The security forces have a problem with the village of Qaddum. We’re not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s the weekly demonstrations that its residents are holding. What is clear is that they have decided to teach the village a lesson. Recently, a mysterious officer, who according to testimonies of the residents calls himself Captain Sabri, walks around telling people he will come and teach them a lesson. Some of the residents suspect him of being an ISA (Israeli Security Agency, AKA Shin Bet) officer.
Whatever Sabri’s organizational loyalty may be, he keeps his word. The Friday demonstrations are dispersed with an iron fist, and beyond that the residents also report recurring attacks on the village, even on days when no demonstrations are held. These attacks include the throwing of stun grenades and CS gas canisters, CS gas being the more aggressive form of tear gas.
In one case which actually made the Israeli media – of course, under the utilitarian fear that one more person killed by the IDF will make the kettle boil and cook us a new intifada – an old man from Qaddum, Saeed Gasser Nassar Ali, aged 85, died after inhaling gas which seeped into his house following a demonstration. The doctor who treated Ali found it hard to give him the best treatment possible, since he too was suffocating from the gas. Let’s say that again: the man suffocated in his house, and died shortly after in the hospital. Not during a demonstration. In his house.
Three weeks before Ali died, M., a resident of Qaddum, woke up at about 1 AM. His brother warned him that the army was raiding the village, and that all windows must be closed. Soon after, even though he thought he had closed all the windows, gas seeped into the house. The first to feel it was seven year old A., who began screaming that he can’t breathe. Then four year old R. began complaining he was feeling ill. The gas came through the windows of the bathroom, which is close to the children’s room and was forgotten.
M.’s wife was in the bedroom, holding H., a two month old baby, in her arms. When the gas reached the bedroom, she too had trouble breathing. M. noticed H. was turning blue and throwing up. He called an ambulance, and reached the village’s doctor – the same doctor that, a few weeks later, himself under gas attack, would have trouble treating the late Ali. The doctor gave H. an injection and hooked him with oxygen, and soon afterwards he was evacuated to a hospital in Qalqiliya. The doctors told the parents H. was in critical condition; happily, by the morning he was significantly better.
None of this will make the news. No one died. It’s just two children and an infant, poisoned by tear gas in the peace of their home. That’s the way occupation works: it requires terror, and effective terror necessitates the knowledge that no place is safe, that even the peace of the children’s room may be violated at any moment, by a cloud of something burning and suffocating. Don’t look away, my dears: this is what we finance. This is what the flying shards, flying as the tree is cut, look like. Like the broken egg without which no omelet can be made, and all the other clichés we tell ourselves when we say – “there’s nothing we can do”. Perhaps we can begin by not suffocating babies with gas?
Fear not: no IDF soldier will be harmed as a result of complaints filed after such events. As apparent in the case of Jawahar Abu Rahma, killed after inhaling gas three years ago, in which case we still lead a legal struggle so that the IDF will begin an investigation (!) into her death, the soldiers have nothing to fear. They’re covered. In our case, M., the father, does not intend to lodge a complaint. The rhetoric of “the most moral army in the world” failed to convince him. He knows there is no point in the effort and the heartache. And who knows, if you complain, maybe you’ll be targeted for harassment. So what’s the point? Better to make sure all windows are properly closed. Maybe, next time, it won’t be your baby.