Profile: Ahmed Abu Hashem

23 August 2012

Ahmed Abu Hashem is an institution of political activism in Beit Ommar. For quarter of a century he has been a thorn in the side of the occupation and, in the dying days of the second intifada, was one of the early members of the embryonic organisation which would become the Popular Committee.

Ahmed was born in 1967, only months before the Six Day War and subsequent occupation of his homeland. As he grew up, so too did the settlements being established on Palestinian land; a development which took a destructive toll on Ahmed’s family. His father was shot and wounded by Israeli forces and his mother, tragically, was struck by the car of an Israeli settler, sustaining injuries from which she died. With an upbringing such as this, it is easy to understand the commitment and determination shown in Ahmed’s continued activism. In 1988, at the age of just 22, Ahmed was arrested for the first time.

Since then, the cumulative duration of his multiple detentions has reached five years, and he has suffered greatly for his activism. A fact of Ahmed’s life is now a sustained campaign of intimidation, coercion and persecution from the occupying forces. His ongoing campaigns have lead to the arrest and imprisonment of not only himself but also of his five oldest sons, one of whom suffered his first arrest at the age of just twelve years old. Midnight raids on Ahmed’s home are such a common occurrence that he struggles to sleep, and some periods of harassment have seen armed men entering his home on a nightly basis.

Threats to his family have become a routine tool of coercion which is used against Ahmed. One of his sons, Emad (22), currently imprisoned without trial, faces expulsion from the West Bank to Gaza, leaving his two young children without a father. The arrest of Ahmed’s son Hamza, then twelve years old, utilised no fewer than seventeen military vehicles in an unambiguous show of force. With the failure of coercive measures against him, the Israelis have also resorted to bribery. He has been offered unrestricted travel permits, allowing him freedom of which few Palestinians have the luxury; the only condition being his resignation from the Committee. Needless to say, he refused.

Ahmed’s story is by no means unique in occupied Palestine, but a symptom of the wider strategy of the Israeli occupiers. This focuses on undermining resistance, punishing dissenters and ultimately making life in the Palestinian Territories unbearable for those who refuse to be driven out of their homes. The bullet holes in Ahmed’s leg are a testament to both his unshakeable dedication and a reminder that the price of dissent can be very, very high.