Dehaishe Palestinian youth and the IDF’s heavy-handed policies

I am addressing those who have a sense of humanity, asking them to be aware of IDF practices against my people.

August 21, 2016 21:15
3 minute read.
A driver stops his vehicle in front of an IDF soldier who is aiming his weapon at demonstrators

A driver stops his vehicle in front of an IDF soldier who is aiming his weapon at demonstrators during clashes with Palestinians in Jalazoun refugee camp. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Roving groups of foreigners are a familiar scene at Dehaishe refugee camp. One time I was accompanying a group of American tourists who were curious to hear the Palestinian narrative from elderly people who had witnessed pivotal events in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The tourists wondered about the lack of pedestrians in the streets before noon. I explained that it was due to the IDF soldiers, who prefer to visit us late at night. They didn’t understand, so I explained that the camp is used to sleeping later in the morning because of clashes with the Israelis when the army comes after midnight.

I heard an astounding statement yesterday while attending a peace event at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. When I introduced myself there was astonishing puzzlement among the Israeli peace activists. “A son of Dehaishe camp!” This camp was stuck in their memories of the first intifada and before, when Dehaishe was the source of many attackers of Israeli buses, who used to pass by the camp on the way to Gush Etzion. In those days, before the tunnel road, the road ran past the camp in Bethlehem. I assumed that many of them had served as soldiers in that era in Dehaishe, or been on the buses run by the Nesher company. They must have wondered how the camp could beget a refugee who attends peace conferences with Israelis.

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I recognized then the absence of the real media coverage on both sides, which has resulted in a lack of reporting on a routine situation that occurs all over the West Bank on many nights and specifically in refugee camps, namely the nightly intrusion by the IDF soldiers. There is widespread ignorance of this phenomenon.

For nearly a month the Dehaishe camp has been subjected to frequent night attacks by the IDF. It has become routine for residents to wake up to the sound of explosions and live fire. There has been a deliberate policy of excessive use of force, including deploying snipers against Palestinian youth who confront the IDF. For instance the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR) has received 15 wounded with direct shots to the legs in less than a month. The injuries all occurred close to the knee and joint, which means the shots were not meant to kill, but to cause a specific result. One of those I met at BASR actually wished he had been killed; his leg had been amputated.

This systematic policy of nighttime intrusions against the West Bank in general and Dehaishe camp specifically must become known to those in the Israeli public concerned about IDF practices in the West Bank. This policy violates all international laws and norms through the excessive and unjustified use of force against unarmed people. Furthermore it violates Israeli human rights concepts and ethics that the Israeli leadership speak about in international forums, which prohibit IDF soldiers from instilling panic and horror in infants, children and women, sick and elderly people under any circumstances. The feeling of panic and weakness at the same time is one of the worst feelings that can be experience. I don’t wish this feeling even on an enemy.

I want to address the rational people in Israeli society and the Israeli state, that is based on laws and freedom. I am addressing those who have a sense of humanity, asking them to be aware of IDF practices against my people. I appeal to you so that we won’t have a cycle in the future where people will once again be so surprised to meet a “son of Dehaishe.” People should stand with us and others from refugee camps, to have more peace talks and peace actions, not to have more amputees losing legs in rehabilitation.

I am addressing you to support me for attending future peace actions and events while all of my focus should be on how we can drive peace talks to reality, not distracted by how my brother may live with one leg. You should want to strengthen our confidence that there is an Israeli peace partner for a peaceful and safe future. You should support those like Judoka Ori Sasson and his outstretched hand, not those like his Egyptian opponent who refused to shake his hand.

The hatred being sown today will grow into bitter wine if you do not.

The author is a resident of Dehaishe refugee camp.

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