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From the field

Soldiers beat Muhammad Qashu'a, age 88, in his olive orchard near ‘Illar Village, March 2005

Muhammad Qashu'a, age 88

Muhammad Qashu’a

I live in the western part of the village of 'Illar, which is near Tulkarm. I am a farmer and have an olive orchard and almond trees on ten dunams of land on a hill south of the village. I am known in the area and arbitrate disputes in the village.

On 29 March 2005, around 7:00 A.M., I went to my orchard to weed the area around the trees. When the weeds dry, I give them to the donkey to eat. I went to the orchard by donkey, arriving at 7:30, and began to weed. I finished at about 10:30 and loaded the weeds onto the donkey. The sun was shining brightly by then, and I was tired. Just as I was about to leave the area, I heard someone call to me. I turned around and saw a group of about twelve soldiers. They were in uniform and had helmets on. Three of them came over to me, and the others stood where they were, about 15-20 meters away from me.

One of the soldiers asked me in Arabic: "What are you doing here?" I told him that I was working my land, removing the weeds. He asked me where I lived, and I told him I was from 'Illar. He told me that it was not olive-picking season, and again asked why I was there. I replied that it was my land and that I had come to cultivate it. He said that I was lying, and that I had come to give food to people on Israel 's wanted list. I told him that I did not know any wanted persons, that I am ninety years old, that I don't know anybody [who is wanted], and that without my donkey, I can't get to the farmland. I repeated that I was not a liar.

The soldier insulted me again, saying: "You old men are liars." I told him that I was ninety years old and have never lied to anyone, Jew or Arab. "If I were a liar, I would tell you that I saw people walking in that direction. You would go along the path and not find anybody, and would just tire yourselves out." Then he asked me if I had an ID card. I told him that I did, and that I had been to several countries, and know that I have to carry my ID card with me. I gave him my ID, and he looked at it and said: "Right, you are ninety, but you are impudent. You act as if you know the rules." I don't remember what he looked like. He told me that I was a liar, that I was there to feed terrorists, and not to work my land. Then he punched me in the chest.

I told him: "Don't hit me in the chest, I am sick and old. I can't withstand a beating. Why are you hitting me? Am I such a threat to you that you have to assault me?" I told him that I wanted to speak to the officer in charge. I know that all soldiers everywhere in the world are accompanied by an officer or somebody in charge, with whom a person can speak and reach an understanding. When I said that, that soldier and two other soldiers knocked me to the ground. They kicked me in the back and beat me.

I asked them why they were beating an old man. The law all over the world is that it is forbidden to beat old people, women, and children. One of the soldiers told me that I was impudent and was acting as I knew something about laws. Then he hit me on the back of my head with the butt of his rifle. I collapsed and lost consciousness. I regained consciousness about forty minutes later. I saw that my head was bleeding. I was dizzy and in pain, mostly in my back, chest, head, and left thigh. None of the soldiers were around - neither those who assaulted me nor the others. Only my donkey was there. He was eating the weeds that I had cut.

I went home with the donkey. My sons saw me covered in blood. I told them what had happened. One of my sons called the Red Cross and summoned an ambulance. The ambulance came and took me to the hospital in Tulkarm. I was placed in intensive care, where the physicians checked me and had me X-rayed. They said that I had contusions to the head, back, chest, and left leg. They gave me medicine to prevent infection and to alleviate the pain. They also gave me a shot to prevent infection. Then I went home.

Muhammad Hussein Salah Qashu'a, 88, a farmer and father of three, is a resident of 'Illar Village, Tulkarm District. His testimony was taken at his home by 'Abd al-Karim Sa'adi , on 30 March 2005.