Palestinian Presidential Candidate Mustafa Barghouti says he was detained and beaten by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank. We go to Ramallah to speak with Barghouti shortly after the incident. [includes rush transcript]
In less than a month, voters in Palestine will head to the polls in the first presidential elections since the death of Yasser Arafat last month. Yesterday, one of the candidates alleged he was detained and beaten by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint between Jenin and Nablus. The candidate was Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative and President of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee. Shortly after the incident, I reached Mustafa Barghouti at his office in Ramallah. I began by asking him to explain what happened.
- Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian presidential candidate. He is Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative and President of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee.
AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday one of the candidates alleged he was detained and beaten by Israeli soldiers at a check point between Jenin and Nablus. The candidate is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, President of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee. Shortly after the incident I reached Mustafa Barghouti at his office in Ramallah. I began by asking him to explain what happened.
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: It is an amazing experience because what we have been exposed to is really shocking. I was traveling back from Jenin to Ramallah after having a meeting with my constituency there, and the Israeli army stopped us at 9:00 at [inaudible] checkpoint. Then we were forced to get out of the car and I explained to them who I was and that I was a presidential candidate for presidential elections in Palestine. And they immediately started cursing us, shouting, saying bad words, something that I have never experienced in my life, this level of how vulgar things were and how impolite. And then they started beating the people with me and forcing them to go down to the ground. And when I tried to help one of them who is my colleague who is 61 years old and suffering from heart disease, they suddenly jumped at me and pushed me with — on the ground in a sudden way. I didn’t realize what was going on. I fell on my back, which was a very bad hit and caused an injury. Then they hit us with their guns. And then they — although they knew who we — I mean, they were so provoked because I challenged them, and they were so provoked because I told them I’m a presidential candidate, and they were so provoked that a Palestinian dares to speak back, and they forced us, all of us, to sit down on the ground for one hour and 15 minutes without moving. Anybody who dared to speak to another person would be hit immediately. Anybody who tried to stand up would be hit immediately. So practically they tortured us. They left us sitting there in the cold and not being able even to talk to each other. And even when I tried to support one of my colleagues who was hit with the rifle in his abdomen and started to have vomiting, they again attacked us. And it was very bad. One of my colleagues was hit in the face, in his ear. Others were hit in the abdomen. And they tortured us like this for an hour and 15 minutes.
AMY GOODMAN: How many of you were there?
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Excuse me?
AMY GOODMAN: How many of you were there?
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: We were six people in one car, and you can imagine if they are doing that to me, a person that is so known publicly and who would definitely attract media afterwards, they have the guts and they dare to do so to such a person like me, just try to imagine what do they do to ordinary citizens who are caught in these checkpoints in various places in the West Bank and Gaza. We are talking here about hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who go through these 703 checkpoints spread all over the country and who are constantly humiliated, beaten and attacked and in the most disgusting way. And this is happening on a daily basis. If there is something useful about what has happened, that I maybe have managed to attract the attention of the world to the fact that there are 703 checkpoints humiliating and insulting Palestinians on a daily basis during the last three years. My suffering and my pain is nothing in comparison to Aisha Hassan, who was a 21-year-old woman who was suffering from kidney problems and needed kidney dialysis three times a week, and one day the checkpoint turned her back, and for a whole week she was not allowed to go to the hospital, and she died. My suffering is nothing in comparison to the 55 women who were obliged to give birth at the checkpoint, 20 of whom have lost their children. So I think the question that should be asked, “What is the international community going to do about it?” I’m a peaceful, nonviolent man. I am a presidential candidate. What could you be more than that to deserve decent treatment? And then, why can’t any Palestinian citizen receive decent treatment by these people? And let me tell you the way they behave is so racist, so discriminatory, so — I have never seen anything like that in my whole life. They refuse to communicate even. When we tried to speak to them in English they refused to talk, in Arabic, in Russian, in Hebrew. They simply didn’t want to speak. In my opinion what has happened has show how deep down the Israeli army has sunk, and how bad — I mean, these young kids, I don’t blame them. I blame the army officers, the government of Israel that is driving them into the direction of racism. We have seen similar things like that happen in other countries in certain times of history and we know what can be the result out of this. And I think what is happening is so bad not only for Palestinians but also for the Israelis themselves and for Israeli society, and I’m not surprised that there are so much talk about how wide the use of drugs is in the Israeli army is being, and how many suicides take place because these are all phenomena of the transformation of an army to become a racist army, to become an army that conducts such oppressive behavior that makes it very, very close to behavior that can only be described as racist, unacceptable, oppressive. I don’t know what you call it. Fascist maybe. It is too much and it cannot be tolerated. I don’t know how the Israeli responsible people can sleep quiet at night knowing that this is happening in their army.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti was detained and beaten by Israeli soldiers yesterday as he runs for president. And this report from Associated Press just came out. Bassam al-Salhi, who is another candidate for Palestinian president, was detained by Israeli police today. He is leader of the People’s Party a small faction formed out of the defunct Palestine Communist Party. He was arrested at Al-Ram road block, one of several checkpoints that separate between the West Bank and Jerusalem.