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Gideon Levy: An American dream

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  • ummyakoub
    Twilight Zone / An American dream By Gideon Levy - Ha aretz Dec 31, 2003 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/378198.html This is the story of another boy, the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2004
      Twilight Zone / An American dream

      By Gideon Levy - Ha'aretz Dec 31, 2003


      This is the story of another boy, the seventh in the past few months
      who was killed for no good reason, this time in the Qalandiyah
      refugee camp near Ramallah. It's the story of another Palestinian who
      was shot with appalling thoughtlessness by Israeli soldiers, just as
      Gil Na'amati, a kibbutz member, was shot last Friday by Israeli
      soldiers while demonstrating against the separation fence - only in
      the case of the boy there was no public furor in Israel. It's also
      the story of an American dream, between Qalandiyah and Jelazoun,
      which was almost realized but finally was brutally shattered.

      In the spring of 1994, this column published the story of Awad
      Hindash, a car body-worker from the Jelazoun refugee camp, west of
      Ramallah. He was shot in the back by Israeli troops for no special
      reason shortly after the postman had brought him the visa to the
      United States he had coveted. Hindash was going to marry a California
      woman and start a new life. He was 23 at the time of his death.

      Now, nearly nine years later, Ibrahim Abd el-Qadr, a butcher by
      trade, shows the new passport of his son, Fares, which contains an
      entry visa to the United States. Not long before he was to travel
      with his son to America and remove the boy from the hell of life (and
      death) in this sprawling refugee camp, this American dream was also
      aborted in the same way. Fares was shot to death by Israeli soldiers.
      He was 14 and a half when he was killed.

      Awas Hindash was Fares' uncle. Neither of them made it to America.

      "Umm Fares" - mother of Fares - is what Ibrahim calls his wife,
      sending a shiver down the listener's spine. Wafia lost a brother, and
      now a son. Ibrahim and Wafia are about 40 years old. For most of his
      working life the bereaved father has been employed in the Mahane
      Yehuda produce market in Jerusalem, unloading meat for Rafael
      Itzikashvili, from Georgia, whose shop is on Heharuf Street, next to
      the falafel stand. Ibrahim is known as Jimzawi in the market, in
      memory of the family's destroyed village, Jimzu, not far from Lod, on
      the ruins of which the community of Gimzo now stands.

      Over the past few years Ibrahim made three trips to see his brother,
      in Chicago, in the hope of finding work and moving there with his
      family. He had had his fill of refugee life and of the danger that
      threatens the children of the camp at every turn. He especially
      wanted to get his firstborn, Fares, the apple of his eye, out of
      harm's way. "I was so afraid for him that I would take him with me to
      the market, so people wouldn't fill his head with all kinds of stuff,"
      Ibrahim says.

      "I wanted to safeguard him but I didn't succeed. I told myself that
      in another few months he'll finish school and I'll take him to
      Chicago - and halas. But instead, his time came. There isn't a Jew in
      the market who doesn't know that this was the plan. I was so afraid
      for him. In the market, too, I would sit him down next to me. I
      didn't let him make deliveries in the market, so he wouldn't be in
      danger. I work like a donkey, and I didn't want him to have the same
      hard life. The whole market knew that. My whole life I kept chasing
      ways to get out of the camp, but I couldn't do it."

      In the past year Ibrahim decided to leave his job in the market,
      where he worked hard but made a decent living, he says. "There was
      tremendous fear lately," he says, "things are such a mess. I left the
      market and opened a grocery store in the camp in order to watch over
      my son. To be next to him and give him a place so he wouldn't wander
      around in the streets." Besides that, he says, "I would board the bus
      and be ashamed, get off the bus and be ashamed. People didn't talk
      nicely. They don't know that all the fingers of a human being are the
      same. But I was ashamed."

      His plan was to remove Fares from the narrow alleys of the refugee
      camp, where danger seethes, next June. Ibrahim had already prepared
      everything in Chicago: here is Fares' visa, 2B1-B, good for a year,
      stamped in the Palestinian passport which now rests behind glass in a
      cabinet in the family home, another commemorative souvenir. They
      thought they would spend a few years in America, make a little money
      and return to buy a home outside the camp. The American dream was
      woven over years: Two of their children were born in the United
      States, during their visits to Ibrahim's brother and sister, and they
      have American passports. There is no more compelling fantasy than
      this in the territories for those who want to escape the hardships of
      life here. Little Rawan even has an American social security card.
      She's eating pita with chocolate. Her brother, Mohammed, who is four
      months old and also the bearer of American citizenship, is wrapped in
      a pink wool blanket.

      On September 21, Ibrahim Abd el-Qadr traveled to Chicago to prepare
      his son Fares' new chance in life. He registered the boy in a Chicago
      school and rented a place for the two of them, $600 a month, together
      with a friend.

      The day of Fares' death, Tuesday, December 9, was a day of exams, and
      Fares got up at 7 A.M. and hurried off to school earlier than usual.
      He dressed, drank a glass of milk and got his bag ready. Not long ago
      he finished building a small room, just for himself, that's attached
      to their small refugee house. Inside is a boy's bed, a few
      photographs pasted on the plastered wall, the Arc de Triomphe
      in Paris and the profile of a couple against a sunset background. He
      usually got home from school at 2 P.M., but today he was back at
      noon: It was parents' day. Wafia asked her son to seal the leaking
      roof of his new room - he had moved in only 10 days before and dad
      was in America. He and his friend Ahmed took 14 bricks to the roof
      and did a cursory sealing job.

      Wafia had the feeling that he was in a hurry. He put on his most
      tattered shoes - his mother asked him why he wasn't wearing the new
      pair from America - and disappeared down the alley. "Don't worry,
      I'll be back soon," he told his mother, declining to eat.

      He was always home by 3:30 P.M., because at 4 P.M. his sister came
      home, and Fares, the eldest, waited for her to make sure she got back
      on time. Here is his sister Ranin, wearing a red sweater, just
      entering adolescence. Everyone looks after the children in this
      refugee camp, on the road to Ramallah, whose alleys are embellished
      with the photographs of many martyrs, most of them children.

      At 4 o'clock, Wafia started to get worried. He was never late. For
      the first time in her life, she says, she went into the camp to look
      for her son. Wearing a robe, she looked everywhere, with the help of
      her sister. She feared the worst. She went down to the main road,
      walked along it, but saw nothing - no crowds and no stones. She went
      by the camp's caf‎; maybe someone there saw him. No. She went to
      Fares' uncle's house, where he spent much time with his cousin; maybe
      he came for a visit. Nothing. Wafia tells the story. Ibrahim's
      eyes are downcast. He was in Chicago.

      After leaving the uncle's place she met two men, one of whom had
      blood on his clothes. "When he looked at me, I said: `That is Fares'
      blood.' Don't worry, he said, Fares is in good condition, with a
      light wound. I started to scream and shout, until I passed out." She
      was taken to the government hospital in Ramallah, where she came
      to. "I started to scream: `Let me see him.' Wait, they said, he's
      getting stitches and it's best you don't go in. But he was no longer
      alive. Suddenly I saw all my brothers from Jelazoun around me. I
      grabbed my brother Ramadan and said: `Go and see about the boy.'"
      Ramadan dragged his sister out of the hospital forcibly and took her
      home. Fares' body remained in the hospital morgue until his father
      could get back from America.

      Ramadan called his brother-in-law in Chicago and told him that Fares
      had been wounded. "Tell me the truth, is Fares dead?" Earlier,
      Ibrahim had seen a news flash from Al-Jazeera television reporting
      the death of a boy in Qalandiyah. Friends from Chicago had called and
      asked if he had seen the report. The next day he was back in
      Qalandiyah. Fares was buried on Thursday, December 11, next to the
      tiny grave of his good friend, Omar Matar. The children were killed in
      the same way: throwing stones and shot to death. The bullet that was
      fired at Fares entered his eye and blew up his head. He died

      What actually happened there? According to activists from Machsom
      Watch, a voluntary group of Israeli women conducting daily
      observations at military checkpoints to monitor soldiers' behavior,
      on December 9 soldiers opened fire at children near the Qalandiyah
      checkpoint and killed Fares. He was shot in the head after children
      threw stones at the former airport of Atarot. The game of mutual
      provocations between stone-throwing children and armed soldiers is an
      almost daily occurrence at the Qalandiyah checkpoint. Observers from
      Machsom Watch were witnesses to the killing of the boy Omar Matar in
      March 2003 there, in an incident that led to an investigation by the
      Military Police. In the past week alone, the Machsom Watch group
      supplied three real-time alerts about similar events to the Binyamin
      District Brigade, to the emergency hotline of the IDF and to the IDF
      Spokesperson's Unit. Nothing was done to prevent the death of Fares.
      The killing of the next child is only a matter of time.

      The response of the IDF spokesperson: "On the afternoon of December
      9, dozens of Palestinian youths disrupted the public order in the
      area of the security fence adjacent to Atarot Airport. The rioting
      included the throwing of bricks, stones and hot-water boilers from
      the nearby rooftops at IDF and Border Police forces that were in the
      area. The forces used riot dispersal methods, which included also the
      firing of rubber bullets and tear gas.

      "The group of youths, some of whom were in their teens, have been
      taking part in the disruptions of order there on an almost daily
      basis in the past few months. A number of IDF soldiers have been
      wounded in these disruptions of order, and serious damage has been
      done to the security fence there. Events of this kind occur with the
      encouragement and support of certain local organizations that make
      cynical use [of the youths] for their purposes. In the past a number
      of stone throwers have been apprehended there, and in their
      interrogation they admitted to receiving payment for taking part in
      the disruptions of order.

      "Regarding the contentions about the boy - they are being examined,
      and the investigation of the circumstances of the event is still

      Ibrahim's version: "The children have nowhere to play. They are
      bored. So they go to the main road. The Border Police go by. It is a
      disgrace for me to lie - if the Border Police want to solve the
      problem, they solve it, and if they want to make trouble, they make
      trouble. It's in their hands. Why do they go by there? Why do they
      get involved with the children? They deliberately stand across from
      the camp, so the children will start up with them. What do you want
      from the children? They call out to the children, curse them - `Now I
      want to bring one of you down.' The children start to throw stones at
      them and they start shooting. What will they get out of it? A stone
      is thrown at them from a distance of a kilometer and they start

      "In my mind's eye I can see the soldier who shot Fares. The person
      who killed Fares did it deliberately. He lives in Afula or Hadera,
      maybe he isn't a Jew, he is in hell. I have no more to say. Didn't I
      work with Jews? For Tnuva, in Mea Shearim, in the market - there's no
      place I didn't work. When I went to Chicago, I asked Moshe if he
      wanted me to bring him a pair of Levi's. I like every Jew. I have no
      problems with them. But whoever killed Fares is for sure not a Jew. A
      Jew would have taken pity on him.

      "We were told that soldiers from the Border Police passed by on the
      main road and started to curse and call names. The children chased
      them until the airport [the unused airport is the killing field of
      the children]. Come with me and I will show you what the Border
      Police is. Stand at the checkpoint and you will see what they do to
      our children. Sometimes a soldier gets bored? Is there a shortage of
      birds in the sky? Aren't there pigeons in the sky? Why shoot a child?"



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