For Family of Disabled Palestinian Youth Shot by Israeli Troops, the Blows Keep Coming

First Arif, who had Down syndrome, died after being shot by IDF troops. Then the army arrested his brother, Hiran, for 'incitement.' Meanwhile, their father died, and Hiran was barred from attending the funeral.

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The Jaradat family at home in the West Bank village of Sa'ir.
The Jaradat family at home in the West Bank village of Sa'ir.Credit: Alex Levac

A month after Arif Jaradat, who had Down syndrome, succumbed to his injuries after being shot by Israeli soldiers, his brother Hiran, who had posted some items on Facebook about the killing, was arrested on suspicion of “incitement.” Then their father died and Hiran was not allowed out for the funeral.

Once again we are in this house of mourning in the town of Sa’ir near Hebron, where the recent total closure has been lifted. Obituary notices about Arif still hang in the street. Since our last visit, about a month ago, however, the Jaradat family has endured two more, severe blows.

Arif, 23, was shot in the abdomen by soldiers on May 4 and died of his wounds on June 19; we recounted the story of his death on these pages on July 2. He had been yelling something at Israel Defense Forces soldiers and they shot him, for no apparent reason, and then left without offering him any medical assistance. He was the darling of his parents, six brothers and one sister.

On July 19, exactly a month after his death, soldiers raided their home during the night and roused Hiran from his bed. He has been detained ever since on suspicion of incitement, for his Facebook posts. Then, 10 days after the arrest, as the 40-day mourning period for Arif was ending, Sharif, the 64-year-old father of the family passed away. He had been sick with cancer and his condition worsened after his son’s death.

Sharif never stopped talking about Arif after his death, say siblings Hassan, Sari and Mohammed, the latter of whom works for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.

An IDF Spokesman’s Office said afterward that Arif was killed in the course of an “operational action,” during a “violent disturbance of the peace.” Thinking the young man was about to hurl a Molotov cocktail at them (although eyewitnesses said they did not see one), the soldiers shot him, the office added, whereupon they tried to extend medical care to him, but were turned away by Palestinian officials. The IDF did not express regret or offer an apology for shooting a disabled man. The army did not arrest Arif after shooting him, as is normally done, which casts doubt on the spokesman’s account.

After Arif’s death, his father’s health steadily declined. Although Sharif had suffered from cancer for a year, recent tests had shown some improvement in his condition. But once his son died, Sharif stopped eating and hardly left his bed – the couch in the living room where we are now sitting. He talked only of him: “Arif went here, Arif did that – Arif, Arif, Arif,” the sons say now. “Look how handsome he was,” they add, pointing to two pictures of their brother on the wall, their eyes brimming with tears. Their cell phones are also filled with pictures and videos of Arif, of whom they were so proud.

Arif Jaradat.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum (reproduction)

Sharif was able to attend Arif’s funeral and to return to the grave one more time, during the Ramadan holiday, but then his illness overcame him. In his final days, when he was mostly unconscious, he would occasionally open his eyes and ask, in a whisper: “Where is Arif? I want to go to Arif,” before sinking back into his coma.

At about 2:30 A.M. on July 19, a large IDF force approached the family’s house. The soldiers arrived in seven or eight large armored vehicles, firing tear gas to prevent neighborhood kids who had woken up from throwing rocks at them. Hiran, 27, was asleep in his apartment next door. He works for the Palestinian National Insurance Institute in Jenin, and usually spends a week there and then a week in Sa’ir. He is married to Tamra and they have three small children.

A few of the Jaradat sons were busy caring for their father, who wasn’t able to fall asleep, when the soldiers kicked in the door and said they were looking for Hiran. While Sharif was trying to ask why – and his sons were explaining that their father was very ill – the soldiers quickly found the young father. They handcuffed and blindfolded Hiran as his terrified children watched, made a quick search of the house and left. Sharif wasn’t given a chance to say goodbye to his son.

This is apparently how people suspected of incitement on Facebook are arrested.

Not long after the soldiers left, the family rushed Sharif, who had in the meantime collapsed, to a local clinic. Were the soldiers aware that this was the house where Arif had lived before being killed by their comrades, not so long before? The brothers are convinced the IDF knew, and say, “They knew exactly where Hiran’s room was, but they didn’t know that our other brother had died?”

Hiran was brought to the Etzion detention facility and transferred three days later to Ofer Prison, where he was questioned. Based on what his lawyer has told the family, the suspicions centered mainly around his Facebook posts. “Facebook was his psychological release,” his brothers say. “What did he do? He missed Arif so much that he wrote about it. Arif was so pure and innocent and the soldiers killed him.”

Last week, on Wednesday, a hearing was held for Hiran in the military court at Ofer. His brother Mohammed and another brother, Shadi, who lives in Ramallah, attended the session while the other siblings stayed behind to take care of their father. Hiran managed to ask Mohammed how their father was, and Mohammed told him he was weak. Hiran asked him to send their father his love.

When Mohammed got home in the afternoon, Sharif opened his eyes and asked, “When is Hiran getting out?” “Not very soon,” Mohammed answered, whereupon Sharif murmured, “Allah will help.” Those were his last words. A few minutes after leaving Sharif, Mohammed came back into the living room, but by then his father was gone. He was buried the next day, not alongside his son Arif the shaheed (a martyr for the cause), but rather in the family plot in the civilian section of the Sa’ir cemetery.

The next morning, there was another hearing involving Hiran, who did not yet know about his father’s death; a relative who was present only told him that Sharif was very weak. It wasn’t until later in the day, after the session was over and he was back in his cell, that officials from the Israel Prison Service and other prisoners told Hiran the news.

After the family asked the court to release Hiran so that he could attend his father’s funeral, the military prosecutor offered them a deal: Hiran would be released for a week, on a bond of 5,000 shekels ($1,300), on condition that he admitted to the charges of online incitement; thereafter, he would serve a 10-month jail term. Hiran and his siblings saw the proposal as a trap and decided to turn it down. He did not attend his father’s funeral.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office provided this statement to Haaretz: “Hiran Jaradat was arrested for ongoing incitement to violence and terror against Israeli citizens by means of Facebook. In the wake of this, an indictment was filed against him and the military court has ordered his remand until the end of the legal proceedings. It should be noted that Jaradat’s representative did not ask the military court to release him for his father’s funeral.”

Hiran’s trial is scheduled to resume on August 23 and until then he will remain behind bars.

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