Defying the Occupation With a Camcorder

Armed with a camera, Neriman Tamimi not only documented soldiers searching her home but also gave them a piece of her mind.

Amira Hass
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Amira Hass

Eight or nine of those who "carry the burden," to use the jargon of the recent public discourse on military service in Israel, burst into the house in the middle of the night. Their weapons pointed, they wear camouflage helmets, backpacks with walkie-talkies, and streaks of paint on their faces. In the house: parents, four children (two boys, two girls ), a grandmother (paralyzed after a stroke ), and two friends.

It's an almost nightly routine in the unoccupied West Bank. During the night between Monday and Tuesday last week, at around 1:30 A.M., more than 100 soldiers raided (yet again ) homes in the small village of Nabi Saleh, home to the extended Tamimi family. For the last three years, residents of the village have been protesting the theft of its spring, a theft that benefits the Jewish settlers of Halamish. Dogs accompanied some of the soldiers when they broke into some homes. In some houses, soldiers took photos of the people they just woke up. In all the homes, the soldiers wrote down the names and ID numbers of the people they found.

Neriman Tamimi, one of the 200 or so volunteers with the human rights group B'Tselem, armed with a small video camera, documented the mission of supreme importance and urgency these 18- and 19-year-olds had been sent to accomplish. Tamimi not only documented, but she also gave the soldiers a piece of her mind. She spoke in Arabic, which the soldiers do not understand. They spoke in Hebrew, which she does not understand, and in broken Arabic.

Here is a translation of the recording, already on the Internet. (The text indicates the few times when Neriman spoke in Hebrew or the soldiers spoke in Arabic. )

Soldiers (in the doorway, weapons pointing ): Everyone in the house, please come over here.

Neriman (in Arabic ): We have young children, sleeping, I can't come. Come see them sleep. (Soldiers wander around the house, weapons pointing. Bassem Tamimi, Neriman's partner, walks ahead of them, opening doors. The soldiers enter the rooms. )

Bassem (in the room where his paralyzed mother lies, in Arabic ): My mother is ill.

Neriman (in Hebrew, at the entrance to the children's room ): Little kids.

Soldier: OK. Little kids throw stones.

Neriman: Come here to scare the children. Go back to Tel Aviv. If you were a man you wouldn't have come with your weapon. But you're a coward. Think you're a man. Coward. (With their weapons still pointed, the soldiers keep wandering around the house, opening closets, looking into drawers ).

Soldier: Uskut (shut up in Arabic, when addressing a man ).

Neriman: I don't want to shut up. I'm in my own house. I'll say what I want. You have to bring a search order.

Soldier: Fine, enough, uskut.

Neriman: Not interested in 'uskut.' I'll shut up when you leave. When you go back to Tel Aviv I'll shut up. One day we'll kick you out of here. Coming with your weapons to scare us. Coward. Real macho against little kids in a house where there's nothing. Men, men. (Soldiers continue to finger things. A soldier peers closely at something. )

Neriman: These are your violations [of human rights]. Everything you do we're videotaping and uploading [to the Internet].

Soldier (in Arabic, addressing a man, to Neriman ): What's your name? Give me your ID card.

Neriman: I don't have to give you my ID card. What do you want my ID card for? You know who's home, you know the IDs, you know everything. What do you want?

Soldier (to Bassem ): Do you speak Hebrew?

Bassem: A little.

Soldier: Tell her to bring the ID card now.

Neriman: I don't know where it is. I lost it. (Soldier is holding a white T-shirt. )

Neriman: This is a shaheed, Mustafa, that you killed [on December 9, 2011, when a soldier shot Mustafa Tamimi with a teargas canister, which hit him in the eye and killed him]. Here's his picture [printed on the T-shirt]. We're running a summer camp [named for him].

Soldier (continues to hold the T-shirt and examine it from every angle ): Uskut.

Neriman: I don't want to shut up. You killed him, I don't want to shut up, you're coming into my house. Why should I shut up? We're your annoyance regime. We'll continue to annoy you 'til you leave.

Soldier (to Bassem ): She's making trouble. Just making trouble.

Bassem (in Hebrew ): You come to my home, you make trouble.

(A cell phone rings; the ring tone is a catchy melody. Bassem answers and talks. The soldiers are checking the ID cards of Bassem and the guests, verifying them against the lists they have in hand. )

Soldier: Okay. (Signals Bassem to stop talking on his cell phone. )

Neriman: What's 'Okay'? There's no okay while you're here. What kind of okay is it if you're still here?

(Soldiers continue searching, opening closets ).

Neriman: Keep searching. Go on, dig deeper, more, more. What men.

Soldier: Enough already. Silence.

Neriman: You leave my house I'll shut up. When you're here I don't want to shut up. Keep looking. Look at your face [painted with camouflage colors]. Is that the face of a human being coming to a house with little kids so you can scare them? What's up with this cowardice?

Soldier (in Arabic, addressing a man ): Get out of here.

Neriman: Why should I go? I'm in my own home. You go home. Go to Tel Aviv. (Something falls. ) Please, go ahead, break stuff. Live with your weapons, scaredy-cats, cowards. (Soldier finds a bunch of photographs. )

Neriman: Here [indicating picture] you're shooting at our house. We show this to groups that come from abroad. You're shooting at us.

Soldier: What's she saying?

Bassem (in Hebrew ): You threw this [seems to be a teargas grenade] next to our house.

Soldier: Next to your house?

Different soldier: Why's it here? What are you doing with it?

Bassem: Why not?

Soldier: Why yes?

Bassem: Why not? (Sounds of Bassem's paralyzed mother groaning. Neriman explains to her that soldiers have entered the home. A young girl's voice is heard. )

Neriman: The army came, go wake up [your siblings]. Tell [the soldiers] to go away.

The girl: Go away.

Soldier (continuing to look around ): Get lost.

Neriman: I'm not leaving. I want to see what you're stealing. Please, go ahead, take the underpants, maybe you need them. (The children begin to wake up. )

Bassem (to his daughter ): Don't be afraid.

Neriman: Afraid?! Come here, get rid of them, tell them to get out. Macho men against little kids.

Soldier: Is there a basement? (Bassem doesn't know the word. )

Neriman: I don't speak Hebrew.

Soldier (speaking more loudly ): Basement, basement. (Bassem still doesn't understand. )

Soldier: Storage, storage. (The older girl is holding a flag. )

Soldier: What's that?

Neriman: The Palestinian flag.

Bassem: Is that forbidden?

(The soldiers enter the bedroom, rummage through the closets. )

Neriman: What do you need, clothes? What are you going to do with the clothes here?

Soldier: Shut up. Don't come near me.

Bassem: You're in my house.

Soldier: All right, let's go.

Neriman (in Hebrew ): Macho men against little kids.

Soldier: Not macho men against little kids.

Neriman: Get out, get lost. In the end we'll drive you out of here, for sure.

Bassem (in Hebrew ): In the end you'll get off our land.

When they leave the house for neighbors' homes, Neriman follows them. Bilal Tamimi, a professional photographer, was also documenting the search outside his home, and was handcuffed by soldiers. He managed to give Neriman his camera and she photographed the following scene in the home of a 70-year old widow who lives alone:

The soldiers walk in. The woman curses them. A soldier curses back. The woman slaps a soldier. The soldier hits her and she falls. But then the soldiers take the camera and erase everything from the memory card.

Soldiers arrest a protester during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.Credit: Neriman Tamimi