Tuesday, November 24, 2020

‘A show of force’: Israeli army raids in the West Bank

By J.J. Rhies - April 28, 2019
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [child arrests] [raids]

Sitting with members of the Tamimi family in their home in Nabi Saleh, a village of 600, Abed, a father of four, explained how the Israeli military’s presence - including frequent raids on their home - has destroyed his hope for the future.


“I [have] become angrier at them and more hateful of them. They take me further from the idea of ... peace,” he said.


Six months ago, his 13-year-old son Mohammed was beaten and “dragged on the ground” by Israeli soldiers while watching a clash between soldiers and village youth from afar, he said. Mohammed was detained and threatened by interrogators, but his captors released him later that evening.


Additionally, between 2014 and 2017, their home was raided four times by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) personnel, yielding no arrests. The soldiers would enter the home after midnight and with force, according to Abed Tamimi.


During the raids, soldiers woke everyone up, photographed them and examined their ID cards, which is typical for “mapping” operations, where soldiers collect the basic information of entire Palestinian towns for Israeli military and intelligence purposes.  


“They don’t get anything out of us, and then they move on to the next house. And that’s what they keep doing until morning,” he explained.


The raids were “not an interrogation,” but instead involved questions about “things that are already in my ID card, like my name, my age.”


According to a Breaking the Silence video testimony from Eyal Weinberg, “[t]here are layers of information on every person or family in the Palestinian territory.” During such operations, soldiers record “every possible detail of the house and its residents.”


“It wasn’t ... about terrorist[s],” Weinberg said of the IDF operations. “We had to map the entire civilian population.”


'Designed to intimidate’


Walla’a Mughrabi, an analyst for Physicians for Human Rights—Israel (PHRI) who is currently conducting research on the psychological and social effects of raids on Palestinians, said the impacts are especially severe for children.


“99 per cent of children [who experience a raid] have trauma ... and separation symptoms.” And many exhibited a “lack of commitment to school and education. Many young people didn’t go back to school. They didn’t have the motivation for studying ... . And they have many problems with focusing.”


Some children become physically ill after a raid, as a result of their stress and trauma, according to Mughrabi. Additionally, those under 10 not only stopped going to school, but often experienced “attachment” issues with their parents, unable to leave their mother or father’s side. Others developed a bedwetting reflex.


According to a website statement by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, IDF raids are part and parcel of the “occupation regime in the West Bank,” and are “designed to intimidate the population.” Raids do not require a search warrant, and soldiers are “sent in at any time and place their commanders see fit.”  


A 2017 report by the organization claimed that Israeli forces “raid Palestinian homes in Areas A and B” - regions that are not under full Israeli control - “on a nearly daily basis.”


Children who have experienced a raid may adopt violent habits and patterns of behaviour, Mughrabi said. “They use violence ... they repeat it, they act it.”


Tamimi explained that as a result of his children’s trauma, which “began with the very first raid in this village[,] ... the children’s favourite game is ... 'Army and Arabs.’”


“It is a product of the violence, of what is inflicted upon the children in this environment,” he said.


'This is our life’


The family home of Bilal Tamimi (a cousin of Abed), also in Nabi Saleh, has been raided “seven or eight times” since 2011. The IDF incursions are so frequent, Bilal Tamimi said, that “[w]e expect them to happen at any time, and we know that any one of us could be arrested.”


The fears of Bilal Tamimi’s family are born of frequent, and deeply affecting, experiences: not only has the home been raided almost annually since 2011, but his wife and son Mohammad have both been arrested during the forays. Mohammad was 18 years old at the time of his arrest. Samer, another son, was arrested at 11 years old when Israeli forces stormed the village.


The majority of the raids on the family were “mapping” operations. But the raid that resulted in Mohammad’s arrest was conducted specifically for him, as a result of participating in stone-throwing during a clash. He was detained and sentenced to 18 months and will be released later this year, in September.


Bilal Tamimi said Mohammad was expecting to be arrested long before 18. Beginning in 2011, when he was just 11 years old, he went to bed fully clothed in case he would be arrested in the middle of the night.


“We believe that he was traumatized, that he was expecting to be arrested, interrogated and punished. ... [M]any nights we woke up and found him near the windows [watching for Israeli soldiers], wearing all his clothes.”


Mohammad was held in solitary confinement for 23 days. When his family visited him after three weeks, he had lost eight or nine kilograms and couldn’t focus, his father said. A week later, during his trial, his concentration was worse still.


“When we were about to leave [court],” he said, “He asked the lawyer, 'Who is this old woman with my father and mother?’” It was his grandmother.


IDF raids are mostly arbitrary, functioning primarily to demean people and interrupt their lives, Bilal Tamimi said. They are “a show of force,” he said. “[T]hey don’t have reasons [for raiding us]; they only want to humiliate people ... or make their lives miserable.”


“[W]e know that we have to live this life; we have to go through anything at any time; anyone could be arrested, could be injured, could be killed at any minute here. But this is our life. We don’t have another choice. We refuse to leave our country ... But yes, we know it’s difficult.”


“Every day is maybe worse than the day before, but we know that we should continue in this life and should not keep silent.”

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