SIR – As we prepare for a peaceful and a happy Christmas with our families and friends, we could spare our thoughts for other people who are less fortunate. They will be deprived of peace this Christmas through no fault of their own.
It happens every night, with or without any apparent reason. It’s always brutal: a violent invasion of the home of a sleeping family, before the eyes of the women and the children, everyone abruptly awakening to a nightmare of dozens of soldiers, sometimes with dogs. An alien presence.
The arrest missions of the Israel Defense Forces, perhaps the most salient sign of the routine of the occupation, are carried out both in times of unrest and periods of quiet. Hardly a night goes by without them.
The raids take place across the West Bank – including Area A, which is nominally under the Palestinian Authority’s control – and always at night. Every decent Israeli has the obligation to try to imagine the scene: to be woken up in the dead of night by armed, masked soldiers, their rifles aimed at you and at your terrified children.
Often the troops resort to violence, tying up members of the household and beating them. Sometimes they use live ammunition.
At some point, they take someone, the wanted individual, into custody, with no explanation, no arrest warrant, no judicial oversight. In some cases, they don’t even let their captive get dressed.
Days will pass before the family learns where he is, what his condition is, what the suspicions against him are. Or he might be released after a few days, again with no explanation. If he’s brought to trial, the charges against him will be revealed; some of them are real, others are invented or political in nature, as is usual in the military courts.
In some raids, the IDF soldiers leave as abruptly as they arrived, not detaining anyone – the raid was apparently launched in order to sow fear or for training purposes. Sometimes they simply get the address wrong.
There’s barely a Palestinian family that isn’t familiar with this practice. Israelis don’t get abducted from their homes. This is a feature of the apartheid system.