Ofer - Stone Throwing, Holding and trading of combat materiel

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Observers: Judith Sternberg, Tamar Fleischman (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

The children of Qalandiya mature before their time; their childhood is spent in the poverty and squalor of refugee camps; from birth they absorb the hardships and bitterness that characterize their parents’ life, suffused with tear gas and exhaust fumes. Even this miserable reality is occasionally disrupted by our heroes in uniform, who wrench them from their homes and put them in custody at the Ofer holding facility.

They sit on the bench, somewhat detached, their feet shackled, like game animals after the hunt. The face of a child, the eyes of an adult.

A guide (a representative of Army Spokesman Office?) accompanying a group of about 30 people from “Shurat HaDin” (the strict law) confirms our observation that Qalandiya’s children mature before their time, when we raise the question of disparity in the age of majority between a child in Israel and a child in Palestine, saying, “They mature earlier there. Even at an early age those kids try to kill our soldiers…”

Unlike us, and certainly unlike the Palestinians who crowded the enclosures called courtyards, those visitors were admitted without check-ups, with their cameras and bags intact. They were ushered by soldiers and civilians and were treated like VIPs.

For info about the organization, which “fights for the rights of the Jewish people and conducts tours for overseas visitors…” see


Justice Sharon Rivlin-Ahai’s court

Defendant: Fares Halil Yussuf Badran, ID853894715.

Defense: Atty. Bargouti

Fares, a skinny 15 year old who even by the Occupation laws is considered a minor, stands trial without the presence of a social services representative and without his parents.

Charge: holding and trading in combat materiel.

A police officer testifying for the prosecution states that four months ago the boy and two of his friends were caught at Qalandiya checkpoint trying to smuggle a bag with a Molotov cocktail to people on the other side of the checkpoint.

The defense cross-examined the witness haltingly and without much results.

It was clear to both sides that indeed there was a Molotov cocktail and there was a bag, and the three kids were trying to cross the checkpoint. One question remains: did the boy know what was in the bag he was holding.

[I, who know the checkpoint and the laws that govern it, ask: is it conceivable that a boy who lives in a refugee camp will attempt to cross Qalandiya checkpoint? No way.

It is obvious that Fares does not know the rules of the court. When the witness was asked about the color of the bag and hesitated, the defendant responded: "black".

The witness testified that the entire incident (as is always the case at Qalandiya checkpoint) was caught on security camerainfo-icon, a fact that eluded both prosecutor and defense. The judge, who wished to watch the tape, adjourned the session, stating that the cassette should be presented at the next hearing.

Defendant: Eyad Hussein Baziya, 17 years old, from Qalandiya refugee camp.

Charge: throwing rocks at a military vehicle.

Defense: Atty. Safiya.

The defendant’s father announces that next Sunday, four days from today, his son will be released. “I’m putting down 1500 shekels and he comes home.” But soon things take a turn for the worse: as soon as the judge approves the plea bargain and the bail, it turns out that the boy has a previous conviction, for the same violation: throwing rocks at soldiers. He already spent time in jail and there is suspended sentence in force. “Had he gone to school instead of throwing rocks,” says the judge in a pedagogical tone, “he wouldn’t end up in jail.”

The hearing is postponed to 29.11.10.

During recess we left the court. Two kids of indeterminate age remained sitting on the bench awaiting their turn.

Civil Cases (traffic) at the Military Court

Traffic violations were heard at Justice Hilit Bar-On’s court.

Present: military judge, police prosecutor, interpreter in uniform and guards in uniform.

The traffic violators were not present.

The absence of defendants speeded up the process. The interpreter was idle, the judge summed up her decisions whispering to the typist. When I pointed out that we could not hear the proceedings, a girl in GSS uniform said, “But the defendant is not here…” Thus, we don’t know the names of the defendants “who are not here.”

 From the judge’s decision in one of the cases:

“This is a violation that involves endangerment. The defendant’s driver’s license does not match the vehicle (bus) he was driving, in which he drives many passgengers. In addition, the vehicle had not passed the obligatory test and had not been insured for 7 years. In view of these circumstances, I see fit to apply the strict letter of the law and impose a fine of 2000 shekels or 5 months in jail, plus suspended revocation of the license for 4 months over 4 years.”

“As for the other defendant who drove with a license that had expired 9 months earlier, who is a cab driver with “no prior traffic violations”, caught driving on the shoulders of the road, the verdict is 1500 shekels fine or 45 days in jail, suspended revocation of license for 3 months over 2 years.” But then the judge changed her mind and amended the 6 months to two years, adding, “This case is less severe.”

At the gate we encounter a new security officer who had not heard of MachsomWatch. He asks questions and tries to understand. His reaction to our explanations: Checkpoints aren’t just checkpoints. Generally we are against barriers and for freedom of choice. Things look different on the other side of the bars.”

The man seems to have a set of values. How will he contend with the chasm that exists between those values and the system that has just inducted him?