Waleed got up. He was wearing a brown prison uniform. A 50-cm long iron chain dangled between his feet, connecting his iron-shackled, bare ankles.
The judge gestured and he sat down, heavily. A man in his late thirties, thin, sun-burnt, his hands rough and calloused.
In the courtroom sat an elderly man wearing a white head-kerchief (Kaffiyeh); his father, whose gaze sought his son's in vain.
A short silence. The judge leafed through her papers.
Waleed slowly raised his face, looked around and saw his father. The father, immediately, got up and took a single step towards his son.
The muscular warden sitting on the prisoners’ bench next to Waleed leapt
Clearly, the father did not understand. He tried to look at his son over the shoulder of the warden, who purposely, stood in the way. “I’m speaking to you nicely,” the warden continued to scold him in Hebrew, his hand sculpting the body of the father and pushing it away.
The father understood and stepped back.
Waleed lowered his eyes, hanging his head, and the father sat down again, heavily, and hung his head. The same heaviness emanated from father and son.
The door opened and all eyes were raised, except those of Waleed and his
“Have we got a plea?” the judge’s voice tore into the space. The soldier
stirred, looked around for a moment, then yawned again broadly as she
pondered her nails.
“Fine,” said the judge. “What we have left here, I see, is a violation of a closed area order… Yes, Waleed,” she turned to Waleed who did not look at her, “you entered Israel twice illegally in order to work. Please translate,” she asked the interpreter who was busy with his smartphone.
“The defendant has already been jailed for 35 days” she continued, and the interpreter repeated her words with some unfocused mumbling.
“He feeds a whole family… people are ill… no money… Why didn’t you apply for a permit? I don’t understand,” she said to Waleed in an accusing tone. “I don’t understand”…
Didn’t she get it?
“A permit costs money,” said the interpreter, suddenly efficient and involved. In jest, so it seemed. The fate-weighing judge was not amused, but the soldier, who revived once again, was, and she gave him a friendly smile.
The soldier interpreter was right, more than he realized. A permit does
cost money, and only money – or collaboration – will get one. A lot of
money paid to all sorts of types, who can get into the computer and
alter the prevention criteria.
“Sitting in jail will also cost him money,” said the judge, monstrously ignorant. Or perhaps this too was said in jest.
Either way, clearly, for her, Waleed is not a real person. Just like all
the others, who aren't. Otherwise she could not spend days and months
and years taking part in fating human beings according to flawed and
inappropriate criteria, whereby a person is guilty, unless proven
innocent, if the person is a Palestinian.
“The sentence,” she concluded. “The defendant is convicted by his own
admission of having entered Israel twice without a lawful permit. The
defendant sustains a large family, his mother and brother are very ill.
His father is old. And they have no means of obtaining permits to enter
Israel, lawfully. And still he entered without a permit.
The father stood up, the soldier sprang up towards him. The judge gestured to her that it was alright.
“Speak,” said the judge to the father, who remained standing, while the interpreter translated.
“That is a lot of money,” said the broken father. And said no more.
“That is, precisely, the reason for this punishment,” the friendly-faced Jewish judge explained to him didactically. Indicating that that was why she had meted out such light punishment; this was her gift to him from the heights of her generosity.
The father sat down, heavily. This time he did not seek his son’s face.
Apparently, the situation at home is unbearable; everyone’s fate depends on Waleed.
The soldier and the interpreter continued to exchange their youthful, blooming, yet still blank looks.
I am sorry, said the father’s collapsed body. And he did not raise his face.
“Yes, who’s next?” asked the judge. And the soldier got up, lightly
pushing Waleed with her hand. He rose slowly. She waited. He held out
his hands in a motion familiar to both of them, as she placed iron
shackles on his wrists. He took a last look at his bent and shamed
father who did not return it.
The father raised his head, suddenly, realizing that Waleed was no longer there. His eyes rested on the exit from which his son had gone out, looking lost and endlessly sad. Then he got up and left, too. No one cast a glance at his direction.
The door at the front of the court hall opened and three young men wearing brown prison uniforms entered, feet and hands shackled. For a moment injustice colored the room, and cast a shadow over the judge, the lights were dimmed and she was rendered grey and superfluous as she really is, she and everything she stands for.
And we, the privileged, who moved about this dark kingdom, free and entitled by the same warped, inherent logic, the same racism at whose one end is one ethnic origin - with a face and visibility, and at whose other end there is an often faceless ethnic origin - transparent human beings or enemies.
For they are Palestinians. And that is the whole story.