As an isolated incident, it would be appalling and criminal. As a regular occurrence, it's state-sponsored terrorism against defenseless children, subjected to barbarism by Israeli soldiers committing crimes against humanity to crush their will for wanting to live free on their own land - what Westerners take for granted; what Palestinians since 1948 haven't had, and since 1967, under military occupation denying their very humanity.
Nora Barrows-Friedman does heroic reporting for Pacifica Radio's KPFA Flashpoints Radio and as an activist/teacher/journalist in Occupied Palestine during regular visits. On March 8 on the Electronic Intifada, she wrote about Amir al-Mohteseb, a 10-year old Hebron child, arrested, detained, and savagely beaten after his 12-year old brother Hasan endured similar treatment a week earlier.
On March 7 at 2AM, "Israeli soldiers (broke) into (his) house, snatch(ed) Amir from his bed, threatened his parents with death by gunfire if they" interfered, took him down the stairwell, and brutally beat him causing internal abdomen bleeding, requiring overnight hospitalization. "In complete shock and distress, Amir would not open his mouth to speak for another day and a half."
Before the incident, he told Barrows-Friedman he was playing in the street on his way with Hasan to see their aunt when:
"Two....soldiers stopped us and handcuffed us, (took) us to two separate jeeps, (took) me to the settlement and put me in a corner, (put) a dog next to me," refused to let him use the bathroom, threatened to hold him forever, wouldn't let him call his mother, blindfolded him, and held him until his father managed to get him late at night.
He was terrified, held for 10 hours, traumatized by the incident, and unable to sleep, "worried sick about his brother in jail and extremely afraid that the soldiers would come back" and do it again, which they did, and do repeatedly to hundreds of Palestinian youths, their siblings, parents and friends, guilty of being Palestinian on land Israel wants to make historic Palestine an ethnically pure Jewish state.
On March 9, Haaretz writer Nir Hassan headlined, "Israel using strong arm tactics against young Palestinian stone-throwers," saying several Silwan, East Jerusalem youths "were arrested and taken from their home(s) in handcuffs in the middle of the night over the past few months, as part of a police crackdown on suspected stone-throwers....," not militants, gunmen, murderers, or bomb throwers threatening civil society - alleged stone-throwers punishable by imprisonment up to 20 years under Military Order 378 if convicted.
Children 12 - 15 have been targeted, arrested, detained, and savagely beaten following complaints by Jewish settlers who usually take the law into their own hands using weapons they're allowed to carry.
Parents intervening are threatened, often beaten, and at times detained and charged with interference. Some arrested children "had their remands extended by the court, and others were released on certain conditions. All the suspects against whom (authorities have dubious evidence) will be brought to trial" before military or Magistrate Court judges where due process and judicial fairness are denied, so their fate is pre-determined.
On February 17, B'Tselem highlighted the same story about Silwan, East Jerusalem youths seized from their beds in the middle of the night, handcuffed, taken to the Russian Compound police station and interrogated "on suspicion of stone throwing." According to some, children aged 12 - 15 were threatened, detained, and beaten.
Muhammad Dweik, aged 12 said:
"Around 4:30 - 5:00 in the morning, I woke up from the sound of knocking at the door. Shabak (ISA) agents asked my father for (his son's) ID card. My father told them that I don't have" one. They refused his father's request to let him bring him to the police station later that morning.
"They tied my hands behind my back and took me. The policemen put me into a Border Police jeep. A friend of mine was also inside it. A policeman who sat next to me kept kicking me in the leg all the way."
Lu'ai a-Rajabi, aged 14, was also arrested and interrogated, denied he threw stones at settler houses, and was punched in the nose with his hands and legs cuffed. He was then hit in the face and head, ordered to confess, and, while he was sitting, three interrogators beat and kicked him "all over my body, and (swore) at me and Allah."
They told him to sign a Hebrew document saying he wasn't beaten. He refused and was beaten again. The next day, he was brought before a Magistrates Court judge who extended his detention for a week.
Others, as young as 12, told similar stories of arrests, detentions, interrogations, and beatings when they denied doing anything. One youth told B'Tselem he hasn't been able to sleep, afraid he'll again be arrested.
This treatment "contravenes the Youth Law, as amended in 2008 (Amendment No. 14)," under which suspected minors are entitled to consult a parent or relative prior to interrogation, and have an adult present while ongoing. "The Law also generally prohibits interrogating a minor at night and states (they) should not be arrested if the objective can be achieved in a less harmful way."
Nonetheless, Israeli security forces violated their rights for being alleged stone-throwers, and all of them are Israeli residents. It's virtually impossible for Israeli Jews to be subjected to similar treatment, either adults or youths. Palestinians get no such respect or safety under laws not protecting them or their rights.
As for Amir, after Barrows-Friedman's interview, he "sent a message to American children," saying:
"We are kids, just like you. We have the right to play, to move freely. I want to tell the world that there are so many kids inside the Israeli jails. We just want to have freedom of movement, the freedom to play," and grow up like kids in America and the West. In Occupied Palestine, he'll be lucky to survive, perhaps never his former self or living free from occupation and brutality.
Relevant International Law
Since September 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada, over 2,500 Palestinian children (as young as 12 or younger) have been arrested, hundreds at any time imprisoned within Israel, treated the same as adults, kept with Israeli prisoners, stabbed or otherwise harmed as a result, subjected to sexual abuse, and denied family visits or other outside contacts.
Yet, numerous international laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Israeli law define a child as anyone under 18. So do UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty with provisions stating:
- imprisoning children should only be a "last resort and for the minimum period and should be limited to exceptional cases;"
- fundamental international law must be respected at all times with no exceptions;
- the welfare, special needs, best interests, and human rights of juveniles "shall be a primary consideration;" and
- they must be helped to return to society as soon as possible.
Yet, in violation of international law, Israel willfully and repeatedly arrests children randomly, at checkpoints, on streets, at play, and in the middle of the night at home, then subjects them to threats, cursing, beatings, detention, and imprisonment, often without informing their parents.
In facilities like Megiddo military prison, Hasharon (Telmond) prison, and others, children are held in inhumane conditions in overcrowded filthy cells. Some are kept in 1.5 square meter windowless solitary confinement under bright 24-hour light. None get enough or proper nutrition, medical care, clothing changes, sleep, or consideration for basic sanitation standards.
They're subjected to harsh interrogations, including torture, abuse, and degrading treatment, hard enough on adults, but on children are traumatically life changing.
Most are accused of stone-throwing. In isolation, they're pressured to confess, even if innocent, then sign a Hebrew document they can't read or understand stating their guilt - to stop the pain that continues until they do for up to eight days after which they're brought before a military or magistrate judge. Some are also coerced to be collaborators under threat of future arrests, imprisonment, and mistreatment, including against parents and siblings.
Israel remains unaccountable because world nations violate their obligations under Geneva's Common Article 1 obliging:
"The High Contracting Parties (to) undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances;"
- the Lisbon Treaty obliging the 27-member EU states to affirm fundamental freedoms, peace, democracy, human rights and dignity, justice, equality, the rule of law, security, tolerance, solidarity, mutual respect among peoples, the rights of the child, strict adherence to the UN Charter and international law, and to prevent conflicts and combat social exclusion and discrimination; along with
- the indifference and complicity of Arab states.
Short of fundamental change, Palestinian men, women and children will continue to be victimized by state-sponsored terrorism, a condition no longer to be tolerated by nations claiming they're civilized.
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