By Richard Frank
2 June 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
Sufian, along with his brother Shaban, father Mohammed, and sister-in-law, were traveling from H1 area to H2 area of the Palestinian city of Hebron. The H1 area is home to around 140,000 Palestinians and is under Palestinian authority control. The H2 area is inhabited by around 30,000 Palestinians and approximately 500 Israeli settlers in 4 illegal downtown settlements and is under Israeli military control. To pass into H2, Sufian and his family were forced to go through an Israeli military checkpoint.
Sufian’s sister in law, who is almost 3 months pregnant, asked to not pass through the X-ray scanner n order to not cause harm to her unborn child. She was permitted to go through a different pass. The others went through the scanner and into H1 area, but the sister-in-law was not allowed to exit at the other side of the checkpoint.
Mohammad approached one of the Israeli soldiers on duty and asked him why he was not letting his daughter-in-law exit the checkpoint. The soldier responded by attacking Mohammed physically, pushing and insulting him. There were 10 soldiers at the checkpoint at the time due to a shift change. Sufian asked the soldier why he was attacking his father, for which he was attacked as well. Shaban remained with his wife, still not permitted to pass, as soldiers handcuffed Sufian.
Israeli police arrived on scene and began asking questions. Sufian told the police not to believe him or the soldier, and instead watch the video footage taken by the checkpoint cameras or bystanders. The soldier who attacked the young men claimed that they had prevented him from doing his job. The policemen then left, leaving Sufian and his family alone with the Israeli soldiers. Sufian was shoved into the wall and forced to sit on the ground even though his hands were tied.
“Why are you doing this to him?” Shaban asked the soldier. He was subsequently handcuffed from behind and both the young men had their IDs taken by the Israeli military.
The brothers were taken to the Tel Rumeida settlements and held for 2 hours. Despite the cold, they were made to sit outside. They say Israeli soldiers were inside laughing as they watched video footage of the ordeal repeatedly. Passing Israeli settlers and soldiers threw insults and swore at Sufian and Shaban.
Eventually, a military doctor was brought to examine the two detainees. When the doctor asked if they needed anything, they asked for some water to which the doctor replied he could not help them in acquiring.
The brothers were taken to the police station where they waited from 6 p.m. to midnight. The Israeli police authorities sided with the soldiers in their claim that they had been sitting peacefully when the two brothers attacked them. Sufian and Shaban were then interrogated before being blindfolded and taken to several unknown locations, sometimes left outside on the ground in the cold.
Eventually the brothers were transferred to Assioun prison. Their clothes were taken and they were given “very dirty jail clothes.” Sufian and Shaban spent 2 days in the prison as their lawyer tried to get Israeli authorities to view the video that proves their innocence. That particular Friday, the police commander in charge of their case was on ‘vacation’ and thus, lower ranking officers were the ones who had ordered imprisonment of the two brothers.
When the Israeli police commander returned on Sunday and watched the video evidence, the charges were changed from ‘attacking a soldier’ to ;obstruction of duty’. The brothers were ordered to pay 2000 NIS (510 U.S. dollars, 410 euros) each as their bail.
Mohammed, father of the two men, was not notified of the charges laid against his sons, their whereabouts, or anything. Only after hiring a lawyer to go investigate was Mohammed aware of their situation.
Sufian and Shaban have never had such an experience although they have encountered Israeli soldiers on a daily basis throughout their lives because the home Mohammed and his sons were born in is only 20 meters from a checkpoint between H1 and H2
When asked if the event has affected his life in anyway, Sufian replied that it has, “made me more determined to stay in this place. Even if I am offered a palace in a better country I will not move. If they lessen my salary I will not move.
“I understand the hard life of prisoners more, and I am not an activist, but my presence here is my form of resistance.”
Richard Frank is a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).