The real story of the 2006 “Basilica Attack” in Nazareth

By Marianne Azizi and Moti Leybel*

There are bad stories, and then there are the most terrible stories imaginable.

Nine years after being accused and punished for allegedly trying to commit a terrorist act in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, here Haim Habibi and his wife, Violet, finally get to tell their side of the story.

The astonishing story of the Habibis life took them to a desperate act to plead with the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and Mahmoud Abbas to use diplomacy to save their children.

Haim is aware that today his life is in danger and chose to tell his story and relate the events which led the family to being accused of terrorism.

The following is a series of videos breaking down the Habibi family’s harrowing and distressing life-story, which includes rape, child abduction, violence, false arrests and the almost complete destruction of the family.

Do not miss any of the following videos. This is one of the most distressing stories we have ever had to witness. What this story shows is that religion and race are no barriers to our common humanity.

Above: Haim talks about Violet, his wife. She is half Jewish, half Christian. He describes how they met as he saved her after she had been raped. Haim, a former Israeli police officer, sets the scene and narrates how their lives were turned upside down by Israeli social workers when they were happily married with three children.

Above: Haim describes how a social worker decided to take only his eldest daughter by force from his family and how his subsequent fight for all his children began in earnest, including rescuing them and escaping to Ramallah to ask the Palestinian Authority (PA) for protection.

Above: The story continues as the Israeli army snatches the family back to Israel and Violet endures brutal treatment; their children are placed in private institutions and Haim is imprisoned. The family is broken. They turn to the Catholic community for help.

Above: After fleeing to the PA, the Habibi family turned to Yasser Arafat to personally intervene to help them. At the time Violet was heavily pregnant with their fourth child; the Israeli army entered Ramallah and forced the family back to ensure that the baby was born in Israel. Violet was tied to a hospital bed.

Above: Haim dramatically rescued Violet and they returned to Ramallah to ask both Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, who intervened with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on their behalf. Admitting their error, the Israel courts closed all files and promised to return the children to the family. It was not to be.

Above: Returning to Israel to try to get their children, the family turned to the Catholic Church for sanctuary. Despite a court order instigated by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, the three children were still not back with them. Th family resorted to begging on the street. An attempt to see their son in foster care in a settlement brings more pain, and Violet’s young son is wrenched from her arms. They are told the boy has been put into a Christian Institution in Nazareth. Bereft and desperate, the family go in search of him.

Above: What really happened in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth in 2006. Haim and Violet finally tell their side of the story. They were charged with trying to blow up the holiest church in Israel.

Above: Haim talks of life after the news stories and the shocking and tragic consequences for his children. Warning: graphic photos are shown in this video clip which some may find be disturbing.

Above: Violet talks of how people tried to burn her and her daughter alive in the Basilica.

Above: Haim appeals to the world to help protect them given that the Israeli authorities have demanded that the PA send them back to Israel. The PA has not yet responded to the demand. The family believes that public awareness and support offer the only hope to prevent their son from being taken back into an institution in Israel.

Haim Habibi with poster

Haim made posters in Hebrew, Arabic and English asking for help

Supporting documents

Below are photographs of some of the many documents, including letters between the PA and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the judgment from the Israel court in which the Welfare Department admitted its mistake, closed the case and promised to return the children to Haim and Violet.

In the letters between the PA and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, it was stated that this situation was not beneficial either to the state of Israel and or the children.

The family has waited nine years to tell their full story. They recognise the risk both to the writers of this article and to their own lives. They have nothing to lose, they say, so we took the decision to publish the story.

Haim and Violet hope that international awareness will keep them alive and perhaps give them the freedom from worry that the Israeli army will yet again enter Ramallah and snatch them.

They wish for the right to live in peace and security with their youngest son. The practice of taking children into care continues to the present day, despite people pleading for reform and help to keep their families together.

Moti Leybel and I are fully aware that publishing the story puts us at great risk. We are fighting for reform – of the welfare state and the No Exit orders on both Israeli and foreign nationals.

Will the Israeli state act against our right to freedom of speech? Will the state help the Habibi family, given that it admitted years ago its mistake but, despite this, has failed to rectify the situation, with tragic consequences?

The true test of a democracy is our freedom to continue to witness the stories of the victims of injustice in Israel, the return of the Habibi family to their homeland should they wish, and freedom of speech.

*Azizi, Marianne is author of the book Sour Milk and Stolen HoneyMoti Leybel is a journalist and human rights activist.

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