I must bring to your attention Aya and Tamar, the two brave, stalwart, indefatigable Israeli women of Mahsanmilim who report from the checkpoints using the written word and “no comment” videos (available on their website). I admire them also for not simply reporting but for also following up, sometimes years later.
This morning I received their report from a military courthouse, Courtroom 2, where young Palestinian boys are sentenced, this time by a woman judge:
By Aya Kaniuk & Tamar Goldschmidt
Only two family members are allowed to come to the trial. This is usually the only time they can come and see their son, and they do. Time after time. They may bring cigarettes and money for the long day awaiting them. Nothing else. Not even medication, nor tissues, nor food, nor a book or a newspaper. We, visitors who are not Palestinian, are allowed to bring in a notebook and pen. But not tissues. We have no privileges concerning tissues.
Perhaps because tissues are evidence that there is something to cry over, and the State of Israel is not willing to name its own deeds at the end of which lies weeping. And its necessity is the evidence and the visibility of that which Israel is not willing to name, that and the anticipated weeping. Perhaps that is why tissues are not allowed in court.
One man managed to smuggle in a roll of toilet paper despite the order forbidding tissues. Apparently deep in his clothes he dared to hide toilet paper, soft as tissues. Now he moved from woman to woman, handing out bits of toilet paper to every single one of them, all the mothers, so they would have it ready for the tears when they would come. When he handed it to us as well we were ashamed, because we have no spouses or sons in jail. And because the man only had one roll of paper, we felt uneasy that we were getting some at the expense of someone else.
Finally we were lucky to have gotten it. Because all that remains in this accursed place is to weep. The warmth of the wet, salty tears is the only possibly warmth inside this sinister ticking mechanism that no word could encompass or cover.
And so child after child. Everything seems reasonable to her, and to the rest of those judges. Eight months, and six, and once again having to pay 5000 shekel.
This fine that is always eventually charged. More and more money to be paid by those who don’t have any to begin with. Or else the son will sit another few months, as many as the thousands of shekels that were required in payment.
A child arrives wearing a short-sleeved shirt, shivering with cold. Apparently he is fifteen but looks younger. Does not know who his lawyer is. No parents. Bites his fingernails. Sucks his thumb. His look is scattered and scared. He is accused of having thrown stones. Attorney Samara volunteers to take him on.
I request the postponement of this case in order to complete it by the 13th of next month, says the judge. Three weeks from today. And the defendant gives his parents’ phone number to the lawyer. The policeman has already shackled the child who rises and stands to be led out again, and the judge asks resentfully, why is he not dressed, just such a light shirt in this cold weather? How could this be?
Her pitying voice is not directed at anyone in particular.
Indeed, one should resent and hurt the fact that he is cold, your honor. But why just this? What about their having come in the dead of night to pick him up? That he has not seen a lawyer until now? That there was no adult present at his interrogation? That his parents have not been informed of his whereabouts? That he was arrested on the basis of denunciation? That he was not released on bail? That he has been in custody for months before his trial began?
And if he did throw stones, how would you know? Is this the way to find out? Can one find out at all?
And if he did, your honor, is this what he deserves?
Would this happen, your honor, were this a Jewish child who threw stones?
No need to answer, your honor, the answer is obvious.