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From the field

Border policeman beats Khaled Ghaneimat and steps on his throat for a few minutes, Jerusalem, August 2006

Khaled Ghaneimat, construction worker

Khaled Ghaneimat

I have been working in construction since I was nineteen. Over the years, I have worked inside Israel , in Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh, and Jerusalem . Until 2001, I didn't have any trouble entering Israel and finding work. Since then, the checkpoints have created lots of problems and great danger in entering Israel . Even when we manage to enter, those of us who do not have permits can't find steady work. So there have been long periods of time that I didn't work. In 2004, I worked only twenty days, and that in Surif. In 2005, I worked about three months. I am the sole supporter of my family. So not having work of course affects my family's financial situation. I have already used up all my savings, have gone into debt, and have had to sell my wife's jewelry. I also sold the television and video to get money to buy food.

In early 2006, I heard it was possible to enter Israel and work in Jabel Abu Ghanim (Har Homa) and sleep at the construction site. I began to work there. I go via a hilly path that runs near the village of Khallet a-Nu'man. I leave my house on Saturday and return on Friday night. I stay at the construction site under inhuman conditions. I eat bread and canned food. The site doesn't have basic facilities to keep clean, like showers and toilets. But the danger in entering Israel is the main problem. The Border Police chase workers trying to enter. In many cases, they fired live ammunition or tear gas at me and other workers. When they catch us, they usually beat and humiliate us.

Last Saturday [12 August], I had a very serious incident on my way to work in Abu Ghanim. I went with my son, Tha'ir, who is seventeen, and with another fellow, 'Awad Ahmad Ghaneimat. Tha'ir wanted to work during summer vacation to help support the family. When we broke through an opening in the separation fence near Khallet a-Nu'man, around 7:30 pm, we were startled to see a Border Police jeep standing about twenty meters in front of us. Four soldiers got out and aimed their rifles at us. The three of us stopped. Other workers who were with us turned around and fled toward al-'Obediah.

When the policemen got out of the jeep, one of them came straight to me. From less than a meter away, he told us to give him our ID cards. We gave them to him, and he also told me to give him my cell phone. This policeman was about 1.8 meters tall, had a light complexion and a moderate build. After taking the ID card and cell phone, the policeman spit at me in the face and began to swear at me: "I'll screw your mother and your sisters and your wife as well'… I'll screw you, you fool" He swore in Arabic, and I could tell by his accent that he was Druz. I told him: "If you are an Arab and you act this way, how will the Russian treat me?" One of the Policemen looked like he was Russian. The Druze policeman slammed me in the back with his rifle. I fell and he kicked me. After about five minutes, he stomped on my neck, saying, "I'll stomp on your neck like you're a dog." He pressed his foot down on my neck, and I started to choke. At that moment, I felt so humiliated that I hoped I would die, especially because my son was watching from only a few meters away. He was crying, and was very upset.

After he pressed down on my neck for a few minutes, he removed his foot and told me to get up. I got up. My clothes and face were dusty and dirty. He ordered me, Tha'ir, and 'Awad to get into the jeep. We got in. The jeep drove toward the main gate in the fence, by the entrance to Khallet a-Nu'man. The police officers dropped us off next to a Border Police armored car. A blond border policeman and a reserve-duty soldier were standing alongside it. The policeman who had beaten me ordered us to sit on the ground with our heads bent over. We did as he said. I asked him for something to drink, but he refused. He got into the jeep and left. It was then around 8:00 at night.

When the jeep left, I asked the Russian policeman who stayed with us to give me some water, but he refused as well. He said that the commander told him not to give us water. We stayed like that for about two hours. When we got tired, we raised our heads and changed position. The Russian policeman let us do that, but he said that when the jeep returns, we would have to go back to the previous position. The jeep came back once every hour. We were hungry and thirsty, and it was cold. Every once in a while, I asked the soldier how long they would hold us. Sometimes he replied that they would put us in jail and sometimes he said they would release us shortly.

Around 1:30 in the morning, a Border Police vehicle, a Toyota , arrived. One policeman got out. He was tall, blond, and, from what I could tell, had a high rank. He took our ID cards from the Russian soldier who was guarding us and gave them to us. Then he told us to leave. He also gave me back my cell phone. We managed to walk, even though we were very tired and hungry. We made our way to Beit Sahur, a distance of three kilometers. From there, we took a taxi to Surif.

Khaled Muhammad Suleiman Ghaneimat, 37, married with five children, is a construction worker, and a resident of Surif, Hebron District. his testimony was given to Kareem Jubran in Har Homa neighborhood in East Jerusaelm, on 15 August 2006.