My child could die in an Israeli prison

Muamar Nakhla

Middle East Eye  /  February 18, 2022

Muamar Nakhla writes about his son Amal (17), who suffers from a dangerous neuromuscular disease and has been held in administrative detention by Israel for over a year [so he was arrested on the age of 16 !].

My son wasn’t supposed to live. He was born three months premature, and the doctor told me he would only survive a few hours. Then they told me I had to name him.

Why, I asked. For the certificate, they said. I told them I had hope that he would live, so I would call him Hope (Amal). And he did – he lived. 

Amal grew up obsessed with Barcelona and Lionel Messi. His dream was to be a footballer. At the age of 14, he was in the national team, and before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he was supposed to travel to play. Then things went into lockdown.

In June of 2020, my son started having trouble breathing. I took him to a hospital, where they X-rayed him and found he had a tumor on his ribcage, which required urgent treatment at a specialist hospital in Jerusalem.

We couldn’t get the Israelis to issue us a permit. Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories, including in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where we are, need to be granted a permit to travel to Jerusalem. 

I didn’t know what to do. He needed the operation urgently, so we found a way to smuggle him from Ramallah through to Jerusalem. He had the operation. 

A week later, while recovering at home, he got a call. It was Israeli intelligence, telling him they wanted him. He told them he was sick and recovering at home, but they said it didn’t matter; they wanted him. 

We quickly found a lawyer from a human rights organization and had him call the Israelis and take them Amal’s medical report. They accepted it, so we thought that it was over – that there wasn’t anything on him.

Confidential information

Then, in November, three months after his operation, Amal was out shopping with friends when they were assaulted by Israeli special forces, who smashed up their car and arrested Amal. 

He spent 40 days in prison before appearing in court. The Israelis told the court they had evidence that Amal threw rocks at them.

The judge asked to see it. They said the incident was in July, but we had a medical report saying he was in hospital in July. He couldn’t leave the house that month, so how was he throwing rocks? The judge ordered him released. 

That was when Israeli intelligence stepped in. They said they had confidential information on Amal and transferred him into administrative detention

Administrative detention is an emergency measure left over from the days of the British Mandate. It allows Israel to arrest a political leader without any reason, or with confidential reasons. Amal is a child, not a political activist. None of this makes sense.  

The judge gave the Israelis 24 hours to present an argument for why Amal should remain in prison. The next day, they didn’t show up, so the judge decided to release Amal for lack of evidence.

But 40 days later, in January 2021, they came to the house and arrested Amal again, holding him in administrative detention. 

Immune system compromised

Amal has a condition called myasthenia gravis, a rare and dangerous neuromuscular disease.

When it gets bad, he can’t move his arms or eyes, and he needs cortisone every four hours. He should have a blood analysis every month to check on his condition, but Israel refuses to allow doctors in to see him, or for his treatments to be sent to him.

Amal recently contracted Covid-19. His immune system is severely compromised, and we are extremely worried about his health. 

His case file says Amal was arrested for ideological reasons. But Amal is a child. He asked me once, when I got to see him during a court session: “Why have they arrested me for ‘biological reasons’?” He’s a child. He doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Amal was sentenced to four months of administrative detention. When he finished the four months, they gave him another four.

When he finished those four, they gave him another four. He finished them and they gave him four more. It’s now been sixteen months.

Human rights groups have spoken about Amal’s case. The European Union, Amnesty International, the foreign ministries of Germany, France and Spain, members of the Knesset, members of the European Parliament – they all know Amal’s case.

Arab members of the Knesset and Israeli leftists have called for Amal’s release, but still Israel keeps him locked up in terrible conditions, without any charges.

So now, we are boycotting the court. It’s the occupation’s court, not a court of justice. Amal is the youngest administrative detention prisoner, and still he faces no charges.

Amal is a child who has been imprisoned now for close to a year and a half, and we demand his immediate release. 

Muamar Nakhla is a lawyer, journalist and the Editor in Chief of Wattan Media Network