Between violent reprisal and random police brutality

M., a resident of the West Bank village of Al-Ma’asara, was attacked by Border Policemen solely for living in a village that actively opposes the occupation.

By Yesh Din (written by Yossi Gurvitz)

One morning in early August, M., a resident of the West Bank village of Al-Ma’asara, went to Ramallah for medical treatment. He took a public taxi back home. At one point, the taxi reached the Container Checkpoint, which was manned by a Border Policeman.

The cop asked for the Palestinian’s ID card, as per protocol. He took a long time examining M.’s card, then ordered him off the vehicle. As M. climbed down, the policeman slapped him without any provocation. He tried to slap him again but M. blocked the blow. Then another Border Policeman arrived, and according to M.’s testimony, the two of them dragged him aside and beat him repeatedly. When the taxi driver tried to intervene, he was informed it would better for him to return to the vehicle, or he would get a beating as well.

The reason for the beating? Nobody told M. anything, but the goons who assaulted him used the name “Ma’asara” time and time again. Al-Ma’asara is one of the villages that holds a rather peaceful demonstration every Friday. These protests must be dispersed by Israeli forces, which hinders their going home for the weekend. M. noted that Border Policemen regularly take part in dispersing the demonstrations, which led him to believes that this was the reason why the picked him as a victim.

It is important to note that M. was not arrested or suspected of anything. He merely became a victim of random police brutality. Had there been any evidence against him, he would have been detained, held for a time without seeing a lawyer, then asked to sign the usual Faustian deal by which he would be released without waiting for the end of the legal process, but would do so by confessing to something which he is not at all clearly guilty of.

M. estimates he was attacked just because of his place of residence. If this is the case, and we can’t know for certain, this behavior cannot be considered as anything but reprisal by people that are supposed, theoretically, to be sworn to protect the law – an assault on an uninvolved person in order to “send a message” to his village.

Why can’t we know? Because M. won’t complain to the police, and without a complaint there will not be an investigation. Why won’t he complain? Because he’s intelligent enough to be familiar with the Israeli investigative organs and the way they act to realize nothing will come of his complaint. A second reason is that he is afraid that if he complains, he will lose his entry permit to Israel.

As far as M. is concerned, not only is the police (which is supposed to protect him) becoming a part of the daily terror used against him; the very act of complaining of the abuse will, he estimates, will harm his ability to make a living. We don’t know if this fear is grounded in fact; we hear of it from a lot of Palestinians, but we lack actual documentation of such an act. Not that lack of documentation diminishes the fear.

This was a quick look at the quiet terror regime in the occupied territories, carried out on a daily basis with Israeli citizens’ agreement and funding. The next time the IDF Spokesman speaks of “disturbances of order ” think of M. and the beating he took, and of his fear of trying to actualize his rights. This is the order that it protects.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.