On 10 March 2014, Raed Zuayter, a distinguished judge and PhD holder, was killed by Israeli soldiers while crossing the border between Jordan and the West Bank of Palestine. Raed was a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin. His family is part of the Palestinian diaspora—refugees who had fled ethnic cleansing in 1948, war in 1967, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
A friend of mine, Carrie Schwartz, stays in Jordan and the Zuayter family asked her to record their story, “to express the truth in English”:
Entering the living room of Raed Zuayter, I meet his widow, child, father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, aunts, and uncles. Raed’s two-year-old daughter playfully skips between relatives. “She is too young to understand what happened,” her grandfather explains. As we drink Arabic coffee together, I feel a deep sadness and responsibility to tell their story accurately. I start the interview by asking Raed’s father about his son’s life:
“He was born in 1976. He went to the best schools in Amman. After finishing high school, he went to the University of Jordan to study a bachelor’s in law. Then he asked me, ‘What do you think, Dad? Should we go for a master’s?’ I said, ‘We don’t mind.’ He finished his master’s and asked me, ‘What do you think, shall we go for PhD?’ And I answered him, ‘Yes, go for a PhD.’ When he finished his PhD, he went to the judicial institute to become a judge. In the judiciary, he was appointed as a judge for reconciliation. He got a raise on the first of March. He was promoted. And then he passed away.”
The story of Raed’s death began with another tragedy: Raed’s four-year-old son was hospitalized. A lack of oxygen caused him to go into a coma. Raed decided to travel to the town of Nablus in Palestine, to collect rent from tenants to cover the cost of his son’s treatment.
Raed traveled across the Jordan-Palestine border controlled by Israel. The process begins with security checks and immigration control on the Jordanian side. Then travelers are bused into a deserted “no man’s land” for additional security checks, before proceeding to the Israeli terminal.
At this point, an Israeli soldier pushed Raed toward the bus. A verbal argument ensued. Raed’s father recounted the story told to him by eyewitnesses: “Raed told the soldier, ‘Why are you pushing me, because I’m going up in the bus? Why did you push me?’ and he was waving his hands.” Two additional soldiers approached and pushed Raed toward the street until he fell to his knees. The soldiers then aimed their weapons and fired five shots into his body, from a distance of three to four meters, killing him.
Raed’s father recounted his interaction with the Israeli intelligence during the preliminary investigation:
“They asked me, ‘How many kids do you have?’ I said, ‘I have one child—the one you shot today. Why did you kill him? Did you see any weapons with him?’ They said no. ‘So you did not see any weapons with him—why did you kill him? … you knew that he was unarmed, and you wanted to take him in, then just take him, hold his hands, put him on the ground, but shoot him, five times? Why?”
Raed was an innocent person, killed when his family needed him the most. On the day this piece was written, his son who had been in a coma passed away. Raed’s family is asking for justice: “The soldiers who shot him should be put on trial, and we need a just compensation for everything that happened to the family.”
Carrie Schwartz is an editor currently based in Amman, Jordan. She holds an MPhil in Justice and Transformation from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Interview with the family of Raed Zuayter, 21 March 2014, Amman, Jordan
Al-Haq Announces Investigation Results in Martyrdom of Judge Zuaiter (Arabic)
Palestinian advocacy group says Israeli soldiers ‘intended’ to kill Jordanian judge http://jordantimes.com/palestinian-advocacy-group-says-israeli-soldiers-intended-to-kill-jordanian-judge