A freak cold front blew through Florida Saturday night and the thermometer on my porch read 54 degrees, but what chilled me to the bone on Sunday morning was reading Nurit Peled Elhanan’s report of the cold-hearted Israeli High Court Justices when “members of the Combatants for Peace movement, women of Mahsom (Hebrew for “checkpoint”) Watch, members of the Forum of Bereaved Families for Peace attended a hearing (on October 14) at the High Court of Justice on the matter of the killing of ten-year-old Abir Aramin.”
On January 16, 2007, 10 year old Abir Aramin was walking home from school with her sister and two friends, but instead of having milk and cookies that afternoon; she was shot in the head with a rubber bullet by the Israeli Border Police and after three days on life support Abir’s struggle ended but not the struggle for justice her parents have been seeking ever since.
In 2007, I reported that Avichay Sharon, of Combatants for Peace stated, “Over the past 2 years, the Israeli Border Police and IDF forces have been creating provocations near the school district of Anata [which] has become a part of the daily routine for the children. Ever since construction started on the separation barrier surrounding Anata, the jeeps have been roaming the streets especially near the schools and shooting grenades and tear gas along with rubber bullets.
“Many children have been injured in the past by these brutal actions of the soldiers and on January 16th it became deadly. As in many other cases the police replied that the soldiers were shooting in response to stones thrown at them by children. Even though all the evidence and witnesses stated that no stones were thrown that day” the prosecution dismissed the Aramin family’s case, claiming lack of evidence.
Bassam Aramin, Abir’s father and co-founder of Combatants for Peace said, “I’m not going to lose my common sense, my direction, only because I’ve lost my heart, my child. I will do all I can to protect her friends, both Palestinian and Israeli. They are all our children.”
When Bassam Aramin was 17 he was sentenced to 7 years in an Israeli prison for belonging to the then-outlawed Fatah movement. Although he had been beaten by soldiers in prison, he decided that he would not become a prisoner of hatred.
The “Combatants for Peace” are Palestinians and Israelis, who had all been involved in perpetuating the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. All decided to put down their guns and work together in the good fight for peace through nonviolent actions and by raising voices of conscience as they seek to create political pressure on both Governments to end the violence and end the military occupation of Palestine.
Elhanan wryly reported that Abir’s parents “live under a cruel occupation and they have experienced all it has to offer: exile, imprisonment and the killing of their small daughter Abir by a rubber bullet that was allegedly fired from the rifle of a Border Guard soldier who was sitting in an armoured jeep and thrust the barrel of his rifle through the opening that was allegedly designed for that purpose and allegedly aimed and fired at the head of the girl who was standing beside her sister at a kiosk, allegedly buying candy during the break between the first class and the second.
The projectile was removed from under the girl’s body and transferred to the authorities. The eyewitnesses, as well as the Border Guard soldiers, testified that there was no alleged danger to their lives and that the shooting was done – if it was done – in contravention of instructions. Two pathologists testified that it was probable that the fracture in Abir’s little skull could allegedly have been caused by a rubber bullet. The attending physician at the Hadassah hospital said that it was not a live bullet. The video of the reconstruction of the incident was not given to the defence counsel or to the court, because the soldiers who allegedly carried out the shooting, that is, who thrust the barrel of the rifle through the opening that had been made especially for that purpose, aimed and fired at the head of the girl Abir, were featured in the recording.
Counsel for the State, stammering, unprepared and unkempt, stood like a platoon commander in charge of new recruits with her back to the public and refuted the allegations: So they found a projectile. So what? Who knows how long it had been lying there? So people gave testimony, so what? They (those Arabs) can say anything, does that make it testimony? So nobody was throwing stones at that spot, so what? On a nearby street stones were thrown. If you were in my place, she laughingly says to Michael Sfard, Aramin’s attorney you would have made morsels of them by now.
Judge Beinish reminds Sfard – twice – that there have been such incidents in the past and that soldiers have rarely been put on trial or even indicted, so it would be best to just forget it… But Salwa and Bassam Aramin have no choice but to seek justice in an Israeli court. They demand that the truth come to light in a court of the occupiers – of the killers.
I nearly shouted for the drowsy judges – Beinish, Arbel, Frocaccia – to find a spark of humanity, of motherly feelings, within themselves and to look into the eyes of Salwa, who never stopped crying, and at Bassam’s ashen face, and to say: the High Court of Justice sympathizes with you over the death of little Abir. They didn’t.
Elhanan also noted that Jean-François Lyotard wrote that the perfect crime is not only the killing but also the suppression of the testimony and the silencing of the voices of the victims. And the greatest injustice is to compel the victims to seek justice in the court of their tormentors.
In March of 2006, I visited Anata refugee camp and have been tormented by my memories ever since.
Israel erected their thirty foot high concrete apartheid Wall at the boys high school where 780 Palestinian adolescents, share a slab of cement about the square footage of a basket ball court; their only ‘playground’.
A resident refugee informed me that on a daily basis, “The Israeli Occupation Forces show up when the children gather in the morning or after classes. They throw percussion bombs or gas bombs into the school nearly every day! The world is sleeping; the world is hibernating and is allowing this misery to continue.”
A moment later, a teenage boy approached me as I was taking photos and asked me my name and where I was from. I cringed admitting I was American, for “financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile, the Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families’ sole livelihood for generations.”1
On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice/ICJ, ruled 14-1 that The Wall was illegal and it must come down and also that compensation should be paid to all who had been affected.
The ICJ Judges also decided 13-2 that signatories to the Geneva Convention were obliged to enforce “compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law” and the U.N. General Assembly also passed a resolution 150-6 supporting the ICJ’s call to dismantle the wall.”2
Less than five minutes by car from Anata, one can enter into the Orwellian Disney Land of lush green grounds called the Pizgat Ze’ev settlement.
All the settlements/colonies in the West Bank are illegal under international law.
I was sick at heart as I traveled through the colony and counted three playgrounds and a swimming pool.
I wondered how many USA tax dollars helped to build them, and outraged over the injustices of Walls and military occupation that American money provides against the indigenous people of that land.
Within fifteen minutes after leaving Anata, as I stood next to a playground in Pizgat Ze’ev, a barrage of gunshots issued from the refugee camp and my guide informed me that the Israeli soldiers were showering the refugees with gun fire and terror- another normal daily occurrence for them.
I lost it and sobbed uncontrollably, and imagined the Magdalena when she could not find her Lord.
And then I thought how Jesus cried buckets of tears over Jerusalem when he “saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you had only known what would bring you peace but it is hidden from your eyes.'” — Luke 19:42
Lady Justice, the Roman Goddess of Justice, an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems, is depicted wearing a blindfold to indicate that justice should be meted out objectively, not based in favor of- or against- ethnicity, power, or weakness, but on blind impartiality.
Perhaps it is a case of cold hearts in 21st century Jerusalem that has rendered the Justices of the Israeli High Court with eyes blind to their injustices.
- Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Jan/Feb. 2007. [↩]
- Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2009. [↩]