Building the Terror Infrastructure


1. Fares Smaha bought a new pair of shoes for the holiday last year. At the time, he was a fatherless 14-year-old boy. His older brother Ahmed was serving time in jail in Israel for theft; his sister had been sold into marriage to an old Bedouin in the Negev, and Fares was the breadwinner for his four younger siblings. He dreamed of throwing stones on the main road near his refugee camp, being wounded, and becoming eligible for $300 a month in compensation from what are known as the “Saddam Committees.” Meanwhile, he stole Israeli cars and was able to afford new shoes for the holidays.

His late father was a refugee from Zacariyyeh, his mother was a refugee from ‘Ajour, and his family was among the poorest in the Deheisheh refugee camp. No refrigerator, no washing machine, no table, no chairs; a computer or CD player was beyond the reach even of his dreams. The dank walls were bare, with cobwebs in the corners. On top of the stained old television set sat a few rusty cans of tomato paste: the pantry. Underneath the television set were a few sacks of sugar, rice and flour: the only food in the house. No dairy products, no fruit, no vegetables, no sweets. Little Eiman said that sometimes he wakes up hungry at night, but there’s no food. His only toy was a shabby plastic rifle and an improvised wooden club. He brandished them both.

Thus did the widow Halima raise her seven children; this family’s poverty was the worst I’ve seen in the occupied territories. The only picture on the wall was a memorial poster for the 40 Palestinian children killed in the Intifada thus far. The Smaha children knew some of them. The surrogate father, young Fares, said to me then, of his conquerors: “They want us [to live as] animals.” This was after his two younger brothers were unable to return home from their Hebron boarding school – which serves the children of indigent families – after soldiers stopped the taxi in which they were riding and wouldn’t let it through.

“The soldiers have to understand that we’re not cattle. We only want to live, nothing else. The soldiers have to understand that we’re fighting them generation after generation and if we’re killed, the next generation will fight them to the death. What can we do, that’s our life. We’re fated to live this way.”

A year and a week after the article about the Smaha family was published, Deheisheh is occupied and the Smaha family has kept its promise: A short time after the eldest son, Ahmed, was released from jail, he was arrested again. This time, on a more serious charge: transporting the suicide bomber who blew himself up in the Beit Yisrael quarter of Jerusalem, killing 10 Israelis and wounding 50. Despairing, with nothing to hope for, the poverty-stricken Smaha family is part of the terror infrastructure.

2. Abed Bakr has been at sea for 30 years. He’s a 42-year-old fisherman from Gaza with 11 children, all of whom must live on what he earns from the sea. On the evening of April 27, one year ago, he went out as usual in his boat to fish, along with some of his children. The catch was 40 crates of sardines. Suddenly the Israeli Navy appeared. The soldiers in the Dabur missile boat made him undress and jump overboard, wearing only his underwear. They shot live ammunition into the water around him to frighten him. They said his boat was in a forbidden area. He sat tied up, naked and blindfolded, for three hours on the deck of the Dabur, until commanded to sail to Ashdod with his boat. His children had to find their own way home. He spent 11 days in an army jail at Erez, and then was released. He’s been afraid to go back out to sea ever since, and is now unemployed.

3. Yasser was 11 and Samr, 15. Forty days after Yasser’s death, Samr died, too. They were brothers. One threw stones at soldiers at the Qalandiyah checkpoint, the other threw stones at the tanks surrounding Yasser Arafat’s compound. Both were shot contrary to standing orders about opening fire; both took a week to die. Sami Kusbah, their bereaved father, the son of refugees from the village of Rafilyah, on the ruins of whose home the city of Maccabim is built, has a kiosk near the school for refugee children at the Qalandiyah refugee camp. Surviving are Tahr, the oldest child, who is 18, and Mohammed, the youngest, who is three.

4. Suleiman Abu-Hassan, born prematurely, lived for an hour and died. That was after his mother, about to give birth, spent 12 desperate hours trying to get through the siege and get to the hospital in Jenin. She didn’t make it. Mohammed Zakhin, also a preemie, died after eight hours of life: His mother had spent half the night desperately trying to get him to an incubator, without which no prematurely born infant can survive. The two mothers are from the same village, Yamun, and they lost their infants six days apart, last December.

“I have the right to kill you, but not to let you pass,” one of them was told by the soldier in the tank on the road who barred the way to mothers in labor, one mile from the hospital.

5. Yunis Najjar is paralyzed for life and Mohammed Majams is nearly blind. Both were laborers in the settlements, building houses and paving streets. Settlers injured them, for no reason whatsoever. They fired at Najjar near Gush Etzion in a drive-by shooting, the customary method used by the Jewish terror cell there; Majams was beaten by young men wearing skullcaps who were sitting on the iron-rail fence at Pisgat Ze’ev.

6. Five hours, five taxis: It was the final journey for a sick baby named Abdallah Abu Zaideh, going from the little town of Ketaneh to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, a 15-minute ride on a normal day – that is, a day without sieges and roadblocks. His parents had already lost two children to a hereditary metabolic disease, but the soldiers didn’t want to hear about it and didn’t let them take the infant, who was jaundiced and breathing with difficulty, through the checkpoint. When his parents finally managed to reach the hospital, the baby’s condition had deteriorated irreversibly. The doctors said he could have been saved if he had gotten there in time. That was in November of last year. A few days ago, baby Abdullah, born July 7, 2001, finally died. He is survived by his mother Aida, his father Mahmoud, his brother Mohammed.

7. Farmer Izaat Mislamini was in his fields, very agitated. Settlers from the area, together with kibbutzniks from Sde Eliyahu, invaded his fields to avenge the death of Salit Shitreet from Sde Eliyahu. They uprooted his plantings and vandalized irrigation equipment, wreaking destruction over a wide area. IDF bulldozers dug trenches around his destroyed fields, cutting him off from his livelihood. On a cigarette paper, the farmer wrote these words for the world to read: “In the name of God, the merciful. We, farmers of the northern region, on the land of Bardeleh, say to you that the settlers have ruined our fields, destroyed our greenhouses, and now we have no way to go on living.”

The Israeli policeman suggested that he “plant again.” The secretary of Shdemot Mehula, Moshe Dermer, said that the deed was done by “good Jews.”

“Look at this child,” said the farmer, pointing at his young son. “Imagine that [the crop] would have grown and we would have eaten, the children too, and now it’s all gone. Look at this child …”

8. Rafaat Ahmidan read Yedioth Ahronoth, drank instant coffee with milk, and in an Israeli vehicle brought Palestinian laborers to pave roads in this, our land. His brother Ashraf worked at Tnuva, Lou’ai at Strauss, ‘Alah at Talpiot Carpenters. Friends of Israel. Their family fled Lifta in 1948 and weren’t permitted to return there. Ahmidan, of the Shuafat refugee camp, was the last Palestinian casualty of the first year of the current Intifada: IDF soldiers shot him to death from a distance, from a bridge, after he went through a dirt barricade on his way to pick up workers near Route 443, same as every morning.

His bereaved mother told Israelis: “You think that if you act this way, things will be good for you? Things will never be good for you this way. You kill one, we’ll bring 10 more … Speaking as Rafaat’s mother, I say that Israel should have someone like Hitler, someone to kill you dead, in little pieces. I never talked this way before. Always, when I heard there was an explosion on your side, I would say, Haram! [shameful!] … They have a mother. When I heard that people were being killed on your streets, I would say, Why? But now, when they have killed my son this way?”

The IDF spokesman confesses: There was an “error in judgment.”

9. On the Israeli birth certificate of Hassan Abu Ghara, whose mother is Israeli and whose father is a resident of the territories, it says: “Street birth.” He was born alongside a checkpoint while his father, grandmother and uncle were trying in vain to persuade the soldiers to let his mother go through.

10. The infant Abdallah ‘Atatreh fell into a barrel of water and drowned. The soldiers wouldn’t let him be rushed to the clinic in a nearby village. Baby Abdallah died. The children of the little village of Al-Tarm have long been scared to go to school. The soldiers frighten them, and curse them as they pass. In Al-Tarm, Israel has proved that it won’t relinquish a single foothold. Even this tranquil, peace-loving village has been pushed into the embrace of violence and despair.

11. The list of injured organs in the body of little Majd Jalad, a 5-year-old boy from Tul Karm, shot by an IDF officer last summer, is as follows: elbow, liver, stomach, intestines, pancreas, and spleen. It happened while Majd, dressed in his holiday best, was on his way to visit his aunts and uncles in Bal’ah, riding in his grandfather’s car, with his grandmother and two other small children. Majd was standing on the back seat. The officer said he thought the car contained a bomb.

12. Wearing shorts and a T-shirt, Mustafa Yaseen was shot to death by Border Police on the doorstep of his own house in the village of Aneen. Evidently, it was a case of mistaken identity. He is survived by his young wife and infant daughter, who were eyewitnesses to his murder.

13. Here is the roster of the dead and wounded mourned by Hilmi Temeizi, an old, toothless man from Idna: His son, Mohammed, was killed. His grandson, the infant Dia, was killed. Mohammed, his granddaughter’s husband, was killed. His granddaughter Amira was wounded. His granddaughter Mai was wounded. His daughter-in-law Samr was severely wounded. All on the same day.

14. Every Saturday, Monday, and Thursday, Leila Abu Muweis travels to the hospital in Nablus for dialysis. Every Tuesday and Friday, her son Rami goes there for dialysis, too. They don’t go together because she can’t stand to see him attached to the machine. Since the village was put under siege, it takes them three hours each way. They leave at dawn and come back late at night, two dialysis patients, completely worn out. During the last two weeks, even that route was closed. Their fate at present is unknown.

15. Half a winter and half a spring passed before the baby girl died, at three and a half months. Iman Haju was killed by a shell that hit her grandparents’ house in Khan Yunis a little while after her mother had finished nursing her. Her grandmother was wounded.

16. Three times the Civil Administration razed the house of the Shuwamri family in ‘Anata. Three times Salim rebuilt it. Ashraf, 17; Lina, 16; Lima, 14; Linda, 13; Wafa, 10; Mohammed, 9 … they watched, saying nothing.

17. Ubai Draj, 8 and a half years old, standing in his bedroom, was shot and killed by soldiers’ bullets. He left a mother, father, and four brothers and sisters.

18. On the last holiday but one, F. left his house in the Jalazun refugee damp, made his way on a dirt path to the Muslim cemetery in East Jerusalem and stood there, a gravedigger on call, hoping to dig a grave or plant some palm fronds for mourners, for a pittance. Sixty years old, with six sons and three daughters, he swears that he hasn’t a single shekel to buy food for their holiday dinner.

19. There are about 500 prisoners being held at the reopened Damun Prison, most of them illegals – i.e., workers without permits. Until a few months ago, they would find their way into Israel, risking their lives for a day’s work. Six months to one year in jail.

20. Terminal in a garbage dump: First came the laborers, then the peddlers, then the beggars – they would pass here in three shifts, until a few months ago. It was the unofficial transit route through the Umm al-Fahm garbage dump, and they were on their way to try to earn a living in Israel. From Mohammad Milham, 62, who cleaned people’s yards, to okra seller Eyad, 11, who on his summer vacation left home in Yamun every morning at 4:30, heading for the Arab villages of the Galilee. Sometimes Border Police shot at them, arrested them, confiscated their IDs and left them standing there under the olive trees until evening.

The one-armed man peddling shirts, Rada Zakhin, was once threatened by a Border Policeman, who said: “I’ll take off your other arm if I see you here one more time.” Six months later, Zakhin pleaded in vain with an Israeli soldier to let his pregnant wife, in labor, through a roadblock. On his infant’s grave, I saw him weeping.

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