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Israel's War on Palestinian Children in
1,200 Arrested in One Year
By Jonathan Cook
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, December 15, 2010
Jonathan Cook reports on the brutality
meted out by Israeli police to Palestinian minors, some as young as seven
years old, including arrests, interrogation without the presence of a lawyer
or parent, and physical violence.
Israeli police have
been criticized over their treatment of hundreds of Palestinian children,
some as young as seven, arrested and interrogated on suspicion of
stone-throwing in East Jerusalem.
In the past year,
criminal investigations have been opened against more than 1,200 Palestinian
minors in Jerusalem on stone-throwing charges, according to police
statistics gathered by the
Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). That was nearly twice the number of
children arrested last year in the much larger Palestinian territory of the
Most of the arrests have occurred in the
Silwan district, close to Jerusalem’s Old City, where 350 extremist Jewish
settlers have set up several heavily guarded illegal enclaves among 50,000
Late last month, in a sign of
growing anger at the arrests, a large crowd in Silwan was reported to have
prevented police from arresting Adam Rishek, a seven-year-old accused of
stone-throwing. His parents later filed a complaint claiming he had been
beaten by the officers.
Tensions between residents
and settlers have been rising steadily since the Jerusalem municipality
unveiled a plan in February to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes in the
Bustan neighbourhood to expand a Biblically-themed archeological park run by
Elad, a settler organisztion.
The plan is currently
on hold following US pressure on Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime
Fakhri Abu Diab, a local community leader,
warned that the regular clashes between Silwan’s youths and the settlers,
termed a “stone intifada" [uprising] by some, could trigger
a full-blown Palestinian uprising.
“Our children are
being sacrificed for the sake of the settlers’ goal to take over our
community,” he said.
In a recent report, entitled “ Unsafe
Space”, ACRI concluded that, in the purge on stone-throwing, the
police were riding roughshod over children's legal rights and leaving many
minors with profound emotional traumas.
“Particularly troubling are testimonies of children under
the age of 12, the minimal age set by the law for criminal
liability, who were taken in for questioning, and who were
not spared rough and abusive interrogation.”
Yehudit Karpm, former Israeli deputy attorney-general
Testimonies collected by the rights groups reveal a pattern of children
being arrested in late-night raids, handcuffed and interrogated for hours
without either a parent or lawyer being present. In many cases, the children
have reported physical violence or threats.
Last month 60 Israeli
childcare and legal experts, including Yehudit Karp, a former deputy
attorney-general, wrote to Mr Netanyahu condemning the police behaviour.
“Particularly troubling,” they wrote, “are testimonies of children
under the age of 12, the minimal age set by the law for criminal liability,
who were taken in for questioning, and who were not spared rough and abusive
Unlike in the West Bank, which is governed by
military law, children in East Jerusalem suspected of stone-throwing are
supposed to be dealt with according to Israeli criminal law.
annexed East Jerusalem following the Six-Day war of 1967, in violation of
international law, and its 250,000 Palestinian inhabitants are treated as
permanent Israeli residents.
Minors, defined as anyone under 18,
should be questioned by specially trained officers and only during daylight
hours. The children must be able to consult with a lawyer and a parent
should be present.
Ronit Sela, a spokeswoman for ACRI, said her
organization had been “shocked” at the large number of children arrested in
East Jerusalem in recent months, often by units of undercover policemen.
“We have heard many testimonies from children who describe terrifying
experiences of violence during both their arrest and their later
“One of the men grabbed me from behind and started
choking me. The second grabbed my shirt and tore it from the
back, and the third twisted my hands behind my back and tied
them with plastic cords. ‘Who threw stones?’ one of them
asked me. ‘I don’t know,’ I said. He started hitting me on
the head and I shouted in pain.”
Muslim, Palestinian child aged 10
Muslim, aged 10, lives in the Bustan neighbourhood and in a house that
Israeli authorities have ordered demolished. His case was included in the
ACRI report, and in an interview he said he had been arrested four times
this year, even though he was under the age of criminal responsibility. On
the last occasion, in October, he was grabbed from the street by three
plain-clothes policemen who jumped out of a van.
“One of the men grabbed me from behind and started choking me. The
second grabbed my shirt and tore it from the back, and the third twisted my
hands behind my back and tied them with plastic cords. ‘Who threw stones?’
one of them asked me. ‘I don’t know,’ I said. He started hitting me on the
head and I shouted in pain.”
Muslim was taken into custody and
released six hours later. A local doctor reported that the boy had bleeding
wounds to his knees and swelling on several parts of his body.
Muslim’s father, who has two sons in prison, said the boy was waking with
nightmares and could no longer concentrate on his school studies. “He has
been devastated by this.”
Ms Sela said arrests had risen sharply in
Silwan since September, when a private security guard at a settler compound
shot dead a Palestinian man, Samer Sirhan, and injured two others.
Clashes between the settlers and Silwan youths came to prominence in October
when David Beeri, director of settler organization Elad, was shown on camera
driving into two boys as they threw stones at his car.
Mansour, 12, who was thrown over the bonnet of Mr Beeri’s car, was arrested
shortly afterwards in a late-night raid on his family’s home.
in October, nine right-wing Israeli MPs complained after stones were thrown
at their minibus as they paid a solidarity visit to Beit Yonatan, a large
settler-controlled house in Silwan. Israel’s courts have ordered that the
house be demolished, but Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, has refused to
enforce the order.
In the wake of the attack, Yitzhak Aharonovitch,
the public security minister, warned: “We will stop the stone-throwing
through the use of covert and overt force, and bring back quiet.”
Last month police announced that house arrests would be used against
children more regularly and financial penalties of up to 1,400 US dollars
would be imposed on parents.
“I sat on my knees facing the wall. Every time I moved, a
man in civilian clothes hit me with his hand on my neck… The
man asked me to prostrate myself on the floor and ask his
forgiveness, but I refused and told him that I do not bow to
anyone but Allah. All the while, I felt intense pain in my
feet and legs. I felt intense fear and I started shaking.”
“A.S.”, Palestinian child aged 12
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, reported the case of “A.S.”, a
12-year-old taken for interrogation following an arrest at 3 a.m.
“I sat on my knees facing the wall. Every time I moved, a man in civilian
clothes hit me with his hand on my neck… The man asked me to prostrate
myself on the floor and ask his forgiveness, but I refused and told him that
I do not bow to anyone but Allah. All the while, I felt intense pain in my
feet and legs. I felt intense fear and I started shaking.”
statement B’Tselem said: “It is hard to believe that the security forces
would have acted similarly against Jewish minors.”
a police spokesman, denied that the police had violated the children’s
rights. He added: “It is the responsibility of parents to stop this criminal
behaviour by their children.”
Jawad Siyam, a local community
activist in Silwan, said the goal of the arrests and the increased settler
activity was to “make life unbearable and push us out of the area”.
The 60 experts who wrote to Mr Netanyahu warned that the children’s abuse
led to “post-traumatic stress disorders, such as nightmares, insomnia,
bed-wetting, and constant fear of policemen and soldiers”. They also noted
that children under extended house arrest were being denied the right to
Last year the United Nations Committee Against Torture
expressed “deep concern” at Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minors, saying
Israel was breaking the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, which it
Over the past 12 months,
Children International has provided the UN with details of more than 100
children who claim they were physically or psychologically abused while in
A version of this story appeared in
The version here is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.