Interview with Badee Dwaik from the organisation Human Rights Defenders

ACTION

On Thursday 30th March four Palestinians were arrested at a nonviolent action in Wadi el-Hussein, near Kiryat Arba, when planting trees for the annual Land Day commemoration. The action was attended by people from many different organisations, such as the Hebron Defense Committee, Human Rights Defenders, all political parties and Defense for Children International. All these organisations and political parties are part of the campaign “Dismantle the Ghetto: Take the Settlers Out Of Hebron”. This land day action was part of this campaign.

Badee Dwaik, co-founder of Hebron Rights Defenders, a long-time human rights defender in al-Khalil/Hebron, was arrested at the action on Thursday. He recounts the story, from the action, to jail, to court and his release, below:

Ofer Yohana, a very prominent, proactive and violent settler, arrived to the location of the action and blocked the Palestinians as they walked along the street, on their way to plant trees. Ofer tried to steal a banner from Badee’s hands, provoking all the Palestinians and saying rude things to them. The soldiers did not stop him. All the activists were nonviolent and did not respond to Ofer’s abuse; they remained peaceful.

“We started planting the trees, but the soldiers were gathering in the street, and settlers too, like Ofer. They blocked us again, and we started to chant. The army then stopped us and announced that it was a military area.”

I saw that the soldiers were following Younes on the hill. There were many soldiers on the hill. Younes fell down. The soldiers were running and I also fell down. When I was on the ground, many soldiers were on my body and they hit me while I was on the ground. I was in a lot of pain, especially on the left side of my stomach. I saw Ishaq at this point, and they took him. I was arrested there. Despite what the soldiers say, this all happened on the hill, and not on the street. They claim the arrests took place on the street.

I was handcuffed and taken to the police station, arriving at roughly 3:00 pm on Thursday, where the four of us who had been arrested at the action were taken.

JAIL

“At 7:00 pm they started to investigate us one by one. I remember the time because it was dinner time, and I told them of our rights to have dinner, and I protested and annoyed them until they gave us dinner.”

They presented us with six charges:

  1. Presence in a military area and refusal to leave [I did not know it had been declared a military area, as I was on the hill, and this was announced on the street]
  2. Blocking the street. They said this street is very important for Israelis, and also Arabs.
  3. Disruption of the public peace.
  4. Organising and participating in an illegal demonstration.
  5. Refusal to obey the orders of the soldiers.
  6. Resisting arrest.

We were told to sign a document – only in Hebrew – that we agreed to the charges. We all refused to sign the document.

They reiterated that this all took place in a sensitive area and that we shouldn’t have been there.

They kept repeating this story, that I was arrested on the street, and that I was guilty of all these four charges. But I kept telling them what happened, that I was not arrested on the street. I challenged them to find a video or photo proving that I was arrested on the street.

From the very beginning of the arrest, I told them I have health problems. I have diabetes. I told my lawyer, who also brought it up with the soldiers.  The soldiers told me it’s not their business to bring medicine for me. If I wanted it, I would have to organise for my family to bring it to me. I told them that it is their responsibility, they are the ones who arrested me.

After the investigation, they took me to the Kiryat Arba Military Detention. I went to see a medical doctor, with two of the others arrested. I have experience being arrested and know it’s important that all things are documented. I told the medical professional that I have diabetes and the flu, and that I need my medication. He gave me medicine for my lungs. He reported it all and recommended that I be taken for an emergency test. I arrived to a hospital in Jerusalem, where they gave me some treatment, 2 blood tests, and two diabetes tests. The first diabetes test came back very high, and they told me I would need to stay longer for a second test. After two hours they tested me again, and the number dropped significantly, however it was still too high. They gave me an injection and insulin and reported what medicine I need. I was then taken back to jail, this time to Etzion Military Detention Centre.

This jail is disgusting. The conditions here are very bad. The soldiers treat you like slaves. They asked me to take all my clothes off. I did. They collected all our belongings. They told me to face the wall, so I did. They told me to separate my legs. So I did. Then he asked me to bend down and stand up. So I did. Then he said, “okay, now go down.” I said, “Wait. I will not do it again. Whatever happens to me happens, do you think this is a game? I am not your slave. I am not the person who will obey your orders.”

So I didn’t do it. He threatened to leave me without my clothes all night. But eventually, he gave in and told me to collect my clothes.

The next morning, when we were all back together, the soldiers asked if we smoked. We all said yes. When they returned with cigarettes, everyone was given them, expect me. I asked, why? to which the soldier told me I caused trouble the night before. “Am I causing trouble when I refuse to lose my dignity?”

We were given food, which was disgusting. It seemed to be left overs from the soldiers and was a small amount. The conditions of the room were very bad. There are no mattresses on the metal beds. You have to sleep on the metal or use one of your blankets and sleep on top of it. The covers are disgusting, they have been used by many prisoners and have not been washed. It’s not healthy, you are breathing under dirty blankets, it’s not healthy at all and diseases can be transferred across prisoners. The rooms were damp, and not good conditions; there were rats, insects. It’s the most disgusting detention jail in the whole of Palestine. You used to be given toothbrushes, toothpaste, a razor and towel, but none of that was provided. The other prisoners said this doesn’t happen anymore.”

They decided to move Anan (another prominent activist who was arrested at the action) and myself to another jail, Ofer Jail near Ramallah, because we needed medical treatment. We were asked to take off all our clothes, including our underwear. We protested and kept our underwear on. “But really, this is something new for me. I’ve been in jail before many times and this up and down thing, and requesting underwear to be taken off, is all new.”

COURT

I had a feeling we would be in court on Sunday, but in the morning no one came to call us into court, which they would normally do. By lunch time we had given up hope that it was happening. But at 1:30 pm, they called us to go to court. They handcuffed us and put us in a small room and handcuffed us to other people, and cuffed our legs to each other too. We waited here until we were called into court, at 5:15 pm. I saw that a representative from the Commission of Human Rights from the UN was there, and our lawyer. Only Anan and I were present. The other two did not make it to court, the soldiers stated that they couldn’t bring them to court in time.

The representative of state asked that we be kept for 4-5 days while the investigation continued, and handed a secret file to the judge. Secret files always come from the Shabak (Israeli Secret Police). This was the first time I had seen a secret file presented in court. The representative of state asked for this case to be heard through administrative detention. Our lawyer argued that there was no reason for us to have been arrested. He showed a video which an activist filmed on the day, showing that there was no reason for our arrest. We were kept for another 24 hours, and had another hearing the next day. At 8:00 am we were taken, where we waited in various rooms until we went into the hearing. Again it was only Anan and I present despite the hearing being for all four of us. None of our supporters were allowed into the court room. Something I would like to highlight is that in the second court hearing the translator did not translate everything, but only a few sentences here and there.

The judge asked for 7,000 shekels to be paid, each, for our release. I told my lawyer that I cannot afford this, and would prefer to be in jail. After some negotiation, the judge made it a 3,500 shekel fine for our release.

We were released from jail after 10:30 pm that night. Our property was already signed off, without us present, and we were not allowed to check our items before we left. They had guns pointed at us when we tried to check. I was missing 42 shekels and my belt was confiscated.

If you remember back to February 24th, when the soldiers came to our homes in the middle of the night and threaten us with arrest if we were to join the demonstration [Open Shuhada Street]. We attended that action. But we were very careful to not be seen by those soldiers.

My 12-year-old son saw the commander at the demonstration. He saw the commander in the first line at the demonstration, near the soldiers. He said “it was the same man who came to our home when they invaded. They were looking for some people at the demonstration.”

The Israelis are worried, they don’t like to see Palestinians gathering and uniting together. This is serious to them, and we could pose big challenges for them. This is probably why they decided to target us at the beginning because we have done multiple actions here and it is only growing. They managed to be very violent with us and they have imposed more restrictions and rules against us. Even when we are peaceful and use nonviolence.

Although the four human rights activists have been released, the allegations against them have not been dropped. They are still being investigated and are awaiting trial, which has not yet been scheduled.

If you would like to donate towards the reimbursement of the 3,500 shekel fines they each had to pay, CPT is collecting the donations through our website. Please make sure to state that it was “inspired by Palestinian activists” so that the money is given directly to them. 

See this video of the Land Day action put together by the Human Rights Defenders.