‘Teargas became my daily meal’ — the endless harassment of a Jerusalem neighborhood makes life unacceptable

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My friend Abdulwahab (Abed) Sabbah is the director of Dar Assadaqa, a community center in Abu Dis, East Jerusalem. He is the Palestinian half of London’s human rights organization CADFA, the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. He sent me an account of an IDF attack on his family in their apartment in Abu Dis on September 4, and followups. 

IDF vehicle in Abu Dis. [photo: Abdulwahab Sabbah]
What a day. We started early, at around 2:30 AM, when savage mercenaries from the Israel IDF invaded my father’s and my house. They started to knock hard on the main door, and when my father open the door, eight of them entered with their weapons into the house before I woke up and went down to see what was happening. By that time, five of them went up to my house [apartment], woke my family and pushed them downstairs to my father’s. All of us were held in one room; and the soldiers started to go into the rooms, one by one. They took our mobiles [cell phones] and IDs [and] birth certificates. My little daughters were sitting staring, not knowing what is happening. Who are these people with guns and masks wandering in our house, and shouting and pushing? My father was as usual the strongest and fought back.

First, they wanted to arrest my son Mohammed. They took him up stairs without allowing me to go with him, and when he was ready they asked about my youngest son Yassar, who was out helping to prepare our cousin’s wedding, which is today. By the end they gave me a military order: to come to the Israeli military camp in Abu Dis at 10 AM.

Four other young people, together with the wife of a “wanted man” (as they said), were arrested. And 10 houses at least were invaded at the same time in Abu Dis today.

None of my five kids were able to to go to school today. My poor mother and father did not manage to sleep worrying about my sons and me. As for me, I went to the military camp at ten, as they wanted. They take my ID and hold me until three thirty PM. No one spoke to me; just waiting. Then they gave me my ID and asked me to leave.

Schoolboy running from tear gas, Abu Dis. [photo: Abdulwahab Sabbah]

Abed Sabbah wrote to me again on September 10: 

Today the army came back to Abu Dis boys school. I was there also, and again more teargas. It became my daily meal. I am going back to what I used to do last year: to go early near the schools to try and save the school day and help kids reaching the school safely because the army returns early and makes a checkpoint next to the schools.

I asked him for his view of the reason for the IDF’s attacks. 

I don’t know if you can explain about the place, the East Jerusalem area, and its complete isolation by the wall, settlements, and checkpoints controlled by Israeli military camps, as it is all considered as areas B and C [of the occupied territories, in which Israel has complete control]. Among the past 30 years hundreds of young people, including children under the age of 16, were arrested by the Israeli army, and sent to prison for months if not years for joining demonstrations against the occupation or throwing stones.

These young people will be arrested from their schools or in the middle of the night from their house, and will be sent to Israeli settlements around the area for interrogation, where they will be tortured and made to signs on statements written in Hebrew language, which they can’t read. Then they use [the ‘confessions’] in the military courts, where the young ones will be given sentences, including making their family pay thousands of shekels to release their children. Our children are facing this situation for years, together with having to be all the time targets for the Israeli soldiers, on the streets, and inside their schools. Many, including my own son, was shot by [rubber bullets]. When he was 13 one of the [bullets] hit him in his face.

Israeli military vehicles in occupied Abu Dis. Photo by Abed Sabbah.

In the night they came to the town, they entered 10 houses and arrested 5 people and one woman, and searched their house, destroyed their furnitures, and in the end they released the women and two men without any charges. Next morning we saw a film published by the Israeli army, talking about finding guns and weapons in Abu Dis — just to say to their people that they are doing their job.

For me, I [have often been] a prisoner. I was arrested by the Israeli army 7 times– which none of them I was charged. It was all administrative detention, which is imprisonment without a trial. The first time I was 16. So now my sons are facing the same punishment, maybe because I am working for a human rights organization calling for justice for Palestine. My sons and family are targeted. All I want is to protect my family and my people from this wild daily harassment which is getting harder and harder.

The life that we are living is not at all acceptable. Generation after generation have to face this terror and live in fear. It’s about time to break this inhuman situation and have free equal life for Palestinians.

I asked Abed about the risk that publishing this account might put his family at even higher risk. 

My family should be prepared for that. We are living inside it. Let the world know who are these people and stop finding excuses for their crimes.

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“Teargas became my daily meal.” Modern version of Psalm 42:3.