Kawther Salam's Diary 

Hell Made in Israel (4-28/3/02)

The Daily Life of Kawther Salam

Kawther in Dublin

Kawther in Dublin

On 4th March 2002 I arrived at Ben Gurion airport.

It was 6:45am. I spend wonderful time in Ireland, It's enough to feel that you are a human being, to enjoy your life, but living under the occupation you feel such disappointment. I was thinking about my life when the airhostess asked me which I prefer to drink "Vodka" or "Wine"?

I decided to be drunk, why not? "This is the only way to stop thinking about what's going to happen for me in the airport, I say to myself". I said "Please, a glass of "Vodka". I asked her to sell me big bottle of Wine too.

I found a lot of problems with security in Ben Gurion airport. They took me to a special dirty room, which was full of garbage. They ordered me to enter a small "Cell" and started to assault my body. I shouted at them when they hurt me.

All of the security men and women came when I shouted. I fell on the floor. I was completely damaged. The security women started threatening me, telling me to stand up or they would call the police to arrest me. One of them helped me to stand up while the others started again to assault my body.

I got out of the "Cell" and stopped in the middle of the security. I was confused. I asked them, "How long you will continue living in this abnormal situation?

If you are scared about what you are doing to my people, so please stop the occupation."

The security was astonished. They were looking at me. One of them continued threatening me that they would call the police. I said "I don't care. Please stop, and call who you want. I opened my bag which was covered with the sign of the International Declaration of Human Rights. I offered to give it to the security officer as a present and to hang it in the airport.

Maybe it will help them to understand that they are dealing with human beings. The officer was polite.

He kept silent. Then he talked to me.

I told him that I'm not against a security search, but I'm not happy with the way they are treating me, because I'm not under arrest or detention. I arrived the airport in a legitimate way, and all nationalities must be respected in the airport.

I asked to have my bags searched just by security women. The officer gave his instructions. All the men left and the women started to search my things.

It took them four hours while I was talking most of time with the officer. He was listening to me carefully with respect.

I told him why I decided to arrive the airport drunk. Because I'm not fond of alcohol and I never got drunk before. The officer said, nothing was against me and he shook hands with me and apologized with respect.

Tuesday, 12th, march 2002

After I spent a couple of days with my Israeli friend in Tel- Aviv, I decided to return to my work and home in Hebron, but the Israeli soldiers wouldn't allowed me to enter my home. The city has been under curfew for a couple of weeks. For 325 days the Palestinian people have lived under curfew since the beginning of the "Intifadah". I tried to reach my home by using roads in the old market. I entered my house which was full off garbage.

It's a terrible situation. Everything was damaged in my house.

I left my home to live with friends until the International observer arrives and lives with me in my house.

Friday, 15th March 2002

It was 12:30pm when the Israeli officer threw my International press card in the street and ordered me to stop filming or he would shoot at me.

He said that I'm not allowed to practice my job as a journalist without carrying the "GPO" Israeli press card .

The Israeli government refused to renew press cards for Palestinian journalists for political reasons, but they did not refuse to my press card yet.

I filled out the form to renew my card two weeks ago. They said they are going to send it for security checking. They haven't come back to me.

Maybe they need more time so that one of the Israeli soldiers will shoot at me and the "IDF" spokesperson can say that he couldn't identify me as a journalist?!

Tuesday, 19th March 2002

Today I broke the curfew and the Israeli orders not to exercise my job as a journalist. I opened the barbed wire in "Alshallaleh" Street and I entered while one of the soldiers was ready to shoot. He shouted and asked me to stop where I was. I stopped and I told that I'm not a terrorist. I'm a journalist.

In the old market, while I was walking with my Irish friend, one of the Israeli soldiers who was hiding in the corner, pointed his gun at us. His finger was ready to shoot. He shouted and we stopped, we were frightened but we continued walking.

We did not want an argument with the soldier.

20th March.2002

I have strong headache as a result of what was happened to me during my professional tour in the area H2 under the military occupation.

At 11:30 I crossed Al-shalllalleh Al-Jadeed Street on my way to the old city,

while two Israeli soldiers took notice and follow up me in the street.

I stopped for a while, and the officer said to me, "you should go to the Palestinian area to reach the Old Shallaleh Street!!

I said "I should walk one Km, instead of three meters, that's not logical"!!

The Israeli military had blocked Al-Shalllaleh Street behind Beit Hadasah settlement for two months, and over 100 shops closed on this street. The Palestinians are not allowed to walk on Al-Shuhada Street in front of the settlement or behind the settlement, either!

The old Shallaleh Street behind Al-Shallaleh Al-Jadeed is blocked by barbed wire and by the military too.

All the roads to area H2 were blocked by the military.

The Palestinians' homes became "Isolated Cells" under this division. They have lived under curfew for 325 days. It's very dangerous for any one to move about in the old city.

Its very dangerous to cross the military barbed wire. The soldiers are always ready to shoot.

I kept going on my tour.

It's "Hell made in Israel". The streets were smelly. The bad stench spread in the old market.

Big rats and cats cross along the market and my path. The children called to me from the windows with sad impressions .

It is an insufferable situation.

Six soldiers, four men and two women were walking in the market proceeded by a wild dog.

I heard them yelling and ordering the children to stop looking through the windows.

They said, "Close the windows; it's curfew." The soldiers heard my steps and prepared themselves to exercise their military duties. Their fingers were fixed and they were read to shoot! The officer identified me. He said, "You were in London, why did you return?"

On of the women said "MAKHASHEFAH!", which means "Witch". All of them laughed loudly. I said, "Yes honey, how are you? I really missed you!!"

The soldiers continue with their small talk, and I kept going on my way.

At the market entrance, near the Beit Romano Yeshiva school, 10 soldiers were breaking into a tunnel chasing an eight year old child.

As I took some photos the soldiers asked me," Who are you?" I said, "I'm a journalist". They asked, "what are you doing here?"

I said "I'm taking some documentary pictures of "peaceful' soldiers."

I was talking with soldiers when a loud voice was interrupted us. I turned my face to identify the officer who threatened to shoot and kill me on Friday 15th March 2002.

He said, "What are you doing here?"

I said, " I'm filming your 'nice' soldiers."

He said, "Show me your ID".

I opened my bag to take out my ID but the soldier in front of me stopped me and said,

"You are beautiful. " I answered, "What did you say?"

He repeated to me, "You are beautiful."

I said, "You are,too. Thank you. Here is my ID."

The officer said, "You are dressed well." He got several steps closer to me. I asked him if what he told me is part of his security work or not and I stepped away from him. He asked me,

"Why are you running away from me?"

He stopped right in front of my face and said,

"I love talking with you. Please stay with me and talk for five minutes."

I was angry. I told him, "You threatened to kill me last Friday!"

The soldier said, "No, I was just kidding. I love talking with you. I want peace like you do. I want to live with my family in peace."

This officer who looked like he was at least 22 years old started to ask me private questions.

I told him that we are not in the pub having a drink.

We are in Hebron and I should leave. I reminded him that his commander will punish him if he hear about his talking with me.

22nd March 2002

I still live with friends in Hebron in area "H2" as a result of the IDF occupying the roof top of my home and the restriction which imposes on my free movement.

The soldier asked me "show me your Press Card??",

he said "International Press Card, its disgusting!", and then he asked me "How many bad reporters do we have in Israel?"

I said "no one, I think you are not allowed to ask me silly questions".

The soldier said "but you are very bad, Fuck the World" and he cut my Press Card in two pieces and threw them on the street.

The other soldier nearby shouted "no" at the one who cut the card and picked the Press Card off the street.

The two soldiers start fighting each others, I heard them saying bad curses like "Koss Immak Shelkha" which means "Mother Fucker", I watched them for a while and tried to call the Police.

The soldier walked over towards me and said "I'm sorry I don't mean it" and then asked me not to file a complaint against him.

I asked him "Why did you cut my Press Card?",

the soldier said "I don't know you, but I see your picture hanged in our camp, my officer said you return from "London" to write bad stories about the soldiers."

It was very clear that the soldiers were harassing me as a result of their commanders instructions.

A Palestinian construction laborer working in "Beit Romano" settlement

had told me that he saw my picture hanging in "Al-Shuhada" military camp in the commanders' office with writing underneath my picture stating "Hostile Journalist".

March 23, 2002

A letter to Ms. Mary robinson

To: Ms. Mary Robinson.

High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Dear Commissioner,

I am seeking your assistance in taking steps towards sending a United Nation reporter to Hebron in the West Bank for the specific purpose on investigating Journalists rights abuses Committed by Israeli Soldiers and Commanders in the Israeli-Controlled Section in Hebron,

commonly known as area " H2 ".

After the Israeli Government refused to renew the Palestinian Journalists Press Cards all the Palestinian Journalists who work in area " H2 " in Hebron were affected and there is now a persistently high incidence of direct,

indirect and unprovoked intimidation inflicted on Palestinian Journalists and a visible lack of physical and legal protection.

We seek your urgent support for an investigation that will undoubtedly find that these abuses occur both during and outside the times of collective curfew that is regularly and arbitrarily imposed on Hebronite Palestinian in " H2 " area where journalists must be allowed to work if the right to freedom of speech is to be upheld .

I have much verifiable documentation of the Israeli Soldiers harassment against journalists that I would like to offer to such an investigation.

All previous efforts to promote awareness to such abuses have been ineffectual and an official UN investigation may be or only hope in being able to report what is happening in Hebron.

Thanking you in advance for your consideration.

Documentaion of Abuses I have Experienced as a Journalist

On 20th March 2002, the Israeli Soldiers killed the Palestinian journalist Amjad Bahjat Al-Alami from Beit Ommar after killing an Italian journalist.

On 15th March 2002, an Israeli officer aimed his gun at my face and threatened to shoot me if I took any pictures while the soldiers entered into Palestinian area " H1 ".

On 22nd March 2002, an Israeli soldier cut my International Press Card and threw it in the street. The soldier said "Fuck the World" and claimed that I and his commanding officer think that I am a bad reporter.

On 22nd March, Five soldiers pointed their rifles at my chest and they asked me to show them my Press Card, after they searched my bag they threatened to shoot me if I continue working in Hebron.

24th March.2002

The Israeli Parliament member "Abou Vilan" who followed the issue of renewing my "Press Card" said that he got an official response through requesting the government about my press card,

they informed him that they will not renew my press card, they claimed that I made campaign against Israel when I was in Ireland.

In Irlenad I helped through organized the conference "The Defenders of Human Rights" which held in Dublin Castle between 17th-19th,Jan.2002.

The conference was opened by the Prime Minister of Dublin and over 80 countries were share in it.

In Dublin I talked in the "ERT" radio and "Trinty College" about the violation of hunan rights through my daily life with the "IDF" soldiers in Hebron.I was honest in all what I said.

I don't maid a campaign against Israel.

The Israeli Press Office director Mr Daniel Seeaman said,"The Jewish community in Hebron they dont like to recognize me!!"

So that I dont deserve to be a journalist!!

Mr Daniel Seaman meant by the Jewish community in Hebron "The settlers", Like Barouch Marzel, Noam Fedirman, Mosheh Levinger, and other extreme settlers.

Mr Daniel Semean didn't gave me his final response about renewing my press card,

but he mention through our talking by the teltphone that he took in his consideration the "settlers point of view toward me as a journalist!!!

Thursday, 28th,March.2002

27th, March 2002 I drove to "Haifa" with an Israeli friend, It took me one hour to held a meeting with "Al-Ittihad" Newspaper Editor Mr. 'Ahmed S'ad'. The main subject through our meeting was renewing my Israeli Government Press Card, "GPO". I return very quickly because of the "Besah". The Israeli family that I lived with them since couple months befor I went to Ireland, said, "You should share us the "Besah" preparation and the celebration today".

All the family were paid me a special attention through the "Pesah". They gave me a brief, and they translated the "Torah". They didn't forgot to laugh and made me laugh when they said, "What do you think the settlers are going to do if they knows about us?. "They will kill all of us", and they laughed loudly!! The family were traying to make me happy all the time and to let me forget that I am a refuge in Israel after the Israeli soldiers drove me out of house my house to the street in Hebron. Next day the family went to "Senay", but I prefered to stay home with "Zahave", I have alot of things to do, I'm writting daily reports to Al-Ittihad newspaper in "Haifa", and the "Sunday Tribune" in Ireland,

I promised to join the family another trip.

Today 28th, March I recieved an e-mail from the "Front Line Defenders of the Human Rights" where I was worked in Ireland for a while, Miss "Mary Lawlor" the head of this organization informed me that she contacted the "Irish Foreighn Affairs" to follow the issue of remewing my press card "GPO". She contacted Mr. "Ronan Brady" the member of the International Union of Journalists "NUJ" too. The International Federation of Journalists, "IFJ", send me another e-mail, "sarah de Jong", said that the "IFJ" recieved my message about the Israeli soldier who cut my international Press Card, "IFJ" and said, "Fuck the World". She said, "That is absolutly outragous"!