Sept. 21, another Christian Peacemaker teammate and I were doing our regular street patrol when we came upon a young Palestinian teenager, back facing the soldier, hands up high against the wall. Seven friends of the teen were standing by, not leaving their friend alone.
"Yes," they said to the three soldiers questioning them, "someone did throw a stone at this settler boy, but it wasn't our friend, and it wasn't us."
Each of these teens was dressed in his new Eid outfit, having fun on this second day of the greatest celebration of the Muslim calendar year. These three days ended the month of Ramadan, a month of serious fasting and almsgiving for every Muslim.
The settler boy from the settlement Avraham Avinu (Jewish ultra-conservative people who have settled inside the city of Hebron) picked this Palestinian teen as the culprit who threw the stone at him. Questions continued; CPTers began to film; the soldiers ordered everyone back from the scene and CPTers to stop filming. My teammate asked, "Why do you care if we film? If you are not doing anything wrong, you need not be afraid of our camera."
We moved back, but continued filming off and on. The Palestinian boy continued to insist on his innocence. An hour had now gone by. The soldiers called in the police who also "investigated" the situation. Now it grew dark; soon, the blue ominous lights of the police paddy wagon showed from a distance.
The craziness of the situation grew more and more apparent. This "one stone throwing event" now was employing three soldiers, two policemen and a paddywagon ... for what? For security or, I want to ask, "for more harassment and terrorizing"? We CPTers called two other international organizations, one of which arrived, monitored the situation and made a report.
In the end, our immediate words to soldiers and police did not help the lad. He went off to Kiryat Arba, the local Israeli jail. Typically, he then would be questioned until he admitted to something and therefore would be released, now with a record in the police files. Every time now he would be stopped at a checkpoint, he would be listed as a troublemaker, even though he did not throw the problematic stone.
This entrenched system that always takes the side of the Israeli person, that likewise ruins young soldiers' inherent gentleness, that challenges and destroys their common sense, their reasonable approach to matters ... this system that demands absolute obedience to "duty" - that sees any move of the Palestinians as a threat to Israeli security - yes, this system has gone mad.
I have grown to feel so responsible to these kids, these people who cannot speak up for their human rights, and likewise to these soldiers who enlist out of duty and a desire to get a university education and a good job. While the greater part of the world has decided the Palestinians are terrorists and therefore not to be listened to, I want to trust that you, the reader, are getting a more balanced viewpoint from this and other information. That's why you are reading this column.
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Sister Paulette Schroeder of St. Francis in Tiffin is a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, Palestine.