I always hear about demolitions and confiscations after the fact. But this is the first time I witness the act of destruction in real-time; the first time I witness the turmoil experienced by the victims and the indifference of the perpetrators.
As the destruction was about to take place, people began pointing me in a certain direction. They said, “go there”. They screamed, “photograph what they’re doing”.
What I witnessed was a large contingent of Israeli Border Police, confiscating a small food kiosk, the only source of income for an extended Palestinian family.
As I approached with my camera, I was blocked by three armed soldiers. They hit me with the butts of their rifles. They pushed me.
I was pushed back where I stood beside a black-clad Palestinian woman. We stood there holding on to each other. “Photograph what they are doing,” she told me. I did.
On the other side of the road, I saw a man walking. He was the owner of the kiosk. He was angry and confused. It was his shop, with all of its contents that was hauled away. He was told that he does not have a ‘trade permit’.
The kiosk owner was released from an Israeli prison only a few months ago. Since then, he had worked very hard to put his life back on track and to provide for his large family.
Now his whole world has turned upside down, leaving him empty-handed once again. “They confiscated everything I owned,” he said. He wanted to know the name of the Israeli officer so that he may lodge a complaint. But the officer and his men ignored the pleads of the heart-broken Palestinian.
Worse, they handed him a piece of paper specifying the large fine that he is now required to pay.
“You call us terrorists,” the man yelled, now his voice is weaker with pain and helplessness, “but look around you. Who is the real terrorist?”
“I have done everything you have asked me. But once again, you have turned my life around. You have turned my life around”.
The soldiers then turned into another kiosk, the owner of which was also accused of having no ‘trade permit’, as if he was allowed to obtain one in the first place.
A large truck with a crane perched on top approached. The soldiers designated a ‘sterile’ area where no Palestinian, or myself are allowed to enter. They sealed the doors of the kiosk without emptying any of its contents. They fastened the whole thing with large shackles, and lifted it up into the sky, placing it carefully on the truck.
The deed was done. The unfair confiscation was completed with total accuracy.
Meanwhile, armed soldiers separated between us and the official act of looting. One of the soldiers carried a grenade, as if he was ready to toss it at those who stood in complete helplessness and desperation.
One of the victims of the unwarranted confiscation was the woman in black. Just hours before, she brought to one of the kiosk owners a small gas tank as a way to support his small business. She is unlikely to ever see her property again, as her gas tank was also confiscated and hauled away per the instructions of the Jerusalem Municipality.
The woman in black was the only person of that whole group who dared confront the soldiers, telling the armed Israelis exactly what she thought of them.
I have a lot of respect for strong women who fearlessly stand up to men with guns.
When the Israeli forces, border police and regular army, finished their task, they moved on to another junction. “Now Younes is next. He will lose everything,” said a young man standing near me.
We remained standing for a while at the roadside, a despairing group of people feeling defeated.
I wondered what the soldiers would say to their mothers when they go home for the weekend. “Mom, I destroyed the livelihood of several Palestinian families, and I also struck a woman.”
Is there any pride in this?
(Translated from Hebrew by Tal Haran)
(All Photos: Tamar Fleishman, The Palestine Chronicle)
– As a member of Machsomwatch, Tamar Fleishman documents events at Israeli military checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Her reports, photos and videos can be found on the organization’s website: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the ‘Coalition of Women for Peace’ and a volunteer in ‘Breaking the Silence’. She is a regular contributor to The Palestine Chronicle