They are outside room No. 8 in the surgical ward. The door is shut. They continue to stand in the corridor, crying softly. Nothing can help them. The mechanism of the occupation will not relent. No one’s heart will melt at the sight of the intolerable abuse these people are undergoing. The soldier from the Military Police will not allow them to enter. The Civil Administration of Israel’s military government in the occupied territories will undoubtedly find some sort of revolting bureaucratic excuses for this insensitivity.
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The soldier opens the door just a crack for an instant, careful not to open it too wide lest the couple should catch a glimpse, however fleeting, of the person in the room. It can be assumed that he is bound with iron cuffs to the bed, like all wounded Palestinian detainees.
This couple – she in a traditional embroidered dress, he in a shirt and unfashionable pants – left their village of Awarta, near Nablus, early one morning this week. They had an Israel Defense Forces entry permit to Israel, stating that their express purpose was to visit a wounded person. But now the soldier won’t let them enter the room in which the wounded person is hospitalized.
The young man behind the door is their son. He was shot and wounded last Friday by Israeli soldiers.
H. is 22 years old. His parents say he is mentally ill and has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. He takes psychiatric drugs. According to the parents, some of the soldiers posted in the area were already familiar with him and his odd behavior. Local residents also know about his condition.
The IDF claims that he was holding a knife and threatened to attack the soldiers last Friday afternoon at the Awarta checkpoint. His mother, who was with him at home before he went out on his bicycle, as usual, says he was not carrying a knife when he set out. But shortly afterward soldiers shot him two or three times, claiming they felt they were in mortal danger.
Now the IDF will not let his parents see him, not even for a minute. Their suffering is compounded by this abuse.
Rima al-Qadi, a 51-year-old homemaker, and her husband, Khaled, a retired schoolteacher of 56, have 11 children. Only H. has a mental disability. He dropped out of school in ninth grade and since then has spent most of his time at home. Occasionally he has fits of anger, but he is not violent, his parents insist. “He wouldn’t hurt a soul,” his mother whispers. “Everyone loves him. Everyone who knows him loves him.”
H. is usually quiet but not always connected to reality, the parents explain, sitting in the waiting room outside the ward in Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. He doesn’t always distinguish between good and bad, Rima and Khaled say, and sometimes he imagines things.
He likes to ride his bike through the village streets. Sometimes he approaches the checkpoint – where, his parents say, some of the soldiers already know him and his peculiar ways. His illness was precipitated in 2009, they relate, after soldiers attacked and beat him, for no apparent reason. Since then he’s lived in fear.
H. is haunted by his fears, the parents add. Sometimes he thinks soldiers are approaching, even when they are not. Sometimes he sees them entering his home, even when they are not. He tosses and turns at night, but there are nights, and also days, when he sleeps soundly for long hours at a stretch.
H. had never been arrested by soldiers. In the past he had a few confrontations with settlers. According to his parents, settlers beat him frequently, apparently for getting too close to settlements in the area, and then let him go. Awarta is located next to the settlement of Itamar.
Last Friday, H. was helping his brother Busheir in the construction of a second floor for the family home, which is designated to serve as his apartment. H. had lugged bags of cement up to the construction site. In the afternoon, when he finished working, Rima sent him to shower and change. She always sees to it that he is clean and well dressed, she says. It was a hot day and he wore a thin shirt. There is no way he was hiding a knife in it, his mother says now, no way. She thinks that the soldiers’ fears make them hallucinate about knives. Maybe they harassed him, his mother suggests; maybe they provoked him, and he responded wildly. In any event, when H. left the house on his bike, he was relaxed and calm.
It’s not clear what exactly happened at the checkpoint, before the soldiers shot him. The parents say that local people shouted to the soldiers that H. is mentally ill and that they should not shoot him. The villagers then summoned his two brothers, but the soldiers would not let them approach H., who by then was lying wounded on the road.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit told Haaretz this week: “Last Friday, a terrorist armed with a knife arrived at the exit from the city of Nablus in the direction of Awarta, and tried to stab soldiers there. The soldiers implemented the procedure for arrest of a suspect, which included shooting in the air and at the suspect’s legs. When the terrorist continued running toward the troops, in order to remove the threat, they fired shots from which the terrorist was wounded. After the shooting, the terrorist was evacuated to Beilinson Hospital in a military intensive-care van.”
No Israeli official went to the trouble of telling the parents what had happened to their son, or of updating them about his condition. Last Sunday they received a one-day entry permit to Israel, valid on Monday from 5 A.M. until 10 P.M., so they could visit him. “For the purpose of visiting the sick, valid despite denial of entry,” the permit states in the jargon of the occupier. It’s signed by Capt. Kfir Rosen, commander of the center that issues such documents in the Judea and Samaria District.
In reply to a query from Haaretz, the spokesperson of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories stated: “The family was issued a permit to visit their son in the hospital, and they did in fact enter Israel. Because of police regulations, however, it was not possible for the family to visit him in the hospital. The parents’ visit will be permitted in accordance with the decision of the police.”
The hours went by and occasionally Rima and Khaled reentered the ward and tried to go into the room of their son, or at least catch a glimpse of him. But the door stayed shut and the soldier remained where he was, refusing even to let them wave at him. The anguish was visible on the parents’ faces, but it didn’t melt any hearts.
A few Arab hospital workers, mainly from the maintenance staff, tried to offer help, but in vain. Dubashi Jawad, a distant relative from Yabed, near Jenin, who lives in Jaffa thanks to his blue ID card, stayed with them the whole time. But there was nothing he could do either, of course. He only managed to stick his head in once and see that H. was conscious and awake. He couldn’t see where his wound was.
Evening would soon fall, their deceptive and deceiving permit would soon expire. Rima and Khaled al-Qadi gave up. In the absence of any alternative, they decided to surrender to the hard-heartedness. They set out on their way back to Awarta, leaving their sick, wounded son to his fate, without learning any more about what happened to him, about his physical and mental condition, or about what still lies in store for him.