Palestinian Children on Israel’s Map of Repression

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

Palestinian children pay a heavy price at every uprising or flare-up that erupts against the Israeli occupation, although they do not pose any real threat to the heavily armed Israeli soldiers or “settlers”/ colonizers. Many knowledgeable Israelis attest to the fact that Palestinian children are, like adults, subjected to torture, unjust trials (denied special courts) and inhumane treatment that violate their basic rights, without regard to their young age. Indeed, the Palestinian child in Israel’s view is a ‘terrorist in the making’. Thus they face military courts and harsh and degrading treatment, beatings, deprivation of sleep and food, threats, insults and sexual harassment and denial of relatives’ visits on the hope of recruiting them for Israeli intelligence.

The Defence for Children International (DCI) affirms that the Israeli occupation and its interrogators have adopted methods that violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child in dealing with detained Palestinian children. According to the Organization, “the occupation authorities resort to solitary confinement during the investigation, and may be up to 20 days, with the aim of influencing the children psychologically, within a systematic policy aimed at devastating them while extracting confessions by pressure and coercion.” DCI noted that “the military occupation courts also rely on those confessions extracted by interrogators by force to make judgments, regardless of the way they are extracted, including the threat of arresting their parents, long-term imprisonment, and the threat of death, beatings or torture.” In another report, DCI said that the occupation army “killed 2000 Palestinian children since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, where no Israeli soldier was held accountable for that.” The report adds: “the Israeli occupation authorities have arrested more than 14 thousand Palestinian children since the second intifada, and 350 of them are still in the prisons, including 8 minor girls.”

Since the year 2015, the issue of Palestinian child prisoners has witnessed many other changes, including the adoption of racist laws or draft bills that initiate the issuance of high sentences against children, in some cases reaching more than ten years, and even life sentence. On August 2, 2016, the Israeli Knesset passed a law allowing Israeli courts to try Palestinian children under the age of 14 in the event of “serious acts”. The systematic expansion of the arrests led the Israeli occupation to open new sections for children in Megiddo and Ofer prisons. Moreover, “there are hundreds of Palestinian children in prisons and interrogation centers, beaten and humiliated, and in isolation in cages,” wrote Assia Ladizhinskaya and Eitan Diamond, two members of the Israeli Parents against Child Detention group. “The figures are horrifying: at every given moment in time, hundreds of Palestinian minors are in prisons, detention and interrogation centers, some of them under administrative detention” they said. Along this line, in 2017 alone, the United Nations documented 185 cases of torture and ill-treatment of minor children in detention centers: widespread and continuing torture and abuse that far exceed detention in an isolated cage away from parents. This was accompanied by inhumane treatment before arriving at the prison where “they are subjected to physical violence, threats, and insults, search of naked bodies and deprivation of sleep, food, drink and use of lavatories.” The director general of the Israel Democracy Institute (IMI), lawyer Mordechai Kremnitzer, ridiculed the “most ethical (Israeli) army” premise and asked: “Were the minimum humanitarian measures taken-even those that were to be taken by an ordinary army that is not even the most moral in the world-, an apology and compensation? Does the prosecution consider anyone suspected of belonging to Hamas worthy of death, even when he does not carry a weapon and does not pose a clear danger? He went on questioning the army’s acts: “Isn’t this close to extrajudicial executions prohibited by international law? Doesn’t it create an unreasonable danger to the lives of civilians who must be protected – a danger that befell the lives of four children?” Nikolai Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, recently described the Israeli occupation forces firing at children in the Gaza Strip during the return marches as a “disgraceful thing”. “How can killing a child in Gaza today contribute to peace? This is not possible; it fuels anger and generates more killings. Children must be protected from violence and not exposed to it, nor should they be killed,” Mladenov added.

Seen as potential terrorists, the targeting of Palestinian children is a constant Israeli policy aimed at eliminating nationalistic consciousness of the Palestinians, depriving children of their right to live normally and instilling fear in them to kill any hopes they may cherish. Israeli occupation authorities realize that the Palestinian child (like father and grandfather) is the nucleus of a generation that will continue to confront the occupation of its land and its projects, therefore, we find the army seeking to hit the strategic stock of the Palestinian people; the children who proved that, like their parents and grandparents, do not forget their cause (as David Ben Gurion wanted!!!) But they are fighting for it.