Stripping Palestinians has Become Common Practice

Tuesday, November 26 2002

Stripping Palestinians has Become Common Practice:

Eyewitness Accounts

"They forced Yasser to take off all his clothes

including his underwear?they ordered him to walk like

a dog and then he burst into tears .."

By Suzanne Russ 

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PC) - On Monday, November 25,

Israeli soldiers ordered a young resident of the town

of Nablus to strip completely naked in the street,

according to Palestinian witnesses. 

Yasser Sharar, 25, was caught violating the curfew in

Nablus and was stopped by Israeli soldiers at

gunpoint, who immediately ordered him to remove his


In an interview with Reuters, a witness explained,

"They forced Yasser to take off all his clothes

including his underwear?they ordered him to walk like

a dog and then he burst into tears,"

The eyewitness who watched the scene from a few meters

away continued, "He kept crying and was in a very

stressful situation?many residents, including women

watched him and he was very embarrassed."

Israeli soldiers refuted the claim, saying that they

merely asked him to lift his shirt, but he voluntarily

removed all his clothing to get media attention. The

Reuters report also claimed that this is the first

time Israeli soldiers have ordered Palestinians to

completely strip naked publicly in a security


However, recent interviews conducted by the Palestine

Chronicle with scores of residents of the Jenin

refugee camp contradicted the Reuters claim. Dozens of

residents of the refugee camp claimed that during the

Israeli invasion of April, 2002, it was a common

practice to force residents to strip naked as a form

of humiliation, or as the Israelis say, a "security


Na'el Ammar, 43, is a resident of the Jenin refugee

camp and explains how Israeli soldiers arrested and

detained scores of men from the refugee camp, and

forced many to strip naked, " We were mostly older

people, sick and wounded. We had nine handicapped

people with us, three were from the same family, sons

of Abu Ibrahim. Some of us were too old, they were

senile. When they told them "go left" they would go

right, but they stripped them naked anyway. I tried to

help them as much as I could. I was the only one who

spoke Hebrew?Close to us was a group of young men.

They were handcuffed, naked and lying on their

stomachs. The Israeli tanks would pass by them so

fast, only forty centimeters away from their heads."

Nawal Hawashin, a mother of eight, told Palestine

Chronicle reporters that they threatened her 18 year

old son with death if he did not follow their orders

to strip naked, "They ordered my son and other young

men to take off all their clothes and throw them on

the ground. The soldiers warned that if the boys made

any move, they would be shot. Near the Sahah, there

was a body of a man with a white beard. He was lying

dead on the ground, and tanks were rolling right over

him. I couldn't recognize him. My son Mohammed said,

"Mother, I am too ashamed to take my clothes off in

front of women." I told him, 'Son, this is our fate."

Jamal Hussein has a family of thirteen. A man who

worked as a cheap laborer in Israel before the

invasion of Jenin described in detail how terrified

Jenin residents were gathered in the center of the

camp and forced to undress, "Soldiers stationed on the

top of a nearby house started throwing dirt on us.. We

remained 15 men and boys. Half an hour later a tank

came and stood near us. They pointed the canon at us.

And they spent over an hour terrifying us that way.

The commander of that unit spoke in Arabic to us, "Go

to Saha". While we were on our way, we kept reading

Koran. We felt that they were going to execute us.

Once we arrived there, we found a large number of men,

forced to strip completely naked. There was a big pile

of clothes. Soldiers started shooting right above our

heads, they would call on us, one by one. Once they

pointed at you, you would have to pull your pants down

and your shirt up, when it was my turn, as I stood up,

I noticed the body of a man, Jamal Sabbagh. It was

some sort of a test. If you pass, you are arrested and

if you don't, they'll shoot and kill you."

According to Jenin residents, Israeli forces were not

discriminatory in their aggression, young men, old and

disabled were targeted. 45-year old Um Siri lamented

how her son was not only forced to strip naked, but

how he was later used as a human shield, "Then they

took my son, they had him strip naked, and they also

started firing between his legs to terrorize him."

Israeli soldiers arrested and detained Um Siri's son

for days, during this time, she did not know if he was

dead or alive. Finally she found him in a rescue

shelter where he recounted how he was treated, "When I

also found my son, he told me that the soldiers took

him to a field near the camp with many other young

men, he told me that the soldiers had them walk in

front of the tanks, as they were looking for


The vulnerable and elderly, according to residents,

were treated just as mercilessly. Um Siri recounted

how the women of Jenin tried to come to the aid of

some men, forced to stand naked publicly, in the

pouring rain, "We passed by the sons of Sheikh Abdel

Salam. They were standing there in the rain, after the

Israelis had them strip completely naked. There was a

woman who came with us. She took her headscarf and

tore it to several pieces and gave it to the young men

to cover themselves. A very thin old man approached

while screaming, 'My sons, my money, for God's sake,

they took everything!' The Israelis had him strip

naked like the day he was born. Once the women saw

that, they started pulling their hair, hitting their

heads, and wailing. He has all of his life's savings

with him, because he was worried that he might lose it

in the invasion, but when the Israelis stripped him

naked, they found the money and took it."

Other residents described how young men were stripped

naked and then shot. Yusuf Shalabi, a young man from

the camp explained how the Israeli soldiers denied

medical treatment to the wounded, "?I remember this

nightmare very well. It is very difficult to talk

about it. I remember them stripping the people naked,

they would handcuff them and blindfold them. I

remember seeing two wounded men, one was wounded in

the shoulder and the other in the leg. They were

screaming in pain and the soldiers would not allow

them to be treated.

The Israeli army, who according to Amnesty

International committed war crimes in Jenin in April

of 2002, targeted medical workers as well. They also

forced the women to remove their head scarves. Seham

Shalabi, a young woman who works in a textile factory

in Jenin recounted her memories of those days last

April, "An army jeep came and started circling the

house, then it opened fire at us. Why would they open

fire at us? Then they came and they searched us, and

had us walk two by two, out of the camp. Just as we

began moving, we saw another group of tanks and

bulldozers. We found some doctors and medical workers,

forced strip naked, handcuffed. Then they put them in

trucks and took them to the Salem detention center.

The Israelis started shouting and ordering us to take

off our head scarves.

Humiliation of medial workers was not only reported by

the residents of Jenin, but these events were also

narrated by the medical workers themselves. Mohammed

Rafi' the director of the Red Crescent Society's youth

development programs in Jenin recounted how the

Israelis held medical workers hostage in the Jenin

hospital for days, and then forced them to strip naked

as well. "They did not allow anyone in or out. If one

of us wanted to leave to the hospital across the

street, it would take two hours of telephone calls and

deliberation. Ambulance drivers would be forced to

wait for two hours with people bleeding inside before

they were allowed entry to the hospital, they would

take our volunteers or drivers, have them stripped

naked, and interrogated and insulted.

Of the scores upon scores of interviews conducted by

Palestine Chronicle reporters in the Jenin refugee

camp, that act of forcing civilians to strip naked was

reported time and again. The Israeli army has defended

the action, saying that such tactics are necessary to

assure that Palestinians are not carrying explosives.

Many of the quotes within this article will be

included the book titled Searching Jenin, edited by

Ramzy Baroud, Editor-in-Chief of the Palestine

Chronicle. Searching Jenin will be available in

bookstores in December 2002. 


Redistributed via Press International News Agency



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