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From the field

Jerusalem: Border Police officers beat two Palestinians, June 2003

Muhammad Rabah, victim, age 26, construction worker, resident of al-Wallajeh, Bethlehem District.

I live in al-Wallajeh, which is about ten kilometers from Jerusalem. I work in construction in Kiryat Menachem, a neighborhood in Jerusalem. My village is about a ten-minute walk from the Malha Mall, in the southern part of the city. Other laborers from my area and I walk to the mall. From there, we go up a wooded hill until we reach Kiryat Menachem, a distance of about three kilometers. Because it is hard to get there, I work only one day a week.

The way from the mall to Kiryat Menachem is dangerous. Border Police Officers ambush Palestinian laborers. They hide in the fields and behind trees on the hill between the mall and Kiryat Menachem. They grab the laborers, confiscate their ID cards, delay them for a number of hours, beat them, and then send them back. Sometimes, the officers take the laborers in jeeps to fields in the area, beat them, and leave them there. The laborers then have to get home on their own. In many cases, the officers do not return the ID cards. They tell the laborers to go to the al-Wallajeh checkpoint, which is about ten kilometers away, to get their documents. When the laborers get to the checkpoint, the soldiers make them wait some more hours before handing over the ID cards.

We have to go through this all the time. So, I, personally, am afraid to go to work, even though my financial situation is pretty bad. My dad teaches at a school and gets very low wages. I have three sisters studying at the university and four brothers who are in school. I am the eldest son. I didn't go on to university in order to help my sisters.

On Friday, 20 June, around 4:00 A.M., I left al-Wallajeh along with another laborer, Ghazi Muhammad [al-Qabu]. We walked toward the mall and then through the fields until we reached Kiryat Menachem. At that time of day, the Border Police hadn't set up ambushes so we managed to get to work. We lay floors and install water pipes and infrastructure for a restaurant.

Ghazi and I worked until 2:00 P.M. and then started on our way home. We went down the hill and reached a public garden, where we saw two Border Police officers standing twenty meters from us. I didn't see a jeep around. They aimed their guns at us and ordered us to expose our midsection, chest, and back. We uncovered the upper part our bodies. Then one of them searched us. Then they took our ID cards.

I could tell they were Border Police from the dark green uniforms they were wearing, and the Border Police always ambush laborers in these fields. I remember what they looked like. The one who searched us had dark skin and was about 1.70 meters tall. He looked like he was about twenty. He didn't speak Hebrew well. Later on, he told us that he was Russian. The other officer, the one who aimed his gun at us most of the time and didn't beat us, was about twenty-two years old. He was about 1.80 meters tall and light-skinned. I heard the other officer call him Muhammad. From our conversation with him, I noticed that he understood Arabic.

After he searched us, the border policeman told us in Arabic that friends of his had died in the Palestinian attack at the Dolphinarium, in Tel-Aviv. He said that Palestinians and Arabs shouldn't be treated well and that they deserve to die because they make Israelis suffer. I told him that I work in Israel to help my family and that I wasn't involved in any actions against Israelis. I added that I have a magnetic card and a work permit, and that if I were a political activist, I would not have been given the magnetic card or the permit to work in Israel. He shouted at me and cursed me. He hit me on the cheek and jaw with the butt of his gun. My cheek swelled. He kept beating me on the back and chest with his gun.

When the beating started, I told him that I have back problems and that the beating would make it worse. Of course, I regretted having said that, because he hit me on the back for ten minutes or so, until I fell to the ground unable to move. I cried out it pain. Then he left me and went over to Ghazi, who was standing five meters away from me. The other officer was aiming his weapon at Ghazi. The officer who beat me also beat Ghazi until he, too, fell to the ground screaming in pain.

The officer then came and grabbed my hand and bent it backwards. I lay on my side. My hand hurt terribly and I thought it was going to break. I cried out loudly. He hit me with his gun and kicked me in the chest and back for about five minutes. Then he went over to Ghazi and beat him. He beat us for about an hour. Then he told us to crouch down and stretch our hands out in front of us. He took two heavy rocks and put one on my hands and one on Ghazi's hands and kept it there for about ten minutes. That hurt a lot. It felt as if my arm was going to come out of its joint. He then told us to do forty sit-ups. When we got tired and stopped, he had us do another forty or fifty sit-ups.

Two hours after they caught us, the officers ordered us to clean up garbage in the area. We collected leaves, cigarettes, and empty cola cans for about thirty minutes. He then gave us back our ID cards and told us to leave the area quickly.

We took our ID cards and left. I got home around 5:30 P.M. I was unable to get out of bed or move for several days. I haven't been to work since then.

Muhammad Khader Muhammad Rabah is 26 years old, and a resident of al-Wallajeh Bethlehem District. He is unmarried and works as a construction worker. The testimony was taken by Soha Zeyd at the witness's home on 29 June 2003.