Another story about a rifle butting, but this time the story had a different ending. It had no independent camera documentation, nor European eyewitnesses and Europeans who were injured. This time the GOC Central Command didn't have to express his shock and the chief of staff didn't have to suspend anyone. It was enough for the Investigating Military Police and the military advocate general to determine that "proportional force was used."
This proportional force has resulted in irreversible cognitive damage to the victim. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The place: the Hawwara checkpoint, when it was still manned around the clock, the bottleneck of Nablus, slowing down and limiting egress from the city.
The time: Tuesday, January 20, 2009. The Cast Lead offensive had just ended. The unit: unknown. The striking soldier: apparently named Yitzhak, tall (around 180 cm ), blond/light-skinned. The chief of staff: Gabi Ashkenazi. COC Central Command: Gadi Shamni. The Investigating Military Police officer during the relevant period: Meir Ohana. The Military Advocate General during the relevant period: Avichai Mendelblit, followed by Danny Efroni. The time: about 2 P.M., when traffic through the checkpoint starts to become particularly heavy, jammed and crowded.
The reason for being at the checkpoint: a visit to sisters living in the village south of the checkpoint. The family: Awwad, from the village of Salem, east of Nablus. The siblings: Naim, 36, Mahmoud, 29, Fauzi, 25, Anwar, 22.
Anwar: "We were all coming from different places. We decided to meet at the checkpoint. Mahmoud and I were already toward the middle when we saw our brother, Naim, with his hands cuffed behind his back, blindfolded, being beaten by four soldiers."
Naim, as he recalled the events on May 2, 2010: "I was driving a cab, on the southern side of the checkpoint. My brother Fauzi had just gone through, and the soldiers started saying that his identity card was forged. People coming from the checkpoint told me that he'd been arrested and thrown in the jora [a trench where the soldiers would put anyone they wanted to detain]."
Next: Naim went to see him, and brought him water and cigarettes. While waiting for the other brothers, Naim got into an argument with another cab driver and punched him. "A soldier intervened and arrested me," he said, and tossed Naim into the jora together with Fauzi. Afterward, the soldiers moved Naim to a concrete cell (designed for a more serious level of detainees ).
"A soldier asked me, 'Why's your nose stuck up in the air?' I answered that that was how God made it. He demanded that I get down on my knees. I refused and demanded to speak with an officer. He told me he was an officer. I said, 'That's not true, I know everyone here.' He left and came back with two others who demanded that I kneel and bow my head."
Naim is an opinionated, stubborn character, no doubt about it. He is also easily irritated. He said that the soldiers, three in number, handcuffed him with plastic ties (behind his back ), took him outside, in front of all the other people at the checkpoint, and demanded that he bow his head. Then they pushed him.
"The checkpoint was crowded. There were lots of people. They started to make fun of the soldiers that they couldn't make a handcuffed man fall down."
Reminder: the soldiers are armed. The people going through the checkpoint are not.
Next: The soldiers again brought Naim into the cement cell, and then took him out again.
Anwar: "We went up to an officer who was standing there with another four or five soldiers and asked him why Naim had been arrested. He told us to get lost. We tried to explain that we're his brothers, but then a soldier got behind Mahmoud, took hold his M-16 by the barrel and hit Mahmoud in the head with the stock as if it were a stick. Mahmoud made half a turn then collapsed unconscious. We asked the soldiers to call an ambulance, but they did nothing; they just took two steps back. My brother Fauzi came toward me [from the jora], and we put Mahmoud into the cab."
Naim: "Fauzi had in the meantime gotten out of the jora after soldiers had come over and decided that his identity card was real. When Mahmoud fell unconscious and bleeding, people started to scream and protest, and crowded even closer to come near him. The soldiers fled; they were afraid that he was dead."
Anwar: "While all of this was going on, Mahmoud was in the cab, bleeding profusely. At that point we didn't know what was happening with Naim."
Naim: "People pulled the blindfold off my eyes and someone took me in a car to catch up with my brothers. I was left handcuffed. It was only on Al-Quds Street that a Ford Transit driver cut them off from me."
The IDF spokesperson to Haaretz, May 5, 2010: "The findings of the inquiry have been submitted to the Military Advocacy for investigation. It will make a legal recommendation in the very near future.
Major Dorit Tuval, Deputy Advocate (Military ) for Operational Matters, to Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights on July 31, 2011: "After examining the investigative material in the nine investigation files [the organization had questioned why these had been closed], we have reached the decision to close them for lack of evidence to support the taking of legal steps."
The IDF spokesperson to Haaretz, April 17, 2012: "During the incident in question, the complainant and his relatives were stoning IDF forces and proceeding toward the soldiers in a manner that made the soldiers respond with force. An examination of the findings of the Investigating Military Police concluded that, given the circumstances, proportional force was used. In light of this, the file on the matter has been closed."
Immediate results: Mahmoud lay in the hospital unconscious for several days. When he woke up he could not speak or write (he matriculated from high school ).
Anwar: "He is paralyzed on the right side of his body, his right arm is paralyzed, he has no feeling on the right side of his face, he stammers badly and cannot remember words. Before his injury he spoke fluent Hebrew (he worked in Israel for 10 years ), and now he can't remember any Hebrew except for a few words."
The mother, Ibtissam: "Out of all my children, he had the most easy-going personality. Nowadays he's tense all the time. He hits us. Every little touch hurts him. He needs around-the-clock nursing."
Mahmoud: Bites his nails. Stares. Remains silent.
Haaretz questioned the IDF spokesperson if, on January 20, 2009, anyone filed a report about Palestinians throwing stones from close quarters at soldiers near the Hawwara checkpoint. Experience has shown that the IDF doesn't know about West Bank incidents every day, but that day it did report on stones being thrown by Palestinians at a car in the Bethlehem area. Interesting. Somehow the more serious of the incidents escaped the IDF spokesperson's notice.
The IDF spokesperson added: "Claims that the media guides law enforcement authorities regarding a decision whether to take legal steps are totally unfounded. In general, decisions regarding investigation files are only taken after a professional assessment of each individual case, based on the collected evidence. According to the standard legal guidelines, legal steps will be taken only in cases where there is sufficient evidence. In cases where the evidence is insufficient no legal steps are normally taken."
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