It’s Saturday, 4 April, and a group of Israeli soldiers storm fourteen-year-old Maher’s house, claiming that Maher has been seen throwing stones – the Israeli military’s go-to rationale for harassing Palestinian children and their families.* When Maher’s father, Mahmoud, protests, soldiers take them both into custody, releasing them later that evening.
At approximately 6:45pm on 6 April soldiers once again raid Maher’s home. They do not arrest him then, but later that evening as Maher is out walking, a group of fully-armed soldiers detain him. Although another boy turns himself in for stone-throwing, the soldiers continue to threaten Maher with arrest. CPT is videotaping the incident when Maher’s father arrives just in time to successfully plead for his son’s release once more.
The following day, 48 Israeli soldiers parade around the streets of Hebron’s Old City in a loop, checking Palestinian IDs and entering homes along the way before raiding the home of Maher’s family again. They pound their way through Maher’s home up the stairs to the roof. From a neighbor’s roof, CPTers witness this crowd of soldiers laughing, joking and taking a series of group photos. Maher’s family watches from a ledge on a higher section of the roof, as Mahmoud once again defends his family from further military assault.
The soldiers explain that they chose Maher’s home as the spot for a group photo because of his alleged stone throwing. They cite as “evidence” that Maher was seen on the roof. Maher’s father explains that is on the roof to tend to the chickens kept in a coop there.
On 13 April, CPT visits Maher’s family and learns that this week, as many as 16 Israeli soldiers have entered their home every three hours, every single day.
The location of Maher’s house – next to the Israeli settlement of Beit Hadassah – highlights one of the disturbing reasons this family is being targeted. Heightened military repression against families living close to settlements in the West Bank characterizes Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and lives. Allegations of stone-throwing provide a smoke screen for targeted harassment and intimidation in an effort to expel families like Maher’s, thereby “sterilizing” the area surrounding illegal Israeli settlements from Palestinians.
Despite such treatment, Maher stands above 48 laughing soldiers on his family’s roof in a powerful demonstration of “sumud” – steadfastness in remaining on the land.
*CPT does not dispute that stone-throwing occurs in Hebron, yet we have witnessed the Israeli forces’ response, including the use of teargas and stun grenades, as often disproportionate. Furthermore, allegations of stone-throwing, with no solid evidence – i.e. claiming to have seen “a child” throwing stones or having dusty hands – are frequent justifications for child detention and arrest.