Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Nasser Says Hello"

"Nasser says hello," the woman said as she stood in my doorway and
smiled. I was barely able to choke out, "Say hello to him too."
Nasser, the woman's husband, is in prison. He was arrested on July
20th during a peaceful demonstration in At-Tuwani, the village where
he lives. He did nothing wrong, nothing but build a house on land he
owns. A Palestinian need do nothing more to be treated like a

For the last month Nasser's family has been waiting for him to come
home. Nearly every week, an Israeli judge considered Nasser's case
and Nasser waited to be told when when he would be released from jail.
"There will be another hearing next Thursday," the judge said each
time. "Maybe then he can come home," I say to myself. But Nasser's
family is still waiting.

Last week, Nasser's family was told that he could come home if Nasser
paid a fine of 15,000 shekels, an impossibly large sum for someone
from a village that has been impoverished by the confiscation of their
land. The court never spoke with any of the Palestinians who witnessed
Nasser's arrest. My colleagues with Christian Peacemaker Teams video
tapped the entire incident, but our tapes were never entered into
evidence. The court just levied the fine and, frantically, the
village of At-Tuwani gathered the money together. Last Monday, they
tired to deliver it to the court, only to be told that the court would
only accept the money on Sunday. Come Sunday the court asked for
another 5,000 NIS. And Nasser's family continues to wait for him.

There are more than 11,000 Palestinians just like Nasser. They wait
in Israeli jails not knowing when they will see their families. This
is how Israel treats Palestinians going about their everyday lives -
building houses for their families, grazing their sheep, or going to
work. Meanwhile, the Israeli police refuse to prosecute Israeli
settlers for violent crimes. Time and time again, my colleagues and I
document settler violence against Palestinians and show our video
tapes to the Israeli police. Still, the police refuse to prosecute
settlers even when presented with overwhelming evidence. Conversely,
it takes only the word of a settler to land a Palestinian in jail.

Ramadan has now begun and Nasser's eldest son told me that Nasser is
fasting in prison. "But there isn't good food for him when he breaks
the fast," he explained. "Nasser really wants to come home." I
didn't know what to say, but the look on my face must have said it
all. "You're just like Adam," Nasser's wife said, laughing. Adam is
Nasser's youngest child. He is four years old. "He wants his father

"It is possible" wrote renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, "for
prison walls to disappear."Yes, Adam and I both want Nasser to come home.
Even more than that, I want an end to the brutal occupation that
separates so many parents from their children.

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