Beatings, theft, and humiliation: Dismantle the Ghetto activist speaks of his ordeal following arrest at Land Day demonstrations

AUTHOR: INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT

DATE: APRIL 15, 2017

ISM activists spoke to Badee Dwaik the day following his release from Ofer military court.

ISM activists spoke to Badee Dwaik the day following his release from Ofer military court.

Last week, amidst a slew of arrests by Israeli forces and subsequent court hearings, ISM activists had the opportunity to meet with Badee Dwaik; one of the four men arrested during the Land Day demonstrations in occupied al-Khalil. Badee, a seasoned activist of many decades and committee member of the Dismantle the Ghetto campaign, believes his arrest was targeted and spoke of how conditions inside the jails were “worse than they’ve ever been before” during his four nights of detention.

ISM activists spoke to Badee Dwaik the day following his release from Ofer military court.

ISM activists spoke to Badee Dwaik the day following his release from Ofer military court.

The peaceful Land Day actions began with the planting of olive trees near Kiryat Arba – an illegal settlement of roughly 8,000 people in occupied al-Khalil. The decision to plant olive trees was made because, as Badee put it, “we fear this land will be confiscated in the near future.” Throughout the action, many settlers attempted to provoke the demonstrators with violence, but nobody gave in: “They try to break us or block us but we ignore it and the army does nothing,” Badee says. He’s only a day out of jail, but seems calm and eager to tell his story. Every so often he takes breaks from talking to put a hand on his ribs, where he says they beat him.

“After we planted the trees, we marched up to the hill where we continued to protest,” where one of the soldiers held a sheet of paper which – as revealed during military court hearing –  declared the area a “closed military zone.” Out of nowhere, Israeli forces began pursuing individual demonstrators and Badee found himself on the ground beneath a group of soldiers who beat and arrested him. Those detained by Israeli soldiers were taken down the hill, where Israeli police and Border Police were waiting: “They took us to the police. I was surprised to see Annan there.” It had appeared that the soldiers knew exactly who they wanted to arrest, and picked them from the crowd. They arrested three active members of the Dismantle the Ghetto campaign in what Badee believes to be part of a wider effort by the Israeli occupiers to silence the campaign and put an end to their non-violent demonstrations.

An Israeli soldier films demonstrators whilst holding a piece of paper declaring the area a Closed Military Zone during the Land Day action in al-Khalil. This image was taken an hour after the arrests made that day.

An Israeli soldier films demonstrators whilst holding a piece of paper declaring the area a Closed Military Zone during the Land Day action in al-Khalil. This image was taken an hour after the arrests made that day.

During their time in jail, Badee spoke of how the Israeli guards sometimes would not give the detainees their meals and did not administer Badee’s diabetes medication. When he told the guards that he suffers from diabetes, they told him “it’s not our business to bring your medication to you.” Only after being moved to another prison later that week was he taken the the medical doctor who told him he was at serious risk and he was injected with insulin on the premises. Badee was then moved to a third jail, where he said he was subject to conditions he had never experienced before. “The conditions were bad. When we arrived to this jail they made us throw our belongings away.” Here, Israeli guards made the men remove their clothing and do humilating acts while naked. When Badee refused, he was punished for it later: “We had no mattresses. We slept on the metal. They didn’t feed us a few meals and only gave cigarettes to those who cooperated with him.”

Afte four nights of detention, Badee was sat before Ofer military court, near Ramallah, on spurious charges largely based on a “secret file.” “I’ve never seen this [secret file],” he said, and was alarmed at the allegations they presented. Badee is convinced that there’s an initiative to break their coalition. The judge claimed Badee and the others were “dangerous, holding an illegal demonstration” and that the Israeli state should be “harder on these men,” however his lawyer managed to negotiate their release late that night on the condition that they paid 3,500 shekels per person. When Badee and the others were finally freed, many of their belongings had been stolen.

Whilst Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are subject to Israeli civil law, the Palestinian population lives under Israeli military law. Under this law, Palestinians like Badee can be held indefinitely in ‘administrative detention‘: detained without trail and often based on secret information. There are currently 500 administrative detainees in occupied Palestine.