International Activist Harassed at Ofer Military Court
On Sunday, March 25, 2012, four international activists from PSP went to Ofer military court to follow up on the eight Beit Ommar youths who were arrested recently. They were warned ahead of time by Israeli activists that the security at Ofer military court tend to do their utmost to keep others from entering. Thus, despite being registered to attend the hearing, the PSP activists were made to wait outside for nearly an hour, missing the entire session.
Going through security, the Israeli security guards asked each person if they spoke Hebrew, then if they spoke Arabic. The first of the internationals to go through was an American woman. She answered the questions, admitting that she spoke no Hebrew, but she did speak Arabic. She explains,
“They laughed and said something in Hebrew that I didn’t understand, and I was pointed into another room and told to empty my pockets and take off my belt for a second time. The guard waved the wand over me, then groped me. She claimed she had to check the pockets that were on the front of my shirt, but rather than pull the front of my shirt away from my body, she roughly squeezed my breasts. She then put her hands inside all of my pants pockets, which did not happen to the other internationals, who do not speak Arabic. I felt humiliated and violated, and I felt like I wasn’t in a position to say no. I am very familiar with the discomfort of security pat-downs, but this went far beyond that. I can only explain this as part of the ongoing discrimination, humiliation and violations of human rights that are part of the occupation.”
After the four of them made it through security, they were told the session was already finished. The lawyer, Neri Rmata, filled them on what happened. The youths, whose ages range from 14 to 17, will spend 8-12 months in prison for throwing stones and similar light offenses. For three of the youths, it is not their first time in jail, and they will serve longer sentences. The court decided to release one of the boys, Ahmed Solaiby, on bail, but the decision was appealed. Court will resume on April 4th, and they will all remain in prison in the meantime. The expulsion of the eight boys from their town of Beit Ommar was not mentioned in court, and is not a possibility in their case. Several inaccurate reports have circulated around this case due to misunderstandings of the convoluted Israeli military court system and the understandable anxiety of the parents of these imprisoned children, but we will make every attempt to maintain an accurate account of the current status of their case on this website.