A Merry Little Rifle Butt
Postcards from Palestine
Stories of Permanent Exile and Hopeless Expectation
As an American Christian, recently I acknowledged a sort of coming-out on Israel and Palestine (see: "For Palestinians, an Advent #FAIL"). In this brief Christmas series called Postcards from Palestine, I wanted to give voice to several Palestinians for whom Advent is a no-show.
The following story is taken from the journalist Kenize Mourad's personal encounters with Palestinians in 2002. These stories eventually became the pages of her book Our Sacred Land: Voices of the Palestine-Israeli Conflict (Oneworld Publications; 2004).
[Israeli] soldiers knocked on my door [in Ramallah, West Bank] at two o'clock in the afternoon. There were five of us living here, all friends. They told us to get out of the apartment and then they went through everything, from top to bottom. They did the same to all the apartments in the building. After they had finished ransacking the place, they took us away, our hands tied behind our backs and hoods over our heads, and put us into an armored vehicle.
They had barely taken my hood off me when an Israeli asked, "Do you belong to Hamas?"
"No, I am an artist."
Another Israeli said, "Leave him to me. I'll take care of him."
He took me up into a room. That's when the interrogation began. After the interrogation I was transferred to an area of tents surrounded by barbed wire. It was the detention center. There were around fifty prisoners to a tent, in inhuman conditions.
I stayed there for 43 days, during which I was interrogated four times. I was not tortured, but I was hit. All the prisoners were hit. Every time we were taken from one place to another, every time we were in contact with soldiers, they hit us. Without fail.
Finally they brought me before the military tribunal. The judge said to me: "You have done nothing wrong. You are not a member of Hamas or Islamic Jihad. You have told the truth. You are free to go."
I was taken back to the camp. [An] officer asked me: "Which hand do you use to draw?"
I had a premonition. I replied that I drew with my left hand.
"Very well. Draw my portrait," he said.
Luckily, at one time I used to practice drawing with both hands and I was able to draw a more or less convincing portrait. When it was done, he said, "OK, you can go." When I put my hands on the table to get up, he slammed his rifle butt down on my left wrist and broke it.
With a friend's help, I was able to get back home. The next day I went to the hospital to get treatment. Today it is almost healed but I don't have the same mobility as before.*
*This story was told to Kenize Mourad by Yussef, an artist whose family were originally refugees from the region of Ramleh, which is now in Israel.