They pissed on him and he got eight months.
Humiliation is a
matter, depending on people’s personal symbols. For me, for example,
what feels most humiliating is not the fact that they urinated on him,
but that they stripped him naked. At first Mohammad’s father was ashamed
to tell about the pissing. To even say these words out loud. I think
that for him, that was the most humiliating thing they did to his son,
more than all the other things.
What kind of person, I wonder, takes a 13-year old boy no matter why,
and tortures him like this. And then I answer myself, almost any
Israeli. Any soldier in the army when it comes to Palestinians. Any
person, in fact, if only the local codes designate that it’s
The day I first saw him was one of those Mondays at the ‘Ofer’ military
court, in hall number 2. That’s where the children are tried. 20, 22, 23
children a day. Children and youths arrive in groups of two, three,
sometimes four, wearing brown prisoners’ garb, their feet chained, one
hand shackled to the next boy’s hand.
I noticed him in particular because he had soft, round curls, and
because he looked very young, and because he wept. Not that others don’t
weep from time to time, of the younger ones, I mean. But at least as far
as I’ve seen, not weeping openly like this, without attempting to hold
back the tears or hide them.
The military court is about prolonging custody, most of the time. This
is the system, even when it comes to children. Regardless of what the
detainee is accused of, or what kind of evidence has brought to his
arrest. In this sense, be the role of the military court as it may, it
certainly has nothing to do with seeking the truth and respective
punishment. Not when children are picked up in their homes in the dark
of night, usually as a result of someone else having incriminated them,
someone who often is but a child, like them. Usually for throwing
stones, or hurling improvised Molotov cocktails. And for this they are
arrested, without an option of release with bail, until the end of the
proceedings. For months. At least for three. Eventually they are found
guilty, nearly always. Although usually incrimination is the extent of
And after all, even if it can rightly be said that throwing a stone at
the occupier is a crime, and even if it right to say that a child
stone-thrower is as culpable as an adult, and even if a stone is equal
to the bullet of a gun – even a stone that has not hurt anyone, still
under these circumstances there is no way to know what really happened.
And this is no failure of the system or a mistake, but the pursuit of
the truth is by no means the point. Because the court is an arm of the
Occupation, and their purposes identical: oppression, harassment and
domination. Nothing else.
At any rate, on that day as on many others, again and again blocs of
children entered, shackled to one another, most of them smiling broadly
in spite of it all. Because these ridiculous prolongations of arrest
(meant especially to let the Occupation forces have more time to crush
and squeeze these children and recruit more collaborators) are the only
time when these youngsters can see their families. So here comes little
Mohammad Mukheir, not smiling to his parents, not waving, and for some
reason our hearts just stopped and were rent at first sight. This was
before we had learned what this child had gone through. Just this look
of his, so soft and scared, his curls so childish, his large eyes
overflowing, already singed the soul. And the usual things took place.
The warden unshackled him and he sat down. There were a few boys and
children before him, a bit older, and everyone’s session was delayed for
a another period of time. But in this time at least, they chatted with
their families as long as the soldiers and wardens let them, everyone
except Mohammad. Who was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and trembling
with cold, and didn’t speak, just wept. And his mother could not stop
weeping either. And this was unusual since mostly the mothers cry
afterwards. After their sons are taken away. And the father, withholding
hysteria, kept fingering an imagined phone number on his hand, and
murmuring to the boy to commit the number to memory, trying to make sure
the boy remembers the number. But the boy’s lips were frozen. Only his
tears kept falling. And then it was his turn, and the translator told
him to get up and he did. And his name was read. And then he was told to
sit and he sat down. His eyes were unfocused, and he looked younger than
his 13 years of age. Within a few moments the woman-judge said that the
court will be session again in two weeks’ time and the warden ordered
the boy to stand up. And he stood up. His gaze clutching his parents’,
and theirs his. And the warden shackled him and signaled him to start
moving. And his face, wet with all those tears, was pale with terror.
The boy was standing close to the exit, the warden beside him, hurrying
him on, his last gaze at his parents, dwelling on them, and the mother
clutched her hands, and the father, in some final determination,
murmured to him: get a haircut. Get a haircut, he repeated his gestures
and the lips mouthing the words, and signaled with his hand at his own
hair, and then at the little one’s curls. As if he would leave a better,
a more respectable impression if he got a haircut, he thought –
apparently. While we thought that he was not right. That it was better
for the child to remain exactly as he was. Unruly and childish. For his
curls are evidence that need not be blurred, of the real world to which
he belongs. His young age. And his deep, inherent right that shouts out
of their softness. And then the judge suddenly said: Why is he not
dressed? The words were sent into the air, their outlines disintegrating
as they became transparent, and the warden continued to lead him on, and
he disappeared, and she said no more. And the stunned parents stood up.
And hung their heads. And left, bent over, and we hurried after them.
We, with our inherent privileges, still roaming the corridors of this
place, as long as we’re still allowed to do so.
“He lied to his mother” said Tareq, Mohammad’s father. “He said ‘I am in
the village’, and he was with the kids, and I don’t know what exactly
happened, people said they saw him in the soldiers’ jeep, and that they
beat him up… I knew where he was. There’s an army base next to the Beit
Horon settlement. It’s at the entrance to Lower Beit Ur, between Upper
and Lower Beit Ur. So I went there straight away. And I asked about him.
I wanted to tell them, he’s a kid. If he threw stones I’ll jail him at
home. I wanted to see what happened to him. And the soldier told me he
wasn’t there. That I should try at ‘Ofer’. He said it just like that. I
knew he was there. I told them I know he’s there. They said, ‘you have
five minutes to leave, or the soldier will shoot you’. It’s that soldier
on the tower. The lookout. With his gun pointed at me. So I left.”
“We didn’t know what they did to him there. We knew nothing. Only later
“We looked for him for a whole week, until we found out where he was”,
the father continued. “Everywhere we were told he was not there. Now I
know that after three days in the base he was taken to ‘Ofer’. And was
there for a month. And after a month they put him in ‘Rimonim’. That’s a
jail for children and women. And this whole month we couldn’t speak to
him. Until he had his first court session. And only in court did we see
him. He didn’t talk, he only cried. I don’t know what they said there,
they set another court date, maybe for two weeks later. I don’t remember
exactly. Then we got a telephone call from somewhere in Ramallah. Human
rights people. For minors. I was told ‘your son’s condition is not good.
He’s got stuff on his feet. He was hurt. On his fingers. With
cigarettes. With guns. And me and his mother were crying for a whole
week. And not eating.”
“Look it up on the internet, what happened to him”, he added. His lips
were pursed as he spoke. Perhaps he had a hard time telling it all
outright. And we really looked and found what had been publicized:
he being accused of? We asked.
“Just of throwing stones. That’s what I’ve been told”, said Tareq. “But
now they’ve added a Molotov cocktail to the charge. He’s a kid. Doesn’t
have an ID yet. If he had an ID it would be different. But he’s too
young… He’s been here for three months already. Enough. He’s got his
punishment. Now I want to take him home. And have a look at his feet.
What they did to him with their gun and cigarettes. I don’t know what is
wrong with his feet. In court I told him to be a man. But he only weeps.
He doesn’t talk. Doesn’t call. And his mother keeps taking pills.
There’s a friend in prison who calls us and tells us he’s ill. But he
doesn’t call us even thought the judge allowed him to make one phone
call. The friend says that they tear up the document he got from the
judge allowing him to make the call, and don’t let him. And that he’s
got bruises around his eye. And his nose bleeds.
And we’re not allowed to visit him, we’re told we’ll only be able to
visit him in two months’ time. And we know nothing. It’s hard not to
know anything. He’s a child. Just a child”.
“We can only wait… Only wait”.
But why did the lawyer say nothing to the judge about the torture? We
asked. Why did he not mention what this boy has gone through?
“Because then they might treat him even worse”, the father explained.
“Give him another two months for our saying that. That’s what I think.
Just like he wasn’t allowed to have a jacket in jail. You saw him
yourself without a jacket. And he’s not allowed to make phone calls.
Maybe because the human rights people talked to him in prison. That’s
why he’s being treated that way… So maybe it’ll just be more trouble.”
And we thought he’s probably right, even if it’s unbearable to think so.
We have sat through three court sessions where Mohammad’s arrest was
prolonged, three of many since his proceedings began.
In the meantime he has had a haircut - upon the advice of his father, or
perhaps because that’s what was ordered in prison.
The third time we came, after a plea bargain was drawn by Mohammad’s
defense and the prosecution, the latter demanded an eight-month prison
sentence for little Mohammad Mukheir, in addition to a fine of 2000 NIS
(or another two months in prison instead), and a conditional
After the plea bargain was presented, the usual verbal routine was
heard, whereby the judge said she decided to honor the plea bargain for
several reasons: His young age, his clean record, the fact that he
confessed and saved court time, and because in fact the stone he
supposedly threw did not hurt anyone, as well as the Molotov cocktail he
is accused of having thrown which did not hurt anyone apparently. So all
in all no one was hurt. According to this, she chooses to honor the plea
bargain and sentences – as the prosecution demanded – eight months in
prison for little Mohammad, and 2000 NIS in fine or two months in prison
By the way, nearly every case that reaches the military court ends up
with a plea bargain. Meaning that the defendant confesses to whatever he
is accused of, or part of the charges. And usually he confesses
regardless of having committed the violation or not. Because he learns
soon enough that he has nearly no chance of being acquitted. And he has
already sat in jail for some months. And a plea bargain sometimes means
a sentence more or less equal to the time he’s already sat in jail. Or a
bit more. Whereas fighting for his innocence will drag out in time, and
usually entail a prolonged prison sentence. So most of them, indeed,
When Mohammad heard his sentence, he sat down and covered his face.
“I don’t want to be here”, he cried. And the confused father looked
away, pale. And again found the strength to look at his son, gave him a
tense smile and said in a forced voice: “But we’ll see each other
tomorrow”. Tried to cheer him up. And it really was lucky that the visit
his parents had applied for was allowed and scheduled for the next day,
and the disappointed child’s eyes softened a bit, his mouth stopped
trembling, looked brighter. Perhaps because in his child’s consciousness
he had tomorrow to wait for. And tomorrow he’ll get a jacket and a
blanket. That’s what his eyes said. And he smiled.
Although maybe he didn’t.
Eight months in prison, and a fine, and a suspended jail sentence – this
is what the 13-year old child got, a boy who, even according to the
Occupation forces, hurt no one.
Eight months because of an advantageous plea bargain.
Thus, the military court.
Thus, when it comes to Palestinians.
I can’t say what seems to me the worst of Mohammad Mukheir’s ordeal.
Whether the torture by the soldiers, or the harsh discovery that his
parents cannot protect him. And their almighty image, smashed to
smithereens. Or was it the insight, cast in him at such a young age,
that regardless of who he is, what kind of a person, that for the
various Israelis he has met and will meet all his life he is not “who”
but “what”. Unseen, unreal, un-human. Mostly. And perhaps after all, the
worst of it for me is that I know that after the urine has long been
washed and wiped away, and the wounds on his feet hopefully recovered
and only scars left, and the not so filling food in jail, and the
beatings he got and will be getting, and after hopefully his lovely
curls will grow out again, something has been cut, rifted in the life of
little Mohammad Mukheir. Something that nothing will ever again erase.
Something that is all that has been done to him, and more. And my
knowing this, washes the skies of the future and of the past with
something hard and sad, like a pulse. A pulse of sadness. And I only
hope for Mohammad, and for me, that we shall live to see another world.
Where he and I share the same rights on the earth. That he will receive
a human face, and that mine will remain human. Before blood washes the
land and the earth and the sky.
Aya Kaniuk and Tamar Goldschmidt. Translated by Tal Haran.