Few Weeks in the Life of Nidal – a Palestinian from Susya 

Until recently, Nidal Nawaj’a of Susya village in the South Hebron Hills worked in Israel, decently feeding his family – five daughters, a son, and one still unborn – and had never had trouble with the army.  

It’s not simple, for the settlers from the nearby Susya produce new provocations every day. The settlement was founded on lands from which the original Susya villagers owned, but this does not suffice the settlers. In recent years they have erected a whole series of illegal outposts, malignant outgrowths aiming to make their neighbors’ lives miserable and prevent them from grazing their flocks. Lately they have even invaded the scrawny playground of the Palestinian Susya children.

But Nidal has the patience and persistence characterizing the South Hebron Hills villagers and managed to refrain from confrontations.

Until Thursday, February 17. That day, on his way back from work he saw a plume of black smoke rising near his own home. He ran there and saw a gang of settlers burning tires in his field, where barley had just begun to sprout after the rains. He knows them well – they are the ones throwing stones at the children on their way to school, and one of the settlers had pepper-sprayed his brother a month ago. He ran towards them and told them to leave his land. ‘Why are you spoiling the field?’ he yelled, in broken Hebrew.

This is a place where, following previous invasions by settlers and their flocks of Nidal’s field, an official ordinance has been issued forbidding their entering the area. This was a clear case of trespassing, but the invaders refused to leave. They threw stones at Nidal and one of them threatened him with a big stick. Nidal pushed the gang leader who fell on the ground, and only then they left. Nidal and his neighbors put out the fire and returned home.

The settlers did not summon police as they always do, knowing they had been inside an area where they were not supposed to be. Instead, they came to the Kiryat Arba police station the next day, and lodged a complaint for assault. He claimed that Nidal ‘caught his side-curl and hit him in the head 3 times with a large stone.’ As proof, he attached a photo in which a small lesion is seen in his head – caused perhaps by the fall, or perhaps in fact an old photo – and the report by the nurse at Kiryat Arba (a settler, of course) referring to great swelling. The photo does not show it.

In addition, the settlers presented a video of some seconds showing the push. The previous occurrence and the ‘stone hitting the head’ are not shown in the video. The settler claimed he was allowed to be there for ‘Palestinian children had thrown stones at them’ and that they (the settlers) were just ‘having an innocent campfire’. In his questioning he refused to name and give data of the settlers who were with him.  

On Saturday police investigators reached Nidal and questioned him, and on Sunday night he was arrested. While an Israeli must be brought in front of a judge within 24 hours, the Palestinians have a 96-hour wait. 

Three days later Nidal saw a judge, and the prosecution asked for a 7-day custody to ‘complete investigation’. After Attorney Riham Nasra who helps Susya villagers showed the judge the video taken by Nidal’s daughter in which the burning of tires and stone throwing, as well as the official ordnance forbidding the colonists’ presence there were all seen, the judge ruled this a provocation and the release of Nidal at a 3,000 NIS bail.

The police asked for 72 hours to appeal, the judge acquiesced and Nidal was taken back into custody. The time and freedom of Palestinians are worthless, as we know. On Sunday the prosecutor announced that he has no intention to appeal, that what he said at the previous session was a lie, and instead presented a prosecutor’s declaration and asked for additional days in order to present a request for taking into custody until the end of proceedings. The judge was upset at such abuse of procedure and ordered Nidal’s release.

The prosecutor once again asked to postpone this release and used the time to present an appeal to the appeals court, demanding prolonged custody. Attorney Nasra again claimed that this was illegal, and the judge acquiesced in part (a third judge of the same case, all a matter of a push!) and demanded that the police present an immediate indictment sheet. An additional session was set for Wednesday.

On Wednesday, a fourth judge (!) ruled that there was insufficient evidence for extending custody until the end of proceedings, for ‘investigation flaws were quite obvious’ – the video contradicting the plaintiff’s version, the settler who kept his right to silence under questioning, the police who did not both to question settlers present at the event and Palestinian eyewitnesses who saw it all. He ordered to free Nidal, but the police – not bothering to question the colonist and his pals – once again asked for a delay. Another session was set in which the prosecutor wished to bring a representative of the settler– a measure that has no legal basis. The judge agreed and prolonged custody until Sunday. 

On Sunday a fifth (!) judge ruled to free Nidal because of ‘serious difficulties with the evidence’ and wondered again why the police did not bother to gather testimonies from those present. Still, this judge raised the bail to 12,000 NIS – a fortune for a simple Palestinian farmer – and in addition, demanded a signed guarantee by a third party for 10,000 NIS. To all this one should add the attorney’s fees, who charges minimally but still had to attend no less than 6 sessions of the military court, all because of a slight push.

For a whole day, Nidal’s family ran around trying to gather the money for his release bail, since his wife was due to have a baby any day now. The next morning, they showed up at Ofer Base with the bail money and waited for hours outside the gate. Only in the afternoon did they find out he was transferred to another base, without their being notified. After more hardships, Nidal finally returned home at 1:30 a.m., after 16 days in custody.

When we met him the next day, he was celebrating the birthday of one of his daughters (thus the hats…), and hosting friends and relatives who used the sunny spring day and Women’s Day to visit their home village. His permit to work in Israel has been automatically rescinded, as is customary every time a settler lodges a complaint against a Palestinian, so he does not know how he will earn his family’s livelihood – and return the bail money which his friends had put up. Life under Israeli military occupation.

Yair Ron on behalf of the Villages Group 

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Comments

  • chrisrushlauchris rushlau  On March 26, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    I assume this is the way Israel was founded and administrated up to this day, the difference being that previously “everybody knew” was “nobody was supposed to” say. As Sergeant Schultz in “Hogan’s Heroes” would always say, “I see nothing, I see nothing!”

  • chrisrushlauchris rushlau  On March 26, 2022 at 9:19 pm

    On second thought, maybe this treatment is a serious slackening of violence. Previously, someone would just shoot Nidal.

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