Since last December, 14-year-old Ahmad Abdul Haq from Nablus has been sleeping in his mother’s lap. Three months ago, he experienced the worst day of his life – a day of horror that would have terrified any child. Ahmad was forced to play the role of the hero in a story fabricated by Israeli intelligence – a story he was certain would end in his death, at the hands of Israeli soldiers.
It all started on the afternoon of December 25. A group of Israeli soldiers came to the boy’s house as he sat alone in his bedroom doing homework. The doorbell rang loudly and Ahmad could hear the stomping of heavy boots outside. When he went to the window, he was shocked and horrified to find a large group of soldiers attempting to break into his home.
Ahmad couldn’t move. He sat there motionless, not knowing what to do. But the Israeli military unit did not wait for someone inside to answer, and hastily broke open the outer door to the apartment complex.
Frightened, Ahmad quickly moved to open the door to his family’s apartment, only to find that the soldiers had already arrived. The soldiers greeted him with kicks, and some beat him with the butts of their guns. One soldier, his face covered with a black mask, shouted in Arabic, “Are you Ahmad Abdel Haq?” In a shaky voice, the boy answered feebly, “Yes, I am Ahmad.” The soldiers then pushed him to the ground, tied his hands and began searching the house.
The soldiers had already accomplished the first part of their operation – they had caught the “wanted” child on their list. Next, they took him into one of the apartment’s inner rooms and began preparing a skit, the second part of their operation.
Ahmad tells of how, under gunpoint, the Israeli soldiers forced him to play the role of a Palestinian suicide bomber. “They ordered me to sit on a chair behind a table,” the boy recounts. “All the soldiers stood around me. One of them hung a Palestinian flag behind me and another came in with a gun. A third brought in a hand grenade.” Ahmad says the soldiers then emptied the bullets from the rifle’s magazine and placed it before him on the table. They then made the boy hold a copy of the Qur’an in his left hand.
Ahmad noticed that one of the soldiers was taking pictures of him from different angles. But he was so scared that he was unable to mutter a single word, and carried out every order he was given in silence. He was commanded to play the role of a worshipper, praying in front of the video camera. A soldier gave him a paper written in Hebrew to pretend to read from as if it were his last will. “Oh, you suicide bomber, you want to carry out an operation, huh?” laughed the soldiers, taunting the frightened boy before the camera.
At the end of the performance, soldiers declared Ahmad “accused.” And at that point, it was impossible for him to escape their conspiracy. Six hours after the soldiers had broken into his house, the officer in command led Ahmad to an armored vehicle, which terrified the young teenager even more. “I didn’t know where they were taking me,” he says. “I was scared that they would take me to the Hawara camp or somewhere like that.”
But Ahmad suddenly remembered his final winning card. Gathering up his remaining courage, the boy yelled in a loud voice to the soldiers riding with him, “I am an American citizen. My American passport is in the house.”
The soldiers were clearly confused by this fresh piece of information, Ahmad remembers. They began calling the Israeli military command and the United States embassy to see if what the boy said was true. After half an hour of phone calls, they realized that it was.
They promptly kicked him out of the jeep with a stark warning. “If you tell anyone what happened, we will kill you and your family,” they told him. The jeep took off in a bolt.
Ahmad recalls that he was unable to even climb the flight of stairs leading to his house because he felt so sick and was in shock at what had happened. He was terrified that this ordeal would end in his death sooner or later. As soon as he entered the apartment complex, he collapsed.
The neighbors hurried towards him. Then his mother appeared, arriving from the family’s supermarket after the neighbors told her what happened. The mother gathered her youngest son into her arms as tears streamed down her face. She was unable to speak.
The next day, the family informed the United States embassy of what had happened. The case was then transferred to the US consulate, because Ahmad is a Palestinian living in the West Bank. For his own protection, the consulate advised Ahmad not to leave his house alone for the time being, and to not even go to school. Ahmad did not attend classes for ten days.
“At first I was shocked. How could something like this happen to Ahmad, who isn’t even 15?” wonders Ahmad’s school principal Ahmad Douleh. “But after thinking about the tactics of the occupation, I am not surprised by anything they do.”
Douleh describes Ahmad as an exemplary student. “He is very active and has a strong mind. He seems older than his age because of the absence of his father, who is deceased.” When asked if he thought that Ahmad could ever do something like become a bomber, the principal shook his head. “No, that is not in Ahmad’s nature.”
The US embassy filed a complaint with the Israeli government’s foreign ministry concerning Ahmad’s case. It is still waiting for an official Israeli response. Spokesperson for the US consulate Chuck Hunter could only say that they have been “following up on the case since we first reviewed it.” But that doesn’t explain why the American complaint was only filed two months after the incident had taken place.
LAW, a Palestinian human rights organization, has been following the case and hopes to begin court procedures soon. LAW’s Husni Kalbona explains. “After the case was documented by our Nablus-area lawyer Samar Al Aghbar, we filed a complaint to open an investigation. We are waiting for the results of the investigation so that we can continue legal procedures against the Israeli authorities.” Kalbona says he wouldn’t be surprised if the Israeli authorities continue to delay giving a response. “In cases like these, they purposefully stall, sometimes for several months,” he concludes.
But regardless of the investigation results, many questions revolving around Ahmad’s case remain unanswered. What would have happened if Ahmad had not revealed his secret? What if the same ordeal had happened to a child without an American passport granting a certain degree of diplomatic protection? These, and many other question marks raised by his case will likely remain unexplained.