[News] Israel's war against a widow
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 21 11:53:13 EST 2018
Israel's war against a widow
Budour Youssef Hassan
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/budour-youssef-hassan> - 20
It was a few minutes past midnight when hundreds of Israeli soldiers
stormed al-Amari refugee camp. They had come to demolish the house of
Latifa Abu Humaid, a widow in her seventies.
Latifa was expecting the raid from Israel’s forces of occupation. The
previous day, she had been instructed to evacuate her home within 24 hours.
She decided to stay put. Youth from the camp – situated south of
Ramallah in the occupied West Bank – had joined her, determined to
resist the invaders.
When they arrived, the Israeli troops beat and pushed the people
gathered inside the home. They fired stun grenades and tear gas before
dragging Latifa and everyone else out. Many of Latifa’s neighbors were
“We were first detained in the football field, in the freezing cold, at
1am,” said Naimah Fayiz, 64, who lives near the Abu Humaid family. “The
football field was full of detainees, including children. We were forced
to stay there for almost half an hour before being taken to the
Israel’s mid-December raid on al-Amari sparked confrontations with local
youth that lasted for hours. It was never going to be a match of equals.
An army was taking on a widow. The invading soldiers had modern weapons;
the local youth had rocks and Molotov cocktails. A small refugee camp
was pitted against Israel, a state backed by the US and other powerful
At 5:30 am, the Israeli military blew up Latifa’s home with dynamite.
Her home was located within a four-story building. Four hours later, the
military blew up that entire building.
The home of Naimah Fayiz was damaged in the second explosion. So were
the homes of several other neighbors.
“Not since the invasion of the second intifada can I recall a raid like
this,” Tamer Hammad, a resident of the camp, told The Electronic
Intifada. “It was as if they were planning to carry out a full-blown
military operation, not just demolish a house.”
The tactic of punitive home demolitions is used systematically by
Israel. It involves collective punishment. A whole family gets penalized
for the resistance activities allegedly undertaken by one of its members.
its policy of punitive demolitions in 2005. Yet it was reactivated
under the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu a decade later –
officially as a response to a Palestinian uprising which began in
“It is difficult to comprehend why they brought such a large number of
troops when they could have demolished the house with a much smaller
unit,” said Yousif Abu Humaid, one of Latifa’s sons. “Perhaps because
they expected the resistance to be strong or maybe it was done to boost
Netanyahu’s popularity. It is hard to know.”
The demolition in al-Amari and the way in which it was orchestrated went
beyond “normal” punishment or retaliation. It appears that the Israeli
military sought to turn punishment into a public spectacle aimed at
humiliating a community.
“If they think that this demolition will break me, they clearly know
nothing about me and my family,” Latifa – who is also known as Um Nasser
– told The Electronic Intifada. Her home was previously destroyed by
Israel in 1991 and 2003.
“This is the third punitive demolition that targets my home,” she said.
“And each time they demolish, our commitment to the liberation of
Palestine grows even greater.”
Latifa’s son Islam is accused
of dropping a marble slab from a rooftop – thereby fatally injuring a
soldier – during an Israeli raid earlier this year. He is being held in
Ofer, an Israeli military jail within the West Bank. Latifa has been
able to visit him only once since he was arrested in June.
“Israel wants to portray Islam as the aggressor for killing the
soldier,” one woman living in al-Amari said. “But he was defending his
camp, his people. The attackers are the Israeli soldiers who repeatedly
invade the camp and terrorize us. Are we expected to celebrate their raids?”
Four other members of the family are imprisoned, having been convicted
on charges relating to suicide bombings and other armed actions inside
Israel. Jihad, another of Latifa’s 12 children, is being held without
charge or trial – a practice known as administrative detention.
Whenever Latifa has been able to speak with her sons in jail, she has
always offered them words of encouragement. She recalls going to see her
son Nasser on one occasion. “I told him to remain defiant just as I
raised him to be,” she said. “When you choose the path of Palestine, you
should never look back.”
Latifa has also suffered the pain of losing a child. Her son Abd
al-Munim was assassinated
Israeli forces in 1994. He was accused of killing an intelligence
officer during an ambush in the Ramallah area. Abd al-Munim was a
commander in the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
Israel issued an order to confiscate the land on which the family’s home
was built following Abd al-Munim’s assassination.
A protest tent has now been set up next to Latifa’s demolished home in
al-Amari. Many visitors to the tent have spent time in prison with her
sons. Others – such as Hazem Shunnar from Nablus – know what it is like
to see their home destroyed.
“They also demolished my family’s home as punishment for our involvement
in the resistance,” Shunnar said. “Our pain takes different forms but
its substance is the same.”
Originally from Abu Shusha – a village near Ramle in historic Palestine
– Latifa was an infant during the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing at the
time of Israel’s foundation in 1948. She has spent most of her life in
“I’ve seen my children grow here,” she said. “I’ve lived my happiest and
hardest moments in this home. I shared my life with my husband here.
I’ve rebuilt the home after they demolished it. It is rooted in me. It’s
not about the physical structure, it’s about the memories, the moments.”
One of her sons, Naji, has an idea for what should be done with the
demolished building. He thinks its first floor – severely damaged but
not entirely destroyed – should be turned into a museum.
“We will restore it and turn it into a museum that commemorates the
resistance of our family and of al-Amari camp,” said Naji.
“Unfortunately, my mother will not be able to live here again. But her
house will continue to bear witness to our perseverance and to Israel’s
/Budour Youssef Hassan is a Palestinian writer based in Jerusalem. Blog:
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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