Amani Odeh and the 40 border policemen
The less than romantic tale of black-clad troops, a foam-tipped bullet, a flier, and a female dentist from Silwan laughing at the absurdity of her arrest.
Although it’s bad for ratings, in every other way it’s fortunate that the foam-tipped plastic bullet fired by a Border Police soldier in Silwan ten days ago struck Ruba Odeh, 23, on the side of her head and not directly in the face. Now she lies at home, with “only” a broken jaw and loose teeth, unable to speak and not allowed to eat solid food for 35 more days. If something worse had happened, perhaps the incident would have received more attention in Israel, if only for a minute.
The bullet that struck her was made of heavy metal and tipped with foam. The police’s response stated that it was fired at people who were throwing stones from the roofs of buildings at the Border Police troops after another young woman was arrested in the al-Bustan neighborhood.
It’s true that Ruba Odeh was standing on the terrace of her third-floor apartment. She still can’t speak, so she can’t tell what she saw last Wednesday, February 27, at 3:00 A.M. But her father-in-law, Sheikh Musa Odeh, spoke of about 40 armed police officers wearing black uniforms, their heads and faces covered with masks. He said the police spread out around the home of his daughter, Amani Odeh, 26.
Anyone throwing stones from the roofs, he said, would have struck him and the other residents who were moving among the police officers (“army and soldiers,” as the residents put it). "Why are you firing your weapons?" he asked the masked man standing near him. The man raised his rifle and fired three bullets after the police vehicle drove away with Odeh's daughter inside. Only when he heard screams did he realize that his daughter-in-law had been hit.
What did Amani Odeh do to deserve to be arrested by such a large group of Border Police troops in the dead of night? The police say she “is suspected of having distributed a flier containing incitement.” Amani awoke to the voices of her husband and his father and went out into the courtyard.
A police officer who spoke with her husband “asked me: ‘Who are you?’" Amani recalls. "I said, ‘Amani.’ He said, ‘You’re the one I want.’ I said, ‘You must be joking. What do you want from me?’ I laughed. I was in shock. Beyond him I saw many soldiers, wearing black clothing, their eyes glinting from behind their black ski masks.”
Amani went inside to get dressed, warning the police officers not to enter the room where her three-year-old son, Adam, was sleeping. She said, “Two officers who were not wearing masks (I know one of them, Itzik, who is the Shin Bet’s official responsible for the area) spoke with me and then searched the house. They took my computer, video camera, iPhone, and my disk-on-key that contained photos of my son. They asked me to give them the key to the dental clinic where I practice – I studied at the Arab American University in Jenin and have a license from the Palestinian Authority, and now I’m preparing to get an Israeli license.”
Amani refused to be handcuffed when she got into the police car, and in the end, the police officers allowed her hands to remain free. “Itzik said to me, ‘You surely know what you did.’ I was amazed. I didn’t know what he wanted. We left for the clinic, which is on Salah a-Din Street. They asked me about a doctor named George. I told them I didn’t know him, and I was taken to my friend’s clinic, where I train. There were lots of them, maybe twenty. The clinic is small. I asked that not all of them go inside. Five of them went in and took the clinic’s computer. We left twenty minutes later, and went to the Russian Compound.”
That was at about 4:50 A.M. At about 7:30, the questioning began. A detective whose name she doesn’t remember read aloud her rights, which include the right to call an attorney. “I told him: ‘I don’t need an attorney because I see no reason for this arrest,’" says Amani. "He said, ‘You’re under arrest for incitement and distributing fliers containing incitement, and for telling people how to commit a crime and get away with it.’ I started laughing. ‘Are you serious? Are you telling me this seriously?’” Amani has dimples that deepen when she laughs.
“The interrogation began. The detective asked me routine questions. Then he asked me how I got into the Internet, who my close friends were, whom I spoke with abroad. He asked for emails and passwords. He also asked me political questions about Fatah and Hamas and my opinion of them, about Hezbollah, Morsi, Egypt. He brought me fliers from Silwan. Almost all of us had read them. I told him that if I wanted to write something, I’d write my name and sign it. It’s true that I’m active on Facebook, but I concentrate on internal Palestinian matters in order to change things within our society.
“Every time he left, he came back with a new question he’d been told to ask me. Each time, he told me: This is the last question, and then he would come back with another question. He asked about the problems with our houses and the many people who had been arrested. I told him the problem was that they (the Jerusalem Municipality) wanted to demolish our homes. He asked about demonstrations. I told him – what, there aren’t any demonstrations in Tel Aviv? But here we’re not allowed to demonstrate. I was there, under questioning, until 3:30. They offered me food and I refused. I only drank water. One detective wanted me to stay that night. The other detective said they had nothing, and that they should complete the investigation with the computers they’d taken. After the argument, I paid NIS 1,500 bail (they asked for NIS 3,000) and they put me under house arrest for ten days so that they wouldn’t have to admit they’d made a mistake.”