Haaretz ,

June 14, 2010

Amira Hass / Beatings, arrests, nighttime raids and dubious indictments

Israel detains Palestinian children in the middle of the night, holds them in conditions of fear and pain before their interrogations, and interrogates them without the presence of their parents or a lawyer.

By Amira Hass

M., a Haaretz reader from Zichron Yaakov, was disturbed by reports about the manner in which Palestinian children are arrested in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are being detained held in the middle of the night, held in conditions of fear and pain before their interrogations, and then finally interrogated without the presence of their parents or a lawyer.

On March 14, M. wrote the following to attorney Yuri Gai-Ron, the head of the Israel Bar Association: “I am appealing to you to use all of your authority to intervene and put an end to the abusive behavior and violation of the law with regard to children and youths… Any decent citizen silent – and even more so the body you have headed over the past few years – cannot remain silent in the face of the frivolity with which children are kept in detention, interrogated and even condemned.”

On April 22, attorney Linda Shafir, the director general of the bar association, sent a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador. Copies were also sent to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the commander of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank (whose name she did not mention ), and the Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit, as well as to M.

Among other things, Shafir wrote: “In her appeal, Ms. M. mentions that Palestinian children and youngsters from areas of the West Bank are detained under inappropriate circumstances and are held in inappropriate conditions.

It goes without saying that the Israel Bar Association considers the holding of detainees in appropriate conditions to be of supreme importance, from both the legal point of view and on the level of human rights. I should be grateful if the appeal is transferred to all concerned parties, so that possible means of dealing with the situation are examined with a view to eradicating the phenomenon.”

Broken camera

Another Palestinian detainee, though not a child, is Imad Bornat of Bil’in, a photographer and film director. He was arrested in October 2006 by Border Policemen while photographing the weekly demonstration against the separation fence in his village. After being detained for 21 days, he was then kept under house arrest outside his village for a month and a half. Bornat’s trial, during which he was accused of throwing stones and attacking Border Policemen, dragged on for some three years.

This became a routine method of deterring demonstrators in the villages fighting against the separation fence – beatings and arrests, nighttime raids, and indictments based on dubious testimonies.

In April 2009, Bornat was acquitted of all the charges; no trace of anything. He never hit anyone, he never threw any stones. But despite his acquittal, from the police perspective the criminal file remains open, alongside a police order forbidding him to enter Israel (which is five kilometers from his village ). When he required medical treatment, he received some limited exit permits only thanks to the intervention of his lawyer, Gabi Lasky.

Last month Bornat was invited to participate in an event in Tel Aviv organized by CoPro, an Israeli foundation for marketing documentary films. They planned to screen part of the movie he and his partner, Israeli cinematographer Guy Davidi, are busy editing – “Five Broken Cameras.” Haaretz published a short item reporting that Bornat had been prevented from participating in the event.

On the same day, May 26, the Civil Administration issued him a permit in a particularly accelerated move, despite the police’s position. His file remains open, however, in the police computers. Lasky was told last week that she must send the court verdict, evincing Bornat’s acquittal, to the Binyamin police station, which she has already done at least four times.

‘A different aspect of Israel’

On May 27, yours truly received a letter from Amir Merom, the spokesman for the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, in which he wrote: “Your efforts on behalf of upholding human rights, which have been a guiding principle of your work as a journalist over the years, are not supposed to hold back from your readers at Haaretz journalistic facts which are not in line with one organized doctrine or another.

“We read your May 26 article about the photographer from Bil’in, and were left with the impression that your attempt to present the saga vis-a-vis the military authorities and the police was paramount, from your point of view, to the need to add objective factual parameters that would widen the scope of the story for the reader’s benefit and offer a broader spectrum of reference on an already loaded subject.

“Besides the lengthy paragraphs describing, in minute detail, the conduct between the various bodies – which attempt to present Israel in an unflattering light – you mentioned in one general sentence that ‘in November 2008, Bornat was seriously injured in a car accident and required medical treatment in Israel.’ It is most surprising to me that you chose so strange a way to mention the fact that the patient arrived on the threshold of death at Sheba Medical Center, the leading government hospital in the State of Israel, and that his life was saved thanks to the dedicated treatment he received there…

“In addition, I am certain that your readers, who possess varied points of view, will be glad to be exposed to a different aspect of Israel from that described in your article – an aspect of love for human beings, of humanity and compassion.

“As the spokesman for a hospital where Arabs, Jews and members of all faiths are treated alongside one another with the same degree of professionalism and love, I would expect that you would be wise enough to use the abovementioned facts in your upcoming articles on the subject.”

Bornat paid for his hospital treatment.

Waiting for a letter

No reader wrote a letter about the fate of Adib Abu Rahma – a resident of the same village as Bornat, a regular participant in the demonstrations against the separation fence, a 40-year-old taxi driver and a father of nine. He was arrested on July 10, 2009 on the basis of a photograph showing him holding an onion, to be used against tear gas, which a prosecution witness somehow interpreted as a megaphone.

On the basis of incriminations conducted with minors from Bil’in, who had been arrested in the dark of night and held in frightening circumstances, Abu Rahma was charged with incitement, disturbing the public order and entering a military area. Many of the “facts” illicited through these interrogations later turned out to be false.

Abu Rahma has been in jail for 333 days already. on Sunday a military judge found him guilty, as was expected.

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