From Ramleh to the World: Can You Hear Us?
By: Maath Musleh
Published Friday, May 11, 2012
“Can they hear us?” wonder the protesters. Raising their voices louder and louder, the protesters in front of Ramleh prison are hoping the detained hunger strikers inside the jail can hear them. They are hoping their shouts will reach the ears of the prisoners and whisper to them: “we hear the growling of your stomachs”. We hear your shouts for freedom loud and clear and it moves us to action.
Buses carrying the prisoners’ families are leaving. Engines start, alerting those wearing uniforms. Five minutes pass and the occupation’s police get a rush of adrenaline. It is finally time to do what they do best, crush protests. Pushing the protesters, people fall to the ground and in just a minute it all became a mess. With beatings and arrests everywhere, the protesters remain steadfast. No force can silence them. The result was eight arrests, including Palestinians, Jewish citizens of the state of “Israel”, a Canadian and an American. Who said it was apartheid? You can clearly witness the equality in oppression of those calling for rights.
The eight arrestees are driven to Ramleh police station. Those who are cuffed with their hands behind their backs are unfortunate; they are dragged by the cuffs, not knowing the best way to walk. Sideways? Backwards? And even if you walk at a regular pace forward, they push you. You do not have the right to walk like a human being. You have to be humiliated.
Women are taken to one room. Men are taken to another nearby room. One of the arrestee is a minor. The police want his information. Speaking to him in Hebrew, he refuses other than to be spoken to in Arabic. Even at this young age, he knows who he is. He is a Palestinian Arab and proud. Six men, two Palestinians, two Israelis, one Canadian and one American, are locked inside a chamber. The minor was left outside the chamber, hands and legs cuffed. The chamber is three-by-three meters. It is big enough to fit the six arrestees, each one has their leg cuffed to another. The walls have red blood spots all over them. Is it Palestinian blood? What happened inside this chamber? Thoughts are broken by loud noises, screams and tazers.
Outside the police station, the arrestees’ comrades are gathering to check up on their friends. They move outside the compound. The noses of Zionist policemen are sensitive to the smell of proud people. It’s time to teach them a lesson, taze them, beat them. This is their game. Four policemen pick up a man and another tazes him. It is just an experiment to see how the human body reacts to electric shocks. A bench is flipped over two other men, and Jump! Jump! Tazing and beating everybody, nine more are arrested.
A handcuffed man is dragged to outside the men’s chamber. The officer forces open the man’s mouth and spits inside it several times. The man is then beaten against the wall. He is thrown to the ground, leaving a blood spot on the wall. Now it makes sense, that is how blood spots decorate the walls of the chamber. Four more handcuffed men are dragged to the room, thrown next to a man with a broken shoulder. An officer comes in with his tazer, playing the Shock! Shock! game for several minutes. Now screams come from the next room. Sexual harassment and the sound of tazers are sneaking through the walls. Women are threatened with rape if they do not sign. Meanwhile, two Israeli arrestees are standing shocked with pale faces. They have been arrested before. They have seen the atrocities committed by the occupation inside detention centers and prisons, but nothing like Ramleh. “I have never seen such a thing!!” says one of them, with eyes wide open. “Imagine if we were from the West Bank,” said one of the Palestinian arrestees, trying to calm them down. “Imagine if we were in the 90s, 80s, or 70s! This is a walk in the park!”
Policemen seemed to have calmed down. They are taking the arrestees to interrogation. In the men’s room, an American, a Canadian and two Palestinians are waiting. An officer comes: “Whose bag is this?” It is the Canadian’s bag. The officer stamps on it several times. The Canadian is shocked: “Why are you stamping on it?” Adrenaline rush is back. How dare he talk back to the officer! Punches, slaps and kicks, this is what you get for talking. The officer turns back and slaps the Palestinian: “Do not look at me!”
“Where is Harry?” they called. “Come!” Harry is a Jewish American from Philadelphia. His father is the head of a synagogue there. They drag him in for interrogation. “Your mother is a whore!” said the officer, leaving Harry shocked, eyes wide open. “You are not Jewish! You are a disgrace!” Harry thought that interrogations were supposed to be Q&As. He never thought he would sit there defending his Judaism.
Interrogations finish at 3:30am. It is now time to take the arrestees to Ramleh prison. No vacancies in Ramleh prison. Some of the arrestees have to spend the night sleeping on the floor or the iron bench in a detention cell. No, not even sleep. Just lying down, being called for one by one several times, first for fingerprints, then for a photo, then for some questions. It is already 7:30am now. Get ready for transfer to Petah Tekva for trial. The arrestees are transferred with other criminals. In Petah Tekva, they are all locked in one room, 18 men. The wait is long, sleep on the floor, wake up, talk, discuss, and lay down again. Finally at 4:30pm the first group is taken to trial.
It is always spirit-lifting to see your comrades sitting there in the courtroom. We do not leave a man behind. There is no evidence for the made-up charges. But they cannot let them get out for free. Being creative, the court orders a three-day house arrest, a two-week ban from contacting any person present at the protest, and a 30-day ban from a 0.5km radius of the Ramleh and Lydd areas. The same creative order is given to the second group. Now they are waiting to be released. Time is passing, arrestees are losing their temper. Documents from Ramleh prison have not arrived yet. “Officers in Ramleh prison are delaying the documents!” said one of the guards. At 7:30pm, they start releasing. By 8:30pm, everyone is out. Smiles on their faces, these people’s spirit cannot be broken. Before calling their parents, the arrestees come out and ask about the hunger strikers, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Thiab, both on their deathbeds.
The Zionist policemen had an exciting end to their week. Shabat Shalom! Spitting in mouths, punching, slapping, breaking shoulders, sexually harassing women, playing with tazers, they thought they succeeded in humiliating the arrestees. Unfortunately for them, they are out planning for their next protest. And the officers are just sitting in their offices praying to have the chance to repeat their aggression. None of their atrocities were caught on camera. But cameras are no longer needed to document Israel’s crimes.
Deir Yassin was caught on camera. Sabra and Shatila was caught on camera. Breaking bones in the First Intifada was also caught on camera. A long list of Israeli atrocities, attacks and massacres, have been caught on camera. It does not really matter. We cleared our hard disks several times to make space for more documentation. We have enough documentation of our sufferings. We now want to make space to document our victories and triumphs. We will not document them with our cameras, we will document our victories with our blood.
Maath Musleh, a Palestinian journalist and blogger based in Jerusalem. Follow him on Twitter @MaathMusleh.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.