[R-G] Jaggi returns home...
mstainsby at tao.ca
Fri Jan 10 18:16:57 MST 2003
[the following are Jaggi's words today (Jan 10)].
I was taken in the car to a police station (what I later learned was the
Jerusalem Police Station in the Russian Compound). In the car, I asked the
three men who they were, and they pushed their police IDs into my face. I
asked why I was being arrested (knowing, of course, that they were
probably nabbing me for overstaying my visa in Israel, and for "illegally"
visiting the West Bank and Gaza), but they didn't seem to know. They just
knew they had to get some brown Canadian, and were quite concerned when
they couldn't find a passport on me. The officers in the back punched me
at least twice, seemingly because I resisted getting into the car while
trying to talk with Jono.
At the police station, I was taken up to an office, where the three
officers proceeded to search all my belongings, looking for a passport, as
well as anything they would consider incriminating. My bag had oranges,
nuts and dates that I bought at the market, a booklet on the Holocaust
from Yad Vashem, my notebooks, and a lot of literature about the
Palestinian resistance struggle that I got from the Jerusalem Alternative
Information Centre, as well as phrasebooks for Hebrew and Arabic, and a
Lonely Planet guide.
It was a rough situation in the office. The police officials threatened
violence, yelled at me, and treated me brusquely. I consistently repeated
that I wouldn't cooperate with them until I talked to my lawyer -- Shamai
Leibowitz -- or the Canadian Embassy. After going back-and-forth like this
for at least a few minutes, the police asked for "Aron", in whose office
we seemed to be. Aron, who was also in plainclothes (in a Nike shirt and
jeans), was short, somewhat pudgy, and had stubble on his bald head. It
was Aron who actually beat me.
He first came up to me and, biting his lips, proceeded to slap my face
hard twice (hard enough that my glasses flew off my face). He pulled my
hair back hard, and choked my neck with his other hand, all while trying
to knee me in the groin (which I deflected with my legs). He spit in my
face, literally millimetres away, and told me he'd could kill me if he
wanted too. One of the other police officers, who I don't recall, was
holding my body as this was happening.
They demanded that I strip, and I again refused. Aron punched me in the
stomach, and forced me to stand by grabbing my neck. I'm not sure how long
this beating lasted, probably less than a minute, but it seemed longer. In
any case, I was crying and shaking (in my underwear by that point, since I
decided to comply with the stripsearch), begging for him not to hit me
again. The police made me take off my underwear, and grabbing my hair,
made me turn around and squat down.
Later, the police were jokingly calling me Gandhi, apparently since I
never fought back (even if I did, and I had every right to do so, I was
outnumbered and simply not prepared to fight back against police).
Later, Aron calmed down, and he actually sat and chatted with me for at
least a half hour. He seemed to enjoy my company, since I spoke French,
and he was a mizrahi (Oriental Jew) from Algeria who enjoyed speaking the
language (he even offered me tea at one point). As long as the discussion
was unrelated to me or my visit to Palestine, we continued talking about
all sorts of topics (sports, Israeli politics, food, Algeria).
Aron's beating, in retrospect, seemed controlled, done to force me to
comply (or at least partially comply, since while I agreed to strip, I
still didn't answer any questions about my visit). His beating left no
visible bruises or marks; it just left me hurt, shaking and scared. At the
time, the beating seemed so abrupt and arbitrary, I was afraid it would
After at least two hours in the station, without being able to talk to
anyone on the outside, including my lawyer or the Embassy, I was taken to
the jail just beside the police station. Again, I was stripsearched, had
my belongings searched, and placed in a cell with seven other inmates. We
all had our own bunks. All the inmates were Moroccan Jews, and one of them
spoke good enough English so that we could communicate. I ended up sharing
the food I bought at market with them, and settled in for the night.
4) MINISTRY OF INTERIOR
The next morning, I was taken offices of the Ministry of the Interior
somewhere in Jerusalem, this time handcuffed. Again, on leaving the jail,
I was stripsearched, and had my belongings ransacked (in the neverending
quest to find my passport, which I told them I didn't have with me).
At the Ministry of the Interior office (I don't think it was their main
offices, but a subsidiary, perhaps to deal specifically with illegal
immigrants) I was first put in an office waiting area full of people who,
on appearence, seemed like they were of Chinese, South Asian and Eastern
European background. They all seemed anxious and worried. I was soon moved
to a private office, and this time Ministry bureaucrats were trying to get
info from me, and I again refused.
One official, who spoke fluent English, was given the task of reading thru
my notebooks (again, my belongings were searched). My handwriting is
basically illegible to anyone but me, but she still took note of certain
pages. At one point she asked me what was written on one particular page;
I replied: "That sentence says "I would like to talk to my lawyer," and
that one says, "I would like to talk to the Embassy."" She had enough of a
sense of humour to laugh, and actually tossled my hair.
Actually, the whole Ministry of the Interior experience was surreal. On
the one hand, a variety of bureaucrats, and sometimes police, came in and
out to question me, sometimes quite aggressively. But all this was
happening while the bureaucrats and cops were flirting with each other
incessantly. Two people -- a man and a woman -- actually played with
handcuffs in front of me, chaining themselves together in all sorts
ofpositions. Another police officer was flirting with another woman in the
office in his lap, partially undressing her blouse. At one point, three
people were comparing their butts, commenting on their good and bad
qualities. Eli Yishai, the ultra-orthodox Interior Minister, would have a
By lunchtime, I was invited to join everyone in their conference room,
which had a large screen television. I sat down and had lunch with them,
and actually helped prepare an improvised salad with tomatoes and olives.
They had an argument about whether to watch MTV, or a soap opera. The soap
opera won out.
In the afternoon, a police official, who had originally questioned me, on
my arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, arrived in Jerusalem. We were put in an
office together at the Ministry offices, and he tried to interrogate me
for over an hour. Again, as long as the topics had nothing to do with my
trip, we talked. At one point, I managed to elicit from him that he was
responsible for immigration matters. It was at that point that I began to
speculate that my nabbing was done by a squad of cops that are dedicated
to rounding up illegals, and that I was basically being dealt with like
any other illegal worker, which is why I was in the Ministry of Interior
The officer, named Tomel, was upset that I wouldn't answer his specific
questions, and promised that I would spend time in prison because I
refused to cooperate. I napped alone in an office, until four rather young
police officers came in towards the end of the afternoon. They placed leg
irons on me, as well as handcuffs; I was put into a minivan and driven
5) THE DEPORTATION
The officers were taking me to near the city of Ramle, to the Maasiyahu
Prison which is specially designated for illegal immigrants. I had learned
about the prison while writing one of my first dispatches from Palestine
-- in reference to the case of the illegal Palestinian worker Jihad Abu Id
-- and now I was going to spend at least a few nights there.
The trip to Massiyahu was like a roadtrip. The four police officers, three
men and a woman, blared music and banged heads, made a few stops for pop
and cigarettes, and had a lot of fun making all sorts of dangerous traffic
manouveres. One officer was trying out some new Nikes, and actually
consulted with me about the special sonic arches that were included in the
box. The instructions for them were in English, and I helped him figure
out how to use them.
At Maasiyahu, we waited for at least a half-hour outside. Then, we turned
out of the prison, and headed into Ramle's city center. We parked in the
garage of a shopping mall, and I initially thought that maybe these
officers were going to do some shopping! I was led into the shopping mall,
walking slowly in leg irons and handcuffs, just confused with the whole
situation. The shoppers seemed oblivious to the presence of someone in leg
irons in their midst.
It all made sense when I was taken into a police station connected to the
shopping mall, and I was eventually told that I would be deported
immediately. I was finally able to talk to my lawyer by cellphone, while
six officers stood over me listening. Two Canadian consular officials,
Perry and Tammy, came to Ramle to arrange for my deportation
(specifically, a one-day special passport). I told both my lawyer and the
consular officials about the beating the night before, the first people I
could relate the experience to.
I was then driven to Ben Gurion Airport, by the same police crew, who this
time had a more mellow ride with a Pink Floyd soundtrack.
At Ben Gurion, I was put into a special waiting area, which was full of at
least 25 Chinese and Thai men who were to be deported. The waiting area
was cut off from the public, in a separate building. Many of the men
seemed devastated; one was in tears. Talking to two of them, I determined
that most of the men had been picked up in police roundups in the past few
days as illegal workers (ie. individuals who had overstayed their work
permits). Some didn't even have all their belongings. At one point, an
Israeli co-worker of one of the Chinese workers came to the airport with a
suitcase of belongings. They were both crying. There was also a separate
section for women who were to be expelled.
I waited at the airport for hours, and had to submit to one of Ben
Gurion's notorious departure searches, with my belongings thoroughly
ransacked once again. At least this time, knowing I was going to be
deported anyways, I could be snarky and defiant. I got supportive nods
from two other men who were being searched. I was eventually escorted,
towards midnite, by two new police officers onto the Air Canada plane.
On the plane, I was introduced as "the deportee" to the head stewardess,
who welcomed me to Air Canada and directed me to my seat like any other
passenger. As it happens, the plane was full of Birthright participants (a
programme that allows young Jewish students to visit Israel for free for
10 days). Some of them whispered that I was the Concordia guy as I walked
down the aisle, but otherwise, it was an uneventful return to Toronto. I
just read and napped.
6) A FEW POINTS
Please don't judge my visit here based on mainstream media reports that
have been really superficial and sometimes misleading. I came here to
Palestine like many other people, to volunteer with the International
Solidarity Movement, and to write about the situation here, from my
perspective as a social justice activist and an alternative journalist (as
I've done so before in India and elsewhere). My visit to Palestine is
directly connected to the organizing work I'm involved with in Montreal,
most specifically with the No One Is Illegal campaign, as well as support
for Palestinian solidarity work with SPHR and a ISM-Montreal group.
I managed to write quite a bit in Palestine, and would have written more
in my last few days in Jerusalem if I stayed. If you haven't seen any of
this writing, or heard any of the community radio reports I did, please
get in touch and I'll pass them on. That writing is how this visit should
be judged, and not the fact that I was arrested, detained, nabbed, beaten
and deported. The latter details are important, and I've had to deal with
it, but the focus should clearly be on the day-to-day work of Palestinian
activists and groups that confront and oppose the Israeli occupation.
7) FOLLOW UP
The ISM continues its anti-Apartheid Wall campaign, and I encourage
everyone to check the ISM website for updates at
http://www.palsolidarity.org. They are doing some crucial work.
In Montreal, activists involved with SPHR, ISM-Montreal, Jews Against the
Occupation and other groups continue their Palestine solidarity work, and
there are several events planned for the upcoming months.
My visit to Palestine was directly connected to the No One Is Illegal
campaign in Montreal. There are several ongoing projects as part of the
campaign, including ongoing ally work with the Algerian Non-Status Action
Committee. For more info, e-mail nooneisillegal at tao.ca
Ive been forwarding to most of you reports and dispatches from Palestine.
I had been working on a major piece about the Balata Refugee Camp, as well
as a dispatch from Nablus, but I'll have to postpone these pieces as I
wait for some of my belongings to be shipped back from Jerusalem
(including several mini-disks of interviews that were the basis of those
Ok, enough for a personal update. Just wanted to get some of the details
out of the way, and process the recent couple of days. And, a lot of you
have been writing to me, so Im responding all at once. Please stay in
touch everyone. And I'll be sure to forward some of those last dispatches
just as soon as I get my minidisks back from Jerusalem.
-- Jaggi (Toronto, January 10, 2003)
In the contradiction lies the hope.
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