outside the house.

Ma’mon was put in a coma by the beatings of the army, to the extent that the army had no choice but to send him to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. When they considered him well enough to leave the hospital, he was then imprisoned in Ofer prison, where he was subjected to torture by having a dog on a leash try to attack him, which it did succeed in several times. When he was finally released, he had to spend 3 days in a hospital before he could rejoin the family. At the hospital he had to undergo surgery due to a kidney injury caused by the treatment from the Israeli army. Still today he suffers from chest pain and heavy coughing caused by the multiple attacks.

Aside from the attacks, the Nassar family faces the constant threat of their land being attacked or even stolen by the settlers from the illegal settlements of Yitzhar and Bracha. As the Israeli legal system is an odd mixture of laws from the Ottoman period, the British Mandate and modern Israel, it is jumbled and always used for the benefit of the illegal settlers and against the local Palestinians living under occupation. One such Ottoman law states that if land is not cultivated for 3 years, other people may legally begin to work it and it will officially become theirs after a period. Therefore, the Nassar family is prevented by the army from working around 40 dunams (4 hectares) of their land around Yitzhar and the settlers are just waiting to move in and take it over.

This recent attack illustrates how the army makes it dangerous for farmers all over Palestine to work even the land that is quite far away from the settlement, a deliberate tactic to force them to leave more and more farmland unattended out of fear.