Haaretz’s Gidon Levy brings the Jaberi family’s account of the events that led to the images showing Khaled Jabari, aged 4, trying to prevent his father from being taken away by the army. Israel accused the Palestinians of “staging” the scene
Last week I posted here the now famous clip of Khaled Jabari, a Palestinian child, desperately trying to prevent Israeli border police soldiers from arresting his Father, Fadel Jabari, on charge of water theft.
A few days later, Haaretz’s Gidon Levy met with the Jabari family and heard their account of the arrest [Hebrew]. As it turned, the soldiers actually came for Fadel’s father, 65 years old Badran Jabari, who used a local settlement’s water pipe to water his vegetables field.
As I explained in my previous post, water is a major issue in the region of South Hebron, where the Jabari family lives. The Israeli authorities construct pipes mostly for the use of the settlers, and the Palestinian Authority has limited control in the region, so it can’t build its own system.
As it turned, the pipe Badran Jabari used was a joint Israeli-Palestinian one, and according to his account, he actually had an authorization from the Palestinian Authority to connect to the water system. The IDF Civil Administration, however, did not authorize the use of the pipe, which was supposed to serve a local settlement only.
It will be wrong to understand this story in the terms of relations between a local municipality and a farmer – a perception that might lead us to believe that while the Jabari family might have suffered some injustice, ultimately, they simply stole the water. The IDF is the sole authority in the West Bank, and it gives very little attention to the Palestinians’ daily problems. The Jabaris, and many like them, have no other options. Stories like the one which happened at their field take place all the time around Hebron; the only difference this time was the presence of a crying boy and a cameraman at the scene.
This is from Gidon Levy’s report of the arrest (my translation):
Last Sunday the Jabaris went to visit the family’s grandfather, Badran Jaberi. Palestine, Khaled’s mother is a teacher. Fadel, his father, is a peddler of clothes and curtains. The couple has three small children. Khaled [the boy seen in the clip], aged four and two months, is the older. Grandfather Badran, Palestine’s mother, was a professor of sociology and active member in the Pupolar Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He spent 12 years in Israeli prison, nine of them without trial, until he became a farmer. Israel has never allowed him to leave the West Bank.
Badran, aged 65, has 11 acres east of Kiryat Arba – a vegetables garden and a vineyard. The family of his youngest daughter, who lives in the north of Hebron, went there last week to spend a few days of the summer vacation. On the first day of their visit, Khaled joined his grandfather and together they went to work in the field where the zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers are grown. A dog the child adopted accompanied them. Grandpa is calling Khaled by his nicknames: Jabber and Abbud. The family remained awake till late, eating, drinking and playing together.
Badran talks about what happened in good Hebrew, which he learned at Damascus University in 1965.
The next day, around six in the morning, the grandfather woke up to the sound of military vehicles approaching the house. He says it was a convoy of 20 vehicles: trucks, jeeps and bulldozers, border police forces, Police, Civil Administration and IDF. An entire army has raided his fields.
He went outside to ask what this was all about, but the policemen ordered him to return home immediately. He asked to speak with the officer in charge, but an officer told him the Civil Administration’s infrastructure officer has not arrived yet. “This is my field, what are you doing here? Rome will burn before Nero arrives,” he answered the policemen and soldiers, though it is doubtful if they knew what he was talking about. Badran had already experienced such raids: the affair regarding him tapping into the water network that crosses his fields has been going on for a long time, and included many such raids by the Civil Administration, which upholds the law only when Palestinians are concerned.
The noise made the grandmother come out as well. She was pushed by the soldiers and fell on the ground. They [the soldiers and policemen] began to dismantle the plumbing and to load the pipes on the truck. In doing so, they tore the plastic sheets and hurt the crops. Badran says that whenever he tried to speak with the officer in charge, they pushed him and cursed him: “Go home, old bastard.” To his daughter, Wissam, they referred as “a slut.”
Badran was handcuffed, while the action continued. Meanwhile, the younger son Wadee woke up. Badran says he told his son to get back to the house, but one of the officers ordered: “The SOB has boys, arrest the son.”
Wadee entered the house and run away from the back door, chased by the border police soldiers. “We were afraid for the child,” says Badran. Later, Wadee was caught [picture below] and his father tried to rescue him from the soldiers (Badran says his son was beaten). Then woke the eldest son, Fadel, little Khaled’s father. He went outside barefoot, wearing only his pajamas, and was beaten as well.
Badran says his son was knocked down three or four times. “We tried to talk to the officer, but it did not help. He just said [to the soldiers]: ‘arrest all those disturbing you. The old man too.’” Badran says he tried to calm his sons. He remembered how in a previous raid on his fields, on July 6, soldiers threw stun grenades and fired rubber coated bullets.
“After that, they took my child, Fadel, and Khaled woke up and tried to rescue his father,” Badran continues. “The boy was barefoot, he wept and shouted and fell several times between the legs of soldiers and the policemen. Khaled tried to defend his father and his uncle Wadee. ‘I want my father,’ he cried. When they took Fadel to the Jeep I told them: ‘Arrest me as well. What shall we live from? You took everything.’ I couldn’t take it any more. I sat and wept and told the border police officer: ‘You are harder than the stones here. You have no heart; you have no brain, look at what you are doing. You took everything’”.
A Palestinian photographer working for Reuters captured the events and passed the images on.
Fadel and Wadee were taken to the Kiryat Arba police station. Their father immediately sent a lawyer to the station, but he wasn’t allowed to meet them. The police told the father that they were taken to the Etzion detention facility. At Etzion he was told that Fadel remained there and that Wadee was taken to Ofer facility, near Ramallah. Last Thursday the two brothers were detained for six more days, in which they will be charged with assaulting five soldiers.
The border police spokesperson told Haaretz that “during enforcement action against water thieves in the southern Hebron hills, the police and army force was attacked with stones. Two people involved in the riot were arrested. During the arrest, as can be seen in the photos, the family chose to make a cynical use of a child, which was staged and directed [by them]. Instead of acting responsibly and removing the child from the scene, they chose to engage in cheap Anti-Israeli propaganda, deliberately aimed at presenting us in a negative way in the world.”
Regarding the context of the affair, Levy writes:
In 1995 a water pipeline was constructed through the fields of Badran from the town Banni Na’im to the settlement of Tkoa. Badran asked the Israeli water company to connect him the pipeline passing through his field (…) and was referred to the municipality of Banni Na’im. Badran claims he received a permit from the municipality to connect to the water line. After a few days the army came and confiscated the plumbing. Badran turned to the Palestinian Water Authority in Ramallah, where they gave him and three of his neighbors a permit to connect to the water line.
After a month, the Israeli Civil Administration came back, deemed the connection illegal, and confiscated the pipes [for the first time]. Badran says that a Civil Administration officer once told him: “I do not want to see something green on your fields. I want to see everything yellow.”
Fadel and Wadee Jabari are still in Israeli prison, awaiting trial.