This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:
- Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi ends his intermittent eight-month-long hunger strike after Israel agrees to release him in December; why a rights group says it marks a turning point in the fight against deportations;
- Mousa Abu Maria of the Palestine Solidarity Project talks about the recent arrests of children by Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Beit Ommar;
- A map of destroyed villages aims to teach Israelis about the Nakba;
- “Think before you take part in occupation and war,” says jailed Israeli refusnik;
- The US State Department says Israel practices “institutional discrimination”;
- News from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, including how British-Danish security firm G4S is feeling the heat of growing international boycotts over its role in providing security services to Israeli detention centers and prisons.
Rush transcript: Mousa Abu Maria of the Palestine Solidarity Project
Mousa Abu Maria: Really, I am very happy to tell the people about the situation in my town, called Beit Ommar, of the children [who are being] arrested by the Israeli army. After 2005, until today, the Israeli army started to arrest many young children from Beit Ommar — the reason because many of them participate in the many useful actions here. And the army were taking photos of them first, and after that they came in the night and arrested them, and they put them in the prisons.
Every year, when we publish a big report about how many children the army arrested, we found sometimes [approximately] 100 kids [per year], and they are between 13 and 18 years old. We have an Israeli lawyer who went to the court to try and release the prisoners, and most of the time, she doesn’t find in the court a strong reason that the Israeli are keeping the kids in the prison. They charge them money sometimes in order to release them. And if the family doesn’t have that money, they’ll be in the prison for more or less six months.
I have met many kids who were released from prison and I have asked them about the condition in the prison. They told me that the condition is very bad, they don’t have medicine, they don’t have doctors sometimes, if someone is sick, they give him only [a pill] but they don’t take them to the clinic, or to the hospital. Also the food is very bad. The education is very bad. And they have a horrible life in the prison.
We also went to the school to ask the teachers about how they feel about the students who are in the prison, and they said they are upset because when the teachers hear from the other students that the army came in the night and arrested some students and they keep them in the prison. We talked about the education. How the army attacks our education here. And I remember from the first intifada until today, the Israeli army occupied our universities and schools, and that’s still until now.
So when we talk about the kids, I talk about … this is something part of my life since a long time, when I was in the prison, this is part of our life. Always, our hope is that the international governments, we ask them to do something for our kids here. We know the international law respects the kids. They cannot be in the prison under 18 years old.
But here in Palestine, when we talk about the situation between Palestinians and Israelis, I saw many times the Israeli kids, the settlers, who always attack Palestinian schools, and the soldiers and Israeli police give support to the Jewish settlers to attack the Palestinian kids. But when we talk about the Palestinian kids, if they make any mistake, no one ever cares about him. The reactions are very hard, they can put them in the prison, they can attack the families sometimes, and the international community don’t do anything [about] that.
So if we want to compare between the Palestinian kids and Israeli kids, the Palestinian kids don’t have any right to leave or study, and the Israeli kids have the full right to do whatever they want, also if they want to attack the schools, and here in Beit Ommar, because we still are under control from the Israeli army, every week soldiers attack Beit Ommar twice, and the way that they arrest the kids, it looks like they are in a war. Before they enter into the house, they explode the door, and they shoot sound bombs, and many times they shoot tear gas and other kinds of bullets.
This is the way how they attack the house before they arrest the kids. And after they arrest the kids, [more] violence comes from the Israeli soldiers. Many times we have recorded the Israeli violence when they arrest the kids, and we’ve taken that to Israeli court to try and stop the Israeli soldiers. But actually we haven’t had any results. No one has [been able] to stop the Israeli army and they still arrest the kids, and put them in bad conditions.
The Electronic Intifada: Mousa, can you talk a little bit more about some of the kids who have been arrested recently? Can you tell us a story about one child you know in Beit Ommar who has recently been arrested, and how his situation is emblematic of the kinds of arrests we’re seeing all over Beit Ommar?
MAM: Yes. I want to talk about a kid, Hamza Ahmed Abu Hashem. His age is 13 years old. I remember a month ago the Israeli army came to his home at 2 in the morning, and they arrested him. And the way they arrested him was in a really very violent way. And after they took him from his home, they moved him to Gush Etzion settlement, because there is a prison there, and they left him for 2 days.
And after that, the Israeli police forced him to call his father, and when Hamza started to call his father, he started to cry. Why? Because the police … told him your father is active, and try to show him how the prison is very bad, and [that he should] not support the nonviolent action. And after that, they told him, you should call Mousa Abu Maria, he should bring money to pay the police, and then we can release you.
So after we paid around $300, and they released him, and I went to the prison to wait for him after he was released, and he started to tell me the way they arrested him from his home and they took him to the settlement. And how the settlers came and started to dance and sing in front of him, they said you are a terrorist boy, and the soldiers are good, and you should be in the prison, not go to school. So … that made me feel that there is something — like when they take him from his home, he is not in a safe area.
Maybe they could put him in a very dangerous situation or they can kill them. And we’re talking about age 13 years old. And these kids, when they [spend] their life in the prison, I believe after that of course he will be a violent person because … the reason why he can sometimes be violent or have a psychological problem because when he [spends] his life in the prison, he doesn’t [spend] his life in the school, or in his family, or between his friends.
And that’s the way how the Israeli occupation, they force our kids here, when they are young, those kids they grow inside the prison, they have no freedom, they have no justice, they have no right to grow the same as other people in the world. This is not human, and I believe that the people everywhere in the world should do some real action to stop the Israeli [army] not to arrest our kids here.
EI: Mousa, finally, can you talk about the initiatives that the Palestine Solidarity Project is taking to protect children and youth of Beit Ommar, and also to protect the land of farmers and villagers in the village?
MAM: Actually, since we’ve started to work in my town, because Beit Ommar is in Area C and is surrounded by six [settlement] colonies, and we know the Palestinian Authority has no authority here in Area C, so for us, we take some responsibility to give our farmers or our people a new hope, and to try to develop any kind of work with them.
So because we have land, and we have a settlement here, our farmers have been attacked by settlers a lot of times, and in the harvest time, the settlement throws the sewage water and damage our food. So the way we can give hope to the farmers is to work with them again and to try and develop the land again. And also to show him ‘you are not alone, we are with you.’
So our organization, the Palestine Solidarity Project, we work with three very important projects here. The first is to support the land near the colony, to make our land more legal, because in Israeli law, any land that is not used in more than three years becomes state land. And the Israelis will take that land and build settlements. Our goal is to develop the land by planting trees ot building greenhouses. Or to do any kind of farming to help him stay on his land. We can do whatever makes the farmers happy here.
And also because we are not allowed to export any fruit, because of the Israelis who still [prevent] our fruit to export from Palestine, we still have a problem here until now. We don’t know what we can do with our fruit in the harvest time. Many fruit we have to throw in the rubbish because we have no place to sell the fruit.
In 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross founded a big market here in the entrance of Beit Ommar, and the Israeli army after that blocked that market and they used it as a camp for the Israeli army. And sometimes when they arrest people from Beit Ommar, they can put them in that market for a few days and after that they transfer them to other prisons.
The second project, and we believe that’s very important here, is to support the nonviolent action in Palestine and people believe that nonviolent action is the only way we can have our freedom. And this is our message to show the international community that we are fighting because we’re looking for our freedom, and the way we struggle here is … we have the right to struggle in this way.
And also to cooperate with the international community to invite them to Palestine, we can show them our daily life, how it goes under occupation, because the international media doesn’t show the international community about our reality here.
The other projects here, we believe the youth have power. And they need education, they need workshops. So our responsibility is to develop our youth here, they can be leaders in the future. They can change the situation here. And they can feel that they have space to work with other people. And I believe that our projects are good for the international community, because we publish reports, we make documentaries films, and we put many pictures about our daily life every day under occupation.