One Palestinian's fight for justice is inspiration for all

One Palestinian's fight for justice is inspiration for all
Comment: Abu Nadeem found evidence showing his son died by an Israeli bullet. That work led to a court case. His story is an example to all, says Said Arikat.
4 min read
12 Aug, 2015
Abu Nadeem (centre) has sold his livelihood to fight for his son's memory [Getty]

On Nakba day last year, two boys were among hundreds of Palestinians demonstrating outside the notorious Ofer prison, near Beituniya, where Israel has mistreated generations of Palestinians. Their names were Nadeem Nowara, 17, and Mohammad Abu Dhaher, 16.

Note the past tense. In the space of just over an hour on that fateful day in May 2014, both boys would be killed as Israeli soldiers responded to the demonstrations with deadly force. Unknown to the soldiers, however, at least seven cameras were recording the events.

The footage captured the death, frame by frame, of Nadeem Nowarah, from the moment a soldier loads and fires his gun to the soldier's apparent reaction to the event.

Six hours of raw, unedited video distributed by the children's rights advocacy group Defence for Children International, and reviewed by many media outlets, show how the boys' deaths were 73 minutes apart.

According to CNN's Ivan Watson, CNN’s cameras were trained on an Israeli soldier who shot at the crowd.

"At the precise moment when Nowarah was shot," Watson says, "CNN's camera was rolling, filming an Israeli soldier shooting his rifle at the Palestinians and then demonstrators carrying the mortally wounded teenager to the ambulance."

The story of Nadeem is commonly heroic for Palestinians. His father's reaction was similarly heroic, but uncommon: he used the Israeli legal system to fight back.

Siam Nowarah (or Abu Nadeem as he likes to be called) is the man who single-handedly took on Israel, and the might of its legal system, unfazed by attempts to intimidate him.

It is one thing to read Nadeem's story, and another to hear his father tell it in striking forensic detail, showing the videos he collected of the killing of his son - how he was shot in the chest, fell forward and then rolled on his back with his backpack slung on his shoulder. 

He does this in pursuit of bringing his son's killer to justice.

     I saw Nadeem's unclothed body, his chest split open and unevenly re-stitched, his torn clothes thrown into a bin, his backpack. Abu Nadeem.

Last Thursday at a gathering in Washington, Abu Nadeem told a group of Americans and Palestinians with passionate energy how he received a call from the morgue at Ramallah hospital telling him to collect his son's body.

"I am a simple man, who was not involved in politics - too busy to pay much attention to anything outside my family and businesses," said Abu Nadeem, a barber who owned two shops and provided well for his family.

"In shock, and disbelief, I saw Nadeem's unclothed body, his chest had been split open and unevenly re-stitched, his torn clothes thrown into a bin, his backpack beside him," he told the stunned group.

He saw the entry wound of the bullet that killed his son, then saw the point from which the bullet exited his back. And then examining the backpack, he found the bullet - something that had been overlooked by everyone else.

He knew he had crucial evidence.

Abu Nadeem buried his son the following day, and promised to dedicate his life to determining who killed him, and how.

He knew Israel would say, as it always does, that it does not use live ammunition on protesters. Indeed, Israel did that very thing the next day. "During that demonstration that was extremely violent, the Israeli Defence Force used crowd-control methods and riot-dispersal means to prevent and control the overflow of the violence," said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli army.

Abu Nadeem says he has the bullet to show which "dispersal methods" were used.

One month after Nadeem's body was buried, it was exhumed and examined by American, Danish and Israeli pathologists to the horror and disapproval of relatives, local community and even the Palestinian Authority. But crucially, the second examination recorded the exit wound.

From the videos he had collected, Abu Nadeem identified a soldier who allegedly fired the fatal shot, and footage of him allegedly celebrating afterwards. He had the post-mortem results, he had the bullet.

"It took all my energy, and all I've got; I sold my businesses, I sold my car, but I kept my promise to my son," the grieving father said.

With Abu Nadeem's evidence, 22-year-old border police officer Ben Derie was charged with manslaughter and placed under house arrest. A hearing has been scheduled for mid-September 2015 in Jerusalem District Court.

Abu Nadeem had to sell his businesses and car to continue his fight in Israeli courts. A fund for Derie's defence has so far reached $100,000 through donations.

As we wade through the frustration and the pain of this case, Abu Nadeem stands as hero to his people. He has shown Palestinians that you can fight Israel in its courts and manage an indictment against the occupiers of their land.

What happens next is in the hands of that court system.

Said Arikat is the Washington bureau chief of the Jerusalem-based al-Quds newspaper.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.