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Occupation magazine - Life under occupation

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Ofer`s stains
Aya Kaniuk and Tamar Goldschmidt

According to the indictment, on February 3rd, you and Khaled put together two improvised rifles, hid them, and two days later you met Farkhan and together with Khaled you went out to fire them at the settlement of Migdal Oz. You took the rifle you had stashed, and gave Farkhan three bullets. You remained on the spot, while they went out and fired three bullets at the settlement industrial plant. Do you understand?

A scrawny kid with protruding ears that only emphasize his baby face looked at her with empty eyes. After all Judge Sharon Rivlin Akhai addressed him ceremoniously, in Hebrew, and neither of the two interpreters, busy giggling among themselves, translated her words for him. His gaze does not even seek them, does not even silently request an explanation.
Indeed he confessed all that was attributed to him, be it as it may. And who knows what the truth is, did he really put together those rifles, and what does that mean, and did they hand out three bullets or five or any at all, after all this is a plea bargain. Meaning that if he admits guilt, he will be doing less prison time than if he does not.
This is the message he received, and it is also the truth. For in the military court, grounds for custody are nearly always incriminations, nothing else. The incriminators too are usually also taken into custody, or are already detained. In this case, Noor was incriminated by another boy, or boys. They, too, were picked up at night. Without their parents having the right to accompany them, without any other adults, alone, taken in, mostly beaten up on the road, and sent for interrogation, where they usually ‘confess’, for they are children and have been told that if they confess, they would be released, and if not, this and that would happen.
But all this is merely to say that whatever the judge, or the prosecutor or even the defense attorney say will make very little difference to Noor, for his fate is foreseen. It is pre-determined regardless of his own personal identity, his age, his deeds whatever they were. The word ‘court’ in this case is camouflage. Empty of content or justice. For this place where he stands trial has no interest in what he actually did. It does not seek the truth. Not even the truth that Israel does not accept or acknowledge, such as the right to defend oneself against violence, occupation, the right to rise up. Even this question is not investigated. For if they had wanted to investigate it, they would not rely on such evidence.
Why are there no efforts made in this case, as in all others, to seek facts? Where is the rifle? The bullets? All they have are children who incriminated one another while being interrogated by Shabak agents, without any probation officer or parents or some kind of other decent defense of their rights. And since when does incrimination count as fact? Since when is a confession tantamount to fact? It is because this court is nothing but another arm of occupation, control and oppression. A unit in the army, serving the army.
The boy Noor already knows this. That is why he would not even try to listen, even if trouble was taken to translate into Arabic all that is being done over his head and disregarding him. His fate is not in his hands anyway. Not a function of his deeds or lack thereof. Only of his identity. His origin.
His mother, whom he has not seen for about two months, is present in the courtroom. He looks only at her as she sits at my side. I glance at her. A very young woman. Tense. Clasping her hands again and again.
Only two family-members are allowed to attend the trial, and she is alone. I wondered. But did not ask her. Perhaps because this is too personal. As well as not wanting to deprive her of these precious stolen moments of seeing her child. Whom she will see only this way in the court sessions that still await him. For this is the usual system. Strange dates, far-apart will be set time and again, and nothing would be investigated in between. At most, more confessions and incriminations will be added. At the end of which Noor might be accused of this or that, which he may or may not have committed. But there will be a plea bargain, or there already is one.
At best, he will be sentenced to the long months he has already done in prison, and a heavy fine for why not squeeze money as well from the have-nots. Or, at worst, for a longer sentence.
So in these important moments, in a toneless voice she tells him things and he nods. For a moment, his face breaks into a smile. The next moment he bites his lips. I recognize family matters. Aunt. Wedding. His little sister. Things like that.
And why is your face bruised from beatings, she asks with a worried look. His two cheeks are swollen unnaturally, and inflamed as if he had been punched in the face. When he was caught, he explains to her. Trying to speak as though of trifles, wearing a brave, ridiculous, touching mask of courage.
Her tears begin roll, and then so do his. He lowers his face. She finally pulls herself together, once again finding inside herself the mother’s smile. And on and on they kept.

The case is set for further review on May 8, said Judge Sharon Rivlin Akhai.
The child opens his little mouth and drops it again, nervously pulling on a string bracelet. His left leg trembles and occasionally he grips it in his hands to calm himself.
His mother sews her tears inside herself.

Daud داود ăŕĺă
Daud. Get up please.
Daud sits beside Noor. Noor’s right hand is shackled to Daud’s left. He is older than Noor, already a grown youth. Judging by his looks, perhaps 17-years old. None of his family members is present. His gaze is withheld. He rises. His gaze still withdrawn.
On March 5, at a Hebron checkpoint, says Judge Sharon RIvlin Akhai in Hebrew, and no one translates this into Arabic, you held a knife with a 20-centimeter-long blade hidden under your jacket. You tried to go through inspection, and only after the metal-detector bleeped did you say you had a knife on you.
The boy stares into the void with vacant eyes.
The prosecutor says, I’d like to postpone this session for a few days in order to get the file to the defendant’s defense attorney.
He has been in prison for over a month now, did the prosecution not have ample time to get the file over to the defense?

Next review on May 8, says the judge in her routine voice.
She seems indifferent to the fact that he has already been in detention for over a month after admitting the facts and is apparently not accused of anything else.
She does not wonder why a boy would carry a knife to a checkpoint that is equipped with a metal-detector, knowing full well that such a device is there to detect knives.
This is not a question she asks, she is not even likely to wonder – after so many similar instances when boys or youths showed up at a checkpoint or elsewhere to be caught with a knife on their person, and declared they were carrying one as in the case of Ayoub Shehade, for example. And not only he.
Does this not mean that the knife, more than attesting to his violent intentions, is evidence of a state of mind, and certainly not of intent. Perhaps he wanted to be caught , and if so, why?
Did the Shabak send him, as she well knows sometimes happens? Paid him? Perhaps such rumors have not reached her?
And perhaps his parents absence from the court is connected to this? To this non-survival act?

All these obvious conjectures have not crossed her mind. And perhaps they have but she never mentioned them nor complained.
For she is a pawn in the occupation forces. Her presiding over the court has nothing to do with justice or truth, but only being another cog in the craft of oppression. The rubber stamp. Here he is, already sitting in custody for something that is known and which he has admitted and not denied, and she is sending him back for another month’s detention?
Why is she abandoning him to more interrogations? This boy is not even 18-years old.
Israeli occupation does in fact define childhood differently for Palestinians and for Jews, true. A Palestinian boy according to Israel is an adult for all practical purposes. For a Palestinian boy is not a boy but a Palestinian. Not “who” but “what”. This is his appellation, this is his identity, and this is his fate.
Notify the family, says the judge to the defense attorney whom the court has just appointed. The boy, not understanding Hebrew, continues standing with his lost, inward gaze, his young back bent.
Under further observation, it seems that not the Israeli conquest began his harassment. He bears an extra wake of his own, transparent to the Children’s Judge. Like him.

îçîă محمد Muhammad
A child sits in the courtroom. On the benches sits his father.
They came at night, he says, his voice cracked. They claim he threw stones, but this is not true. It is not true.
The child cries. Thin. Small. Already in jail for four days, for the first time in his life.
He was born in the United States, the father said. Do you think this could help him?
And we thought it could. It’s all about identities anyway. Origins. Between the river and the sea there are two systems of law, justice and morality. On the one hand citizens, and on the other – transparent people. Perhaps his being an American will color him with some identity. Perhaps.
Go to the consulate, we said. Tell them.
(A first report of his case was issued by Addameer and the DCI who were there in court that day, along with several English parliamentarians).
We returned to Palestine in 1999, the father tells us painfully. We live in Silwad. We come and go.
They came at 2 o’clock at night. The soldiers told us all to get into one room. Without him. Without Mohammad. Said he should stay by himself. He’s a child… And they wanted him to go with them. He’d just gotten out of bed. Not dressed. I said this was not right. They should let him get dressed, go to the bathroom. Finally they let him. Go to the bathroom. And put something on his feet, not to go out barefoot. He was only shackled, not blindfolded like others. Only cuffs on his wrists, that’s it. And he went.
Evidently he tries to think his intervention helped somehow. That his fatherhood was there for his son.
It’s only a child, he repeated. Fourteen.

He does indeed look like a child. The skinny legs try to manage the shackles on his ankles. Climbing the bars surrounding the detainees’ seats, and coming down to the floor again. A policeman was just standing and giving testimony. Many are incriminated in this case, he tells the judge.
Defense attorney: Show the full list.
Prosecutor: One of the incriminators is under interrogation at present. We’ll bring them in the next few days.
Judge: You do not have the full list?
The policeman says, no, there isn’t such a list. But fifteen boys have been named.

It is a known fact that when a child is arrested as suspect or just at random, often he is required to name fifteen others, and then he can be released. This is what the Shabak interrogators tell him. Always fifteen. That number emerges time and again in the testimonies, along the years.
A while ago the son of our friend from Qalandiya refugee camp was arrested. He and several other boys who were just standing near the checkpoint were heaped into a jeep, where they were beaten with rifle butts, punched and kicked. During their ride they were accused of things in Hebrew, a language that none of these boys understand. In his interrogation, this boy told his father and us, he was required to name fifteen others and then he’d be released.
It was nighttime and our friend phoned, and we pulled some strings attached to our “white”, “worthy” and “Jewish” color, and through our “white”, “Jewish” connections finally managed to have the boy released at the end of that night.
Just him, not the others. The exception that does not prove the rule.
They asked for fifteen names and I didn’t name them, said our friend’s son, with slack, doubtful courage.

Defense attorney: First of all, at hand is a detainee who has already delivered a police version according to which he associates himself with the deeds of which he is suspect. After all he has confessed and is suspect of no further issues to be investigated. If there is truth in his claim that the other boys incriminated are suspect, then there is nothing linking their interrogations with my client’s. Therefore there is no further ground to hold him in further custody.
He has confessed to everything that has been said about him. Furthermore, he claims the policemen at the station hit him for no reason. Not his interrogator, but the policemen, right after he had been interrogated.
Thus I believe there is no point in returning him to the detention facility (where he was beaten) and request his release.

Here is my ruling, said the judge after a moment`s thought: I have reviewed the interrogation file, and conclude that the defendant does confess. It is therefore doubtful that he should actually be held in custody for four more days for interrogation in case one of the other suspects’ versions will necessitate his corroboration. Indeed this is a fourteen-and-a-half-year old boy, and in spite of the fact that evidence ties him to serious violations, his time in custody should be shortened and the investigation hurried.
In view of this, considering his age and at the request of the investigating officer, I accept the custody extension request. The suspect will be held until 1 p.m. on Tuesday, for there are numerous incriminated suspects who must be interrogated for corroborated. Until that time the police will make an effort to terminate this investigation.

In other words, the judge is sending a child back to the place where, according to him, he was beaten – for four more days. After having admitted his guilt in the violations attributed to him. In spite of the fact that no other accusation has been made.

American or not, child or not, confessing or not, suspect or not, beaten or not – he is Palestinian. Everything amounts to this. He is not a “who” but a “what”. He has no proper name. He is guilty unless proven otherwise. This is his being. His destiny.

ëîŕě كمال Kamaal

Judge: Who is Kamal?
Kamal rises. A tired-looking young man. Very tanned. His eyes are soft. He does not resemble the rest, although it is hard to point out how. Perhaps his strange fatigue and sadness. And the feeling that the world weighs upon him, which will prove correct.

Prosecutor: We have a serious violation here. Ground violation lasting a whole week during which the defendant tricked the security fence.

Tricked the security fence, apparently means crossing it in spite of its presence, but at a place where it does not exist. Namely, tricking it, the fence. Perhaps tricking in the sense of deceiving it. Bypassing it without its noticing his doing so…

The defendant indeed admits that he exited through the security fence, the prosecutor continues. And then paid someone to drive him to Har Etzyon.
He also admits that between 2002 and 2013 he often entered Israel. He further admits having been caught several times, and being imprisoned twice.
Twice, records were opened. In 2005 the defendant was tried in court for a Shabak violation, namely presenting a false identity and using a counterfeit document, for which he was sentenced to three months imprisonment suspended for two years. In 2008 he was tried again for a Shabak violation and sentenced to a 5-month prison term.
This time, he is incriminated by the policeman who arrested him, and by witness-for-the-prosecution no. 3, who shows that he has not held a permit to enter Israel since 2001. The prosecutor directs the judge’s attention to a recent ruling setting no distinction between an indictment in a military court in the area, and one in a court inside Israel. For it is evident (having taken another person’s identity in order to work) that he is not afraid of prison and reckons with the professional risk of seeking employment without a permit. This is the link to the present violation, and one can therefore conclude that he will enter Israel yet again.

Defense attorney: First of all, I must point out that my colleague of the prosecution elaborated as though this man has just arrived from Afghanistan… After all we are talking here of a defendant who entered Israel in order to work and feed his family. Therefore, even if he did take on a false identity, it was for the sake of working for his livelihood. That is why he crossed the fence. He did not enter with intention to cause harm to security, or to steal anything. We are speaking only of entering Israeli territory in order to work.
Referring to the files of 2005 and 2008, we see that there too violation was not for theft or harm but entry into Israel in order to work for a living. His economic circumstances have forced him to do so. There are several harsh reasons for this: one is that my client’s father suffers heart disease and is incapable of working. Second, his father has two wives. Their family includes six males and twelve females. This means my client has to feed a family of twenty. The livelihood of twenty persons is upon him. I shall prove to the judge that no one else in the family works. The girls are all below twenty years of age, and the boys under ten. This means that only he can work.
I also present to the court a first precedent referring to a person entering Israel, in 2012.
A man who had twelve indictments for entering Israel under false pretenses. That person was released upon appeal.
The other precedent is a young man who entered Israel ten times and was charged with false identity as well. But his case was even more serious – he held a fake ID. He too was released with bail.
In light of this, I ask for my client to be released under bail, with the signature of a third party and self-guarantee. For this he will reach the police station at his place of residence.
I ask for him to released de facto, for this case is one of economic circumstance that I have iterated above, and because his father is seriously ill.

The judge, Avri Einhorn, attorney on reserves duty, as judge, presiding over Ofer military court, reviews his papers. Obviously he is picking his words carefully. Then he spoke.
Ruling: having gone over the interrogation material and especially the confessions of the defendant of April 3rd, I realize there is sufficient evidence at this point as well as the arrest grounds. I must reiterate that this is not someone with a clean record who entered Israel once to seek work and feed his family.
Contrary to the ruling that the defense attorney brought to the attention of the court, this is a defendant who has repeatedly committed the same deeds, and admitted it himself. He has entered Israel often to seek work, and therefore has been charged in various courts for the same violation.
In spite of his will to feed his family, as he says, he did not hesitate to enter Israel often without the necessary permit.
Therefore his case is not similar to the ones described in the ruling cited by the defense.

The ruling cited by the defense pertains to a person convicted for assuming a false identity and entering Israel, similar to Kamal’s convictions, but there is one difference: that person did not say he was seeking work.

So what is this judge saying? That seeking work is exactly what makes Kamal’s attempt more severe a violation than the other examples? Does the judge mean that if Kamal were to pretend to be someone else and enter Israel not in order to work, his crime would be less serious? And more deserving of consideration?
What was his distinct and special crime? Seeking bread?

Nor has any explanation been given to the court why none of the defendant’s 17 siblings could not help with the family’s livelihood, Judge Avri Einhorn continues.

No explanation? Does he think children under the age of ten can work for livelihood?
Or girls, of their ages and in their society?

Therefore, the court does not see fit to consider the defendant’s release. He rules that custody be extended. A further session was set for mid-May.

Stunned, the defense attorney stares at the judge in disbelief. In spite of the fact that obviously the defense attorney knows that a military court is nothing but an arm of the ruling power, of Occupation, and everyone is considered guilty. That a Palestinian is convicted of his Palestinian identity a-priori regardless of what and if he has done, and that neither justice nor truth are at stake, but rather the preservation of the ruling power’s interests. Apparently, this time something in Kamal’s story somehow removed that thick skin necessary in such a place. Perhaps, we think, something happened to this defense attorney, that happens to everyone, even facing the routine, permanent, usual and repetitive order of things.
Even at Ofer.
A kind of moment when suddenly one refuses to accept this horrible, malignant injustice that has taken over everything between the river and the sea. The refusal to accept the fact that a man wishing to be human is convicted precisely for this. Because he is human
And apparently hearing the description of Kamal’s “crimes”, that even for the prosecutor and the judge were nothing more than going out to earn his living, and for this reason he must be regarded as a criminal – suddenly becomes inconceivable, insufferable. We think he was actually weeping. His face, at any rate, was very flushed.
For our part, we thought this hard-hit young man actually deserves a reward for the fact that in spite of endangering his security and freedom, he repeatedly tries to enter Israel to work in order to feed his younger siblings.
What could be nobler? More just?
We kept silent, however. Not because of court ceremony, but for fear of causing him only harm. So we smiled at Kamal. There was nothing else to do. And he smiled back.

The defense attorney was very flushed. He was obviously at a loss for words. He lowered his face for a moment, then raised it again. He was clearly trying to get himself in grip again. Then, without looking at his client, whose face remained unchanged the whole time and did not understand a word of what was said, anyway (for the interpreters, as usual, never bothered to translate it into Arabic and were busy with their own stuff), turned to the judge again. This time his voice was pleading.
You don’t understand, he feeds them all… Bail can be supplied. He… is responsible for twenty people… Perhaps the attorney was already whispering at this point, but this is what we thought he heard him say.
The judge did not reply immediately. He was clearly amazed. Wondering. Searching for words to say what for him was clear-cut and simple and absolute.
You don’t understand, sir? He has dozens of such cases behind him and you expect him to be released? I suggest you read what you present to this court. Another session will be held on May 8th.
In a month’s time.
I ask you sir, the defense attorney again appealed to the judge, his words hastily topping over each other: I’ll bring his father’s medical record, he was only looking for work, even you said so…
The judge: You don’t seem to understand because you continue arguing. So either appeal or file a request for a repeat review.
And please take out this defendant already.
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