The Palestinian Vice-Prime Minister, Mr Naser Shaer, was kidnapped on 19 August by Israeli soldiers. Few weeks ago, Voltairenetwork published an exclusive interview with this very respectful personality by the Palestinians. Mr Naser Shaer, 45 years old, became Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Education in the new Palestinian Government formed by Hamas on March 2006. Former rector of the Faculty of Law at the National University of Al Najah in Nablus, Mr Shaer is a moderate person. He does not belong to any political party, and is not a member of Hamas as widespread in the media. Tasneem, his eldest daughter, gives to Voltairenetwork, in a very simple and sober way, her account of the abduction of Mr Shaer and the bad and humiliating conditions of his detention.
Silvia Cattori: Were you there when 30 Israeli military vehicles surrounded Mr Shaer’s home and took him away? What pretext did the Israeli soldiers use to justify this kidnapping, and what did Mr Shaer answer them?
Tasneem Shaer: It was four o’clock in the morning when the Israeli soldiers surrounded our two storey house, and started banging on the door after waking up our neighbours. _ I opened the door and the Israeli officer ordered everybody in the house to come outside and he even told my mother to wake up my 9 years old sister and 7 years old brother, without even caring how early in the morning it was. The officer asked my father about his job and what he does, so my father replied: " I am the minister of Education and Higher Education and my job is to manage the performance of schools and universities in Palestine."
After examining his ID card to be sure that he is the right person, the officer and almost six to seven soldiers ordered my brothers, sisters and me, to stay in the living room with three other soldiers raising their rifles and pointing them at us. The soldiers took my parents to show them the other rooms of the house to see if there was anything they could take to use against my father in their investigations. But, since my father is a normal academic person who is interested in knowledge and education, they found nothing against him.
After that, the officer told my mother that they had to take my father with them, without saying why, or even telling us where they would take him. But the most shocking sight was that, when they left our building, we looked through the window and saw that the Israeli soldiers had blindfolded my father and tied his hands behind his back, before pushing him inside one of their vehicles.
Silvia Cattori: Unknown to the outside world until that day, the face of Mr Shaer suddenly appeared on TVs and newspapers all over the world. The Israeli military spokesman presented that operation like something which is part of the « fighting against the Hamas terror organisation»? Did your family make any complaint to the Israeli government who suggest that Mr Shaer would be a member of a “terror organisation”?
Tasneem Shaer: My father, Naser Shaer, is known to be a very mild person that entered the government as an independent man. He was chosen to be a minister in the new Palestinian government because he is known to be a highly educated person carrying a PhD degree, and a former university teacher. What made him accept such a position is his will to make education grow in Palestine and to allow others to get the knowledge, and that is why you find him as the minister of Education and Higher Education. So, my family is not the only group that says that my father is not a terrorist, nor a member of Hamas. All people in Palestine agree on that; to them it is a fact that needs no questioning.
Silvia Cattori: Press agencies like AFP, for instance, wrote: « Israeli soldiers have arrested (…) Naser Shaer, member of Hamas”. And on this basis all the media repeated that. Did you ask AFP to correct this wrong assertion?
Tasneem Shaer: Well, I would like to remind any press agency covering what happens in Palestine that the major ethical rule of journalism is not to be biased and not to take sides; instead, each journalist should be accurate when covering events around the world and should listen to all the sides related in the covered event. But what we see here, in Palestine, is that most press agencies only take words from the mouths of the Israeli government, without bothering about the other side which is the Palestinian one.
If such agencies were really true agencies, then they should be committed to the ethics of journalism. I believe that, if these agencies asked about Naser Shaer, they would have discovered that what Israel said about him is absolutely fake and is just something they say to justify his kidnapping. My father is a person known among all those who meet him to be a moderate thinker that has a large amount of knowledge. He is known not only among Arabs but also among thinkers and university people in western countries. So, I call all those who went on repeating what Israel said, to inquire about my father and to read his books about peace and comparative religions.
Silvia Cattori: Could this Israeli abuse be considered an “arrest” and presented as a normal and legal arrest? According to international law, is not the kidnapping and arbitrary detention a crime? Are not Mr Shaer and all the ministers and MPs abducted by the Israelis to be considered sequestered people?
Tasneem Shaer: "Arrested" is a word used when talking about a criminal who broke the law or carried out an act that disturbed the security and peace of others. But such a description doesn’t suit my father’s acts and personality. Also it is known that my father is a minister in a government that came about through elections that were described by international observers, including American ones, as totally just, fair and clean. This testimony makes my father and all his partners in the government and the Legislative council as people who are legitimate ministers and governmental people that have international protection according to the international law, the protection of which America and its followers claim to be fighting for. This makes the act of taking my father who was sleeping among his family members, at four o’clock in the morning, an act of kidnapping, and not of arresting as Israel is trying to make the world believe. This leads me to saying that Israel is a country that puts all international laws behind its back and goes around killing and kidnapping any person carrying a Palestinian nationality, and I believe that such actions can’t be denied because the cameras show everything and don’t lie.
Silvia Cattori: Did Mr Shaer lately take less precaution than before? Is it the first time that your family is confronted with such a difficult event? Since the night of his abduction, did you get any news of him? Where is he, is he well treated?
Tasneem Shaer: My father began to take precautions when the Israeli soldiers came the first time and kidnapped the other ministers from Ramallah, but he wasn’t at home then. For less than a week he would sleep outside the house and change his place when knowing that Israeli vehicles were entering the city, but he continued to go to the ministry and to run it every day. But this didn’t last; as I said, after less than a week, he returned to live his life normally; he returned to sleep at home among his family and, for his work, he didn’t stop at all. My father always told us that Israel only cares about stopping the Palestinians from having a free life and this would allow it to do anything, even kidnapping. He believed that he was totally free and far from doing anything that would work against him if taken to prison by Israel, so there is no need for him to run away or hide. Why should he? All he does is acceptable throughout the world and he is always ready challenging anyone who says anything else.
My father had already been previously kidnapped on the 7th October 2005, and Israel justified such an act by saying that people in Palestine say that my father was likely to run the legislative elections with Hamas. But it turned out that all they claimed was wrong and based on rumours and, so, they had to set him free without being able to prove him guilty.
As to news about him, my father was taken to a prison called Kfar Yona. It is a prison that is used for keeping Israeli criminals. The Israelis have put him in solitary confinement in a room that is 1m long and 2m wide with no windows, totally bad lightning and no one that can speak Arabic. The food he gets is totally bad. He has no T.V to watch, no radio to listen to, and no books to read. He doesn’t even know the time or date. Regarding the treatment no Palestinian in the Israeli prisons is treated well, and what treatment a person will find when put in such disastrous conditions! Thursday, the 24th of August my father was taken to a military trial and they decided to postpone his issue till the end of the month, because the Israeli Intelligence Agency wasn’t able to prove him guilty for anything, despite the fact that he has been in prison for 6 days without being investigated.
Silvia Cattori: To see a battalion of Israeli soldiers entering Ramallah to kill and kidnap people is just something usual in Palestine. But the kidnapping of a peaceful minister of an elected government is something very controversial. How did the diplomacy react? Which state did condemn Israel for the kidnapping of Mr Saher?
Tasneem: The kidnapping of my father was condemned by a number of Arab, European and Islamic countries. Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and other Arab countries, condemned the act, while France was the first European country to state clearly that it rejected this act and considered it totally unacceptable.
Tasneem Shaer is 20 years old and she studies English Literature and Language at An-Najah University in Nablus.
Voltairenetwork has published on August 4th, 2006 an exclusive interview with the Palestinian Vice-Prime Minister Nasser Shaer. Interview carried out, in Palestine, by Silvia Cattori.
Naser Shaer : "The Palestinians are strongly united against the sanctions"