December 8, 2011
by Avi Melamed
In October 2011, a deal was struck between Hamas and Israel. Over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were exchanged for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit that was abducted by Hamas in June 2006. You can read more about the prisoner swap deal in my article: Israel – Hamas Prisoner Swap Deal: Arab Perspectives.
Amal Juma’ah was one of the Palestinian female prisoners released by Israel.
Following her release, Amal Juma’ah was hospitalized in a Palestinian hospital in Nablus with an undisclosed sickness. There has been talk of her being transferred to a Jordanian hospital. The Palestinian President, Mahmud Abbas, ordered the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, to make sure that all costs for her medical treatment be fully covered by the Palestinian government.
The exceptional involvement of the Palestinian President in Amal’s medical treatment is understood once you understand her story.
In May 2004, the Israeli Security Services arrested a 35 year-old Palestinian person named Ahmad who was working as a waiter at the time in a Palestinian pool hall in Nablus. He was arrested on the suspicion of being a potential suicide bomber. In the interrogation following his arrest Ahamd confesses.
Based upon the information Ahmad provided during the interrogation, a special Israeli unit breaks into a house located in the Balata refugee camp next to Nablus. The explosives for the attack were found in that house. Tucked inside a school knapsack was a stuffed animal- a furry bunny to be precise – and this fluffy bunny was packed with explosives.
This story is completely accurate, with the exception of one detail – Ahmad is not a man. Ahmad is a woman and her real name is Amal Juma’ah.
Amal Juma’ah looked like a man, dressed like a man and adopted a man’s name (Ahmad). The meaning of the name Amal in Arabic is “hope.” Yet, Amal’s life was not full of hope. Her sexual identity was a constant source of trouble for her in conservative Palestinian society. She was accused of being an Israeli agent and of being a collaborator with the Israeli intelligence. She was arrested by the Palestinian Fatah Tanzim organization, tortured, abused and humiliated. Amal was then given an offer, a ticket out, that would put an end to her miserable life and restore her family honor that by Palestinian cultural codes was tainted due to her sexual identity. The deal even included financial compensation for her family. Amal was offered to become a suicide bomber — and she agreed.
Amal was instructed by her operators from the Tanzim to enter Israel through the pedestrian crossing of Rantis, one of the terminals through which Palestinians enter Israel every day for work or medical treatment, located next to the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Amal was to detonate the stuffed bunny at the crossing as a diversion, and sneak intoIsrael. Her mission was to commit a suicide bomb attack in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv.
Due to her arrest, the plot of course did not take place. She was tried in court, convicted and imprisoned in Israeli jail until her recent release.