Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Israeli posters target parents of “terrorist” children

By Mike J.C. - February 05, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]

In the dark morning hours of Tuesday 28 January, Israeli forces raided the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Abu Dis and al-Eizariya. In addition to detaining a dozen youth and ransacking two homes, Jerusalem police also left behind posters meant to threaten and intimidate the parents of defiant youth.

Night raids and arrests are nothing new for these Palestinian communities. With Israel's massive concrete separation barrier completely cutting them off from Jerusalem's core neighborhoods, and with an Israeli military base perched in the heart of Abu Dis, and with expanding Israeli settlements slowly strangling the densely populated Palestinian areas, street clashes with frustrated youth are inevitable. Children and young adults regularly throw stones at the military jeeps patrolling their streets, and sometimes lob Molotov cocktails over the walls of the military base. 

In response, Israel punishes the entire community, often firing teargas indiscriminately at surrounding homes, conducting several night raids a week, and hosing down the streets and buildings with a putrid artificial 'skunk’ water. The aim of Israel’s collective punishment is to turn the community against the stone throwers and their families. 

The posters are the latest manifestation of the divide-and-rule policy. Featuring the pictures and names of ten fathers from the communities, and a message from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), hundreds of the posters were left in the streets and put up on shop doors and windows. 

The message, written in Arabic, reads:

 “We hereby notify you that your children are involved in terrorist operations against citizens of the state of Israel. Practices by those young men endanger innocent citizens, and if they do not stop what they are doing, the IDF will have to take action to stop these practices. You are responsible for your children’s actions. If you don't stop them, tough restrictions will be imposed and will negatively affect your lives. Residents of Abu Dis! If you want to avoid having your photos on a post like this, stop the terrorist attacks your kids are practicing. Guide them to end these aggressive actions, for their safety and their future. Stop them before it's too late. He who warns is excused!” The closing remark is an ominous threat of worse to come.

The middle-of-the-night poster distribution was accompanied by a massive military incursion into the two East Jerusalem villages, with dozens of military jeeps and hundreds of soldiers fanning out through the streets. Fierce clashes erupted throughout, and by the time the army withdrew, they had taken away twelve boys and young men.

One of the youth detained was Mushab Salah, 15 years old. The next day, his family welcomed the Palestine Monitor into their home, and we spoke over tea with the help of a local translator, Abdullah, from the Abu Dis popular resistance committee. 

According to the family, after two in the morning, there was a knock at the door. Fawzi, father of five sons, opened it to see that the army had surrounded the home, and eight soldiers were waiting to enter. They came into the living room and asked Fawzi to name his sons. He listed all five and was told they had come to take Mushab. When asked why, they responded that the boy was involved in terrorist activity – throwing stones.

“He is just a boy,” Fawzi recalls saying, but to no avail. In minutes, Mushab was handcuffed and blindfolded outside, then taken away in a military jeep. 

The family later learned that their son had been taken directly to the military base, a few blocks away, then to the police station at the major settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, a few kilometers away, before finally ending up at Ofer Prison, a major Israeli detention facility in the West Bank. The family has not been able to see or speak with their son, and there is no indication of how long he may be detained.

“We want to live as other people live, in freedom,” Fawzi says. “As you live in peace, we want peace. As you live in freedom, we want freedom.” 

Mushab’s mother, Immam, is a slight figure with a delicate round face and large dark eyes. “We are a people under occupation, and we do what people usually do under occupation. We resist this occupation. And this is not terrorism.” She is dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief to keep her mascara from running. “They kill our children, they arrest our children, and they took our land. What do they want us to do? To be calm, or accept the occupation? No, we will resist.” 

“Our son is in a small prison,” she adds. “But we too live in a prison, a big prison.” 

My hosts explain that even to go to the Jerusalem hospital, not far away on the other side of the Wall, they require a permit from occupation authorities, which is notoriously difficult to obtain. The nearest practical alternative is a hospital in Beit Jala (Bethlehem), but this option is frequently closed behind a military checkpoint called al-Container. The only other viable option is a hospital in Ramallah, a journey that frequently takes two or more hours given traffic jams at the major intersections near Qalandiya checkpoint, even though Ramallah is only about 20 km away. 

They give a recent example: two and a half months ago, a 14-year-old disabled girl from Abu Dis, named Nour Afanah, developed a fever and shortness of breath (bronchopneumonia, they learned), but when the checkpoint to Bethlehem remained closed, the ambulance turned around and set out for Ramallah instead, and the child died on the way, several hours after initially getting in the emergency vehicle. 

“It’s very difficult here, our life here,” one of Mushab’s aunts says in English. “But we can’t leave our land. No way.”

According to the family and the popular committee coordinator, the local resistance activities enjoy broad support from the residents of the neighborhood. Their strategies and practices disavow the use of guns and explosives, ever since the end of the armed (and disastrous) Second Intifada nearly ten years ago. Instead they encourage the youth to mobilize and target military incursions with stones, frequently barricading streets and forcing the army to withdraw before they can make their arrests. They have also engaged in other forms of creative and symbolic resistance, such as knocking holes in the Jerusalem separation barrier with sledgehammers at events staged before domestic and international media.

However, there are indications that some in the community, especially from the business class, do not support the popular struggle. Some would prefer a milder, more peaceful occupation, rather than incur the military’s harsh collective punishment. But this is precisely the aim of Israel’s strategy—to make the cost of resistance so high that the communities themselves fracture and split, undermining the potential for solidarity and a united uprising. 

While the international community looks the other way, expecting diplomatic negotiations to suddenly provide a solution after more than twenty years of failure, Israeli settlements continue to expand on Palestinian land, and millions of people continue to live without rights, security, or freedom.



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