The Israelis were not satisfied with the mere occupation of Palestine, the evictions of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their country, the annihilation of Gaza Palestinians through a choking economic siege and frequent aerial bombardments, and the continuous confiscations of Palestinian land and the demolitions of their homes in the West Bank, so they had developed a very oppressive anti-Palestinian children policies, that are aimed at intimidating, terrorizing and traumatizing Palestinian children, whose families dared to stay in the country. These policies, that seem to be part and parcel of the racist expansionist ideology of the state of Israel and of its army, aim primarily at driving Palestinian families out of the country for the sake of their children’s future, and secondary to traumatize and terrorize Palestinian children while very young so that they would not dare grow up into revolting young men.
Palestinian children, as young as 8 years old, have become the primary target for the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli occupying forces impose severe oppressive measures against Palestinian communities. These include barriers and check points between towns impeding access to schools, universities and markets. The army routinely demolishes homes, confiscates property, and forcefully evicts Palestinians out of their homes to give them to extremist settlers. When Palestinian young men demonstrate in the streets against such practices Israeli snipers target children in the head and upper body with live ammunition causing many fatalities. When using rubber coated bullets the Israeli soldiers break the casing of the bullet making it more fatal. When chasing children the soldiers use batons hitting heads and extremities to inflict permanent crippling damages, whose treatment pose severe financial burden on already impoverished families.
Adopting the Zionist expansionist scheme extremist Zionist Israelis are pushed to forcefully occupy Palestinian farm land and establish caravan settlements on top of hills overlooking Palestinian villages. They, then, start targeting Palestinian villagers and farmers especially their young children. The extremist settlers start by cutting down olive trees, burning harvests and shooting farm animals. At times they kidnap Palestinian farm children, who are attending flocks or tending crops, take them to their settlement, torture them for the duration of long hours, at times days, before releasing them.
A similar tactic is adopted in East Jerusalem. The Israeli government want to put its hands on Silwan; a Palestinian neighborhood adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in order to build what Israeli officials call “King’s Garden”. Palestinian homes in this neighborhood are being confiscated, their owners being evicted, and Israeli extremists moving in. At times Israeli extremists force their way into one room of the house and start harassing the Palestinian family owner. An Israeli settlement is being gradually built in the neighborhood. Such settlements in East Jerusalem constitute a violation of international law. These extremist settlers create tension and lead to constant confrontation and violent clashes . Israeli soldiers use these clashes as an excuse to raid Palestinian homes in the middle of the night, pull their children out of their beds, shackle and hood them, and literally drag them to police stations to be interrogated violently and abusively. An investigation conducted by the Israeli B’Tselem organization shows that within one year at least 81 Palestinian children from Silwan were arrested and tortured by Israeli Special Forces.
The Defense for Children International-Palestine section conducts interviews of cases of Palestinian children being violently abused by Israeli soldiers as well as by Israeli extremist settlers. Their website is full of testimonies by such abused children and eyewitnesses. A search on youtube.com for “IDF targets children” lists many videos showing such incidents. Breaking the Silence , an organization of former Israeli soldiers dedicated to publicizing the day-to-day actions of the Israeli army in the occupied territories, had published a booklet of testimonies of more than 30 former Israeli soldiers, who had disclosed their experiences of the treatment of Palestinian children during their arrests pointing to a pattern of abuse.
A routine operation of the Israeli military forces in the occupied West Bank is called “Straw Widow”. This includes midnight or pre-dawn heavily armed raids on Palestinian homes, breaking down the doors, screaming and shouting at family members, detaining all family members including children in one room, and use the home as a military post for as long as they deem necessary, then leave the home fully trashed. Family members, especially children, feel terrorized, traumatized and severely vulnerable.
Another routine operation of the Israeli army, similar to “Straw Widow”, is the pre-dawn raids on Palestinian homes to arrest their children, where they drag the child out of his bed, tie-wrap his arms, blind fold or hood him, and literally drag him out to military jeeps while kicking, beating, and verbally abusing him. With face pushed to the floor of the vehicle the child is driven to a military interrogation center in Israel, thrown in a dark and very cold cell for hours and days before being dragged to a room to be harshly continuously interrogated by different officers for long hours while being tied to a chair in a stressing position. Such interrogation is accompanied by intimidation, humiliation, beating, verbal abuse, and threats of sexual abuse. The child is then led to incriminate himself by forcing him to sign a confession written in Hebrew, a language that is foreign to him. After long days and sometimes month of incarceration he is dragged to a military court with both hands and feet in shackles, where he is usually sentenced to months or years in prison plus monetary fines. All this time while his family is not aware of his whereabouts, is not being informed of his legal rights, and is not represented by a lawyer. Many children are initially jailed with Israeli offenders, who further beat, intimidate, harass, and at times sexually abuse him. At best he is thrown in a dark and crowded cell with many other Palestinian prisoners.
These traumatic abuses have a great impact on the child’s mental and psychological health and produce varying abnormal symptoms depending on the child’s age, the type of abuse subjected to, and the family support he receives after his release. The abuse does not impact only the children, but also their families. The families feel helpless, vulnerable, and unable to protect their children. They feel lonely without any legal or psychological help from any social or governmental organization. With their budget under the control of Israeli government the Palestinian Authority is broke and could hardly afford to pay its own essential employees let alone provide any legal or social services to its citizens.
Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children had become so dramatic a phenomenon that it attracted the attention of nine eminent English lawyers, who were led by Sir Stephen Sadley, a former judge of the highest British court, to visit Israeli courts to study their practices. The lawyers, then, published their findings in a report titled “Children in Military Custody”, in which they accuse Israel of grave violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children that include violation of article 2; discrimination, article 3; child’s best interests, article 37 (B); premature resort to detention, (C); non-separation from adult family members, and (D); prompt access to lawyers, and article 40; use of shackles. The Israeli arrest, detention and interrogation practices are in violation of paragraphs 36 and 37, and article 37(A) in the prohibition of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Transporting a child prisoner from the occupied territories into Israel is in violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The failure to provide translated military orders and alleged confession statements from Hebrew to Arabic is a violation of article 65 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In their report the lawyers criticized and greatly condemned the belief and attitude, that were advanced to them by the military prosecutors, that every Palestinian child is a “potential terrorist” similar to what the Nazis claimed when criticized for removing Jewish children at places like Dachau and Auschwitz. The report had prompted the British Foreign Office to reveal that it would challenge Israeli courts over their unconscionable practices and violations of the many articles of UN Convention in their treatment of Palestinian children.
The self-proclaimed humanitarian American administration and NATO, who carry the banners of “Obligation to Protect Lives” and “Providing Humanitarian Aid”, are ready to spare no financial funds and military hardware to attack and destroy countries in Africa, South East Asia, and the Middle East in order to affect a regime change, yet when it comes to protecting Palestinian lives from illegal Israeli occupation turn blind eye to the Israeli massacres, terror, annihilation, and grave violations of international laws and basic humanitarian principles. Sarcastically the American administration does not spare any of its tax payers’ money and military aid for Israel despite the fact that Israel refuses to abide by American restrictions not to use these weapons for aggression. Such generous American gifts allow Israel to continue its annihilation of Palestinians and its aggression against neighboring Arab countries. The American administration is giving Israel $30 billion of its critically internally-needed tax money for military assistance without having Israel abide by any humanitarian principles, international laws or standard of basic human decency. “Israel is killing Palestinian children with American tax money” Dennis Kucinich blasted in the deaf Congress.
The Chinese philosophy of Yang at its zenith turns into Yin applies to the situation here. The Israeli policy, of instilling fear and terror into the hearts of the young Palestinian children to keep them docile and subservient in their adulthood to the Israeli occupation, had succeeded only into turning such fear into angry courage to resist the occupation. The Palestinian children had proved to be stronger and more resilience in the face of the heavily armed terrorist Israeli army. We witness them facing Israeli war machines with mere rocks. Indeed, David had turned into Goliath while Goliath had turned into David.
* Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer from a Palestinian descent born in the town of Beit Jala. His family was first evicted from Haifa after the “Nakba” of 1948, then from Beit Jala after the “Nakseh” of 1967. He lives now in the US, and publishes his articles on the web in both English and Arabic.