There is no mistaking Shams a-Din Aazem’s disability. His torso is deformed and rigid and inclines to one side. His arms are as skinny as matches. His face is ashen. Though his intellect is unimpaired, his manner of speech is quiet and strained. His face is anguished. He sits down with difficulty, stands up with difficultly and moves about with difficulty because of his physical adversities and his thin build.

It’s difficult, almost impossible, to imagine a soldier would dare arrest a teen in his condition, to cuff his hands behind his back, or to shove and possibly kick him. It is no less difficult to imagine this boy throwing stones at soldiers, or at anything. He’s likely incapable of picking up a stone, let alone hurling one. But the Israeli soldiers, who never see the Palestinians they encounter as human beings, are also incapable of identifying a disabled person. Disabilities are associated with human beings – not with Palestinians.

He’s 17, and he lost his mother to brain cancer in 2017. His father finds occasional work in the area where they live. They are six sons and a daughter in the village of Qaryut in the central West Bank. Because of his condition, Shams has been idle since he left school in the 10th grade. He was only four when cancer first afflicted him, in the form of a malignant tumor in his spinal cord. Since then, he has undergone treatment at the King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, at the An-Najah National University Hospital in Nablus and at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. Today, 13 years after the disease was diagnosed, he continues to undergo oral chemotherapy and is required to visit a hospital once a month.

His father was compelled to bring his medication to the soldiers who handcuffed his son in order to prove to them that Shams is a cancer patient. The troops showed it to a physician or an army paramedic and only then were they persuaded that the teen is ill. To their utter shame, his gaunt and debilitated appearance wasn’t enough for them.

On Friday, April 1, Shams and two friends went to the southern part of their village, where there is a spectacular view of fields in the valley below. Qaryut is one of the most suffocated villages in the West Bank – surrounded on all sides by the wild settler outposts of the Shiloh Valley, which are strangling the village and seizing control of its remaining lands. The village’s leaders say that Qaryut has already lost more than 16,000 dunams (4,000 acres) of the 22,000 dunams of the land it possessed in 1967. The village’s population has declined from 10,000 at that time to only 3,000 inhabitants today. Many emigrated because the village was being hemmed in on all sides.

The plunder of the land continues, amid desperate legal struggles by the villagers. Presently on the agenda are two springs of the village that the settlers covet. Violent assaults by the settlers are also ongoing here. Two weeks ago, this column wrote about the torching of five private cars in the neighboring village of Jalud. Adei Ad, Kida, Esh Kodesh, Shvut Rachel, Ahiya, Amichai and Shiloh are only some of the settlements that are stifling the village.

It was 7 P.M. when Shams and his two friends reached the edge of the valley. At the time clashes were underway there with the army and with settlers, who had come, as they do every Friday, to one of the village’s springs and who had chased away the residents. On the hill opposite, as on every hill around the village, there is a settler outpost. This one, Hayovel, was built on private land belonging to Qaryut residents. Hayovel, by the way, was the first outpost for whose establishment privately owned Palestinian land was declared state land, in 1998.

As the three friends stood there, a settler suddenly emerged from between the olive trees on the slope and tried to assault them. A moment later, another settler appeared from the opposite side. Shams’ two friends were able to escape the ambush, but there was no way Shams could run for cover in his physical condition. That there were clashes that day has already been noted – this week we found the remains of a burnt tire at the site. “Why are you throwing stones?” shouted the settler who caught Shams. “I didn’t throw stones,” Shams said.

In no time, there were six or seven settlers around him. He says they also hit him. Then the army showed up and the settlers handed over their human booty to the soldiers – the usual practice in these incidents, in which the army protects the pogromists.

The soldiers forced Shams onto his knees and handcuffed him from behind. They also discussed whether to blindfold him, but they decided to forgo that in their great mercy. Shams was ordered to speak by phone with a Shin Bet security service agent, who also asked him why he had thrown stones. The agent questioned him about his friends as well; he told him they had fled. “You’re lying!” the soldier who was guarding him shouted, Shams says. Shams adds that the soldier also shoved and kicked him.

In the meantime his father, Amin, 50, had arrived on the scene with two of Shams’ brothers. They had seen from a distance that Shams was kneeling on the ground, hands bound behind his back. The soldiers aimed their rifles at Amin and tried to shoo him away. “Why did you take my son?” he asked them. A soldier replied, “Because he threw stones.” “Are you sure? How could he throw stones?” Amin said. He tried to explain to the soldiers that his son was ill with cancer – they demanded proof.

Having no choice, the two brothers and the father went to their home, a distance of some two kilometers, and brought back a package of Celltop 50, the chemo medication that Shams is currently taking. Lacking sufficient oncological education, the soldiers summoned an army ambulance. A physician or a paramedic who examined Shams and the medication confirmed that Celltop is an oncologic drug.

In the meantime, a few dozen villagers and relatives from the region had gathered at the site. Bashar al-Qaryuti, a resident who leads the village’s battle to protect its lands and heads the local Red Crescent chapter, which covers 14 villages, was also called to the scene. He immediately contacted the Coordination and Liaison Administration to explain to them that Shams is a cancer patient. “You arrested a sick boy,” he said on the phone, and a representative of the Israeli Civil Administration replied: “He threw stones. We know he has cancer and we will release him, but first it has to be explained to him not to throw stones anymore.” Al-Qaryuti has the recordings of the voice messages he exchanged with the Civil Administration on his phone.

Al-Qaryuti requested that Shams be freed from his handcuffs, but the soldiers said they would only do that if the relatives and villagers who had come to the site to protest dispersed. In the meantime, until the emotional crowd backed off, Shams was placed in a military jeep and taken away. “We decided to take him into custody,” a soldier told the distraught father. Shams says he was handcuffed for about two hours. He was taken to a local military facility – he doesn’t know where. There, too, he was made to go down on his knees and wait for hours.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit this week stated in reply to a query from Haaretz: “On Friday, April 1, it was reported that a crowd of dozens of settlers and hundreds of Palestinians was milling around the Qaryut spring, which is within the area of the Binyamin Territorial Brigade. The security forces were rushed to the site in order to prevent friction. The Palestinians who were at the site placed stones on the ground as barriers, burnt tires and threw stones at the security forces, who used crowd dispersal means.

“During the event, verbal friction developed between the Palestinians and the settlers. The force detained the suspect, because he was identified as being suspected of throwing stones. In light of his condition, a military medical force conducted a medical check and saw to providing him with all the relevant medications. The detainee was transferred to the Palestinian units within a few hours.”

At midnight, about five hours after being detained, Shams was released. He was taken to the Hawara checkpoint next to Nablus and handed over to personnel of the Palestinian Coordination and Liaison Administration. They took him to Nablus for brief questioning before releasing him. He got home at 1:30 A.M., exhausted and frightened.

Was he scared?

Shams says he wasn’t, but his father quickly intervenes: “He is lying. Of course he was scared. How would he not be? Soldiers all around and he wouldn’t be scared?”