25 August 2009
AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: Where is Nasser?
by Samuel Nichols
A man came to our house, asking, "Where is Nasser? Is Nasser here?"
I didn't quite know how to respond, because Nasser is in jail. He's not in jail because he did anything wrong. He's in jail because he's Palestinian, and because he's living in the South Hebron hills in Area C, an area under full Israeli control. He's in jail because the mission of the Israeli military and police is to protect settlers, whatever the behavior of those settlers may be. Nasser was arrested because he tried to build a house, a house the settlers didn't want him to build, and thus, the military and police didn't want him to build.
I turned to the man and quietly responded, "Sorry, but Nasser is in jail."
"Where?" he asked.
"I think he is in jail in Jerusalem; he has been in jail for nearly a month."
The man raised his eyebrows and walked away disappointed, but not apparently surprised or perturbed.
His reaction speaks to the situation of Palestinians arrested by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). The arrests of friends and family are common for Palestinians in the OPT. Nevertheless, it's challenging for families to be without a father, husband, and provider.
When Palestinians are arrested, no one knows when they will be released. Unlike Israelis, Palestinians are rarely granted bail while awaiting a court date or sentencing. Court dates are routinely postponed while the 'defendant' sits in jail; often large sums of money demanded for the release of a Palestinian (the most recent sum demanded for Nasser was 20,000 NIS - approximately $5,300.)
According to a 2008 report issued by the Israeli group Yesh Din, the Israeli authorities brought charges against settlers for attacking Palestinians in only 10% of cases. In May 2009, 449 Palestinians were under Administrative Detention in Israeli prisons-imprisonment without charge or trial. The facts demonstrate that Palestinians who take legal action against criminal settlers in the OPT have little chance of being heard; meanwhile, Palestinians are routinely arrested and imprisoned without any semblance of legal proceedings. This is a system that privileges Israelis and imprisons Palestinians committed to resisting occupation, regaining their stolen land, and asserting their right to be treated as human beings.