June 29, 2009 - Boy Arrested in Azzun
At 1:30 am last Sunday morning the village of Azzun was invaded by 120 soldiers, looking for a “wanted” Palestinian. After entering and searching 3 homes (terrorizing the families inside) they entered a 4th where they found whom they were looking for. A 16 year old boy. He was taken in his underwear with no shoes. The parents pleaded that he be allowed to get dressed. The soldiers assured the parents that there was no need as they would only take him for a minute or two and then return him. His parents have not seen him since. Nor do they expect to for awhile.
The family expects that the boy will be taken to a jail near Nablus and interrogated. During this phase he will not be allowed to see anyone: no family, no lawyer, not even the Red Cross. They expect him to be frightened, intimidated, threatened, psychologically tortured and probably also physically beaten. He will be asked to sign confessions in Hebrew that he can’t read. The interrogators will attempt to coerce him into becoming a collaborator. After 12 days the Red Cross will be allowed to visit.
We asked the family if they knew why he was arrested. They shrugged and said they didn’t. Maybe for throwing stones, maybe for being involved in political parties. I had to wonder why being involved in a political party is a crime in the “only democracy in the Middle East?”
The family has been through this before. When their oldest son was 12, he was also taken by soldiers. At that time, the soldiers also promised that they would only take him for a minute or two. He was released 3 years later. Now he is 27 with a family. Upon meeting him one would never guess that his adolescent years were formed in an Israeli jail. Despite Israel being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the conditions in which Palestinian minors are incarcerated are far below these standards. Plus a 16 year old Palestinian is considered to be an adult by Israeli law and a 14 year old can be tried as an adult before a military court. (An Israeli is not considered an adult until the age of 18.)
Of course, one would never have guessed that all eight of the men in the room where my IWPS teammate and I were taking the report had been incarcerated. They are just ordinary men with families and if they are lucky, jobs. Palestinian boys and men are very family oriented in a manner far unlike Westerners. It is not uncommon to see boys and men joyfully playing with and caring for their younger siblings and children. Often men will bring their children to the various meetings I attend here. During the meetings the children will alternate between playing and sitting on their father’s laps, cuddling and resting contentedly. The father will absentmindedly kiss the child, stroke their arms, hug them. They obviously enjoy the physical contact as much as the children do.
Both parents of the arrested boy were playing and cuddling with their grandchildren during the meeting. They have six children, four of which are boys. The oldest boy is the one who spent his adolescent years in an Israeli prison. The third oldest boy was killed by soldiers six years ago when he was a senior in high school. The youngest boy was the one taken on Sunday morning. Despite this tragic circumstance, they were the typical gracious and generous hosts, offering endless rounds of tea, coffee and juice and then even serving us a scrumptious meal when the meeting was over.
We went to the meeting with a friend of IWPS, Abdullah. Before we left his house for the meeting we met his family and had tea in his living room. During this time his 8 year old daughter was playing with him and cuddling. She was obviously handicapped although I don’t think it shows in the pictures here. She can’t talk except to make low growling sounds. She didn’t walk until she was 4 years old. Her muscles are very weak. I’m not sure if she is mentally handicapped too. Abdullah explained to us why his daughter is handicapped. During his wife’s pregnancy in 2001, she had been exposed to tear gas twice. Once in the 4th month and again in the 7th. In the incident of the 7th month, she was running away from soldiers and fell on her stomach.
Did I ever mention that one of the major reasons the village of Jayous decided to stop their regular demonstrations was the health concerns regarding the amount of tear gas exposure to the entire village?