Israel Targets Palestinian Children
by Stephen Lendman
Imagine waging war on kids. Imagine doing it no-holds-bared. A joint Four Corners/The Australian broadsheet investigation discusses ruthless Israeli treatment.
Palestinian boys are targeted. Beatings, arrests, detentions and torture follow. More on it below.
In November 2011, the weekend Australian magazine headlined “Stone cold justice,” saying:
“You hear them before you see them.” You hear “a shuffle of shoes and a clinking of handcuffs and shackles.”
Four boys look bewildered in an Israeli military courtroom. Palestinians are denied civil justice.
“They wear brown prison overalls…” They’re treated like hardened criminals. Military injustice awaits them. Guilt by accusation follows.
A new “Stone Cold Justice” report updated the earlier one. Australian lawyer Gerard Horton is involved.
He’s trying to help arrested Palestinian boys. Three are discussed. More on them below.
Hundreds of Palestinians are mistreated annually. They’re lawlessly arrested and detained. Children young as five are terrorized. They’re too young to know why.
Imagine facing prison for stone-throwing. Imagine it awaiting hundreds whether or not they’re guilty as charged.
Imagine being systematically abused. Imagine violating their fundamental rights. Imagine Israel doing it contemptuously. Imagine no way to stop it.
Israeli military court prosecutions produce nearly 100% convictions. Virtually no Palestinian is found innocent. Children are abusively treated. Some end up in adult prisons.
Trials are short as 60 seconds of less. Guilt pronouncements and sentencings complete them. Independent observers say they never saw anything like it anywhere.
Israel wants what goes on suppressed. Most Palestinians are lawlessly charged. They’re coerced to confess. They’re terrorized.
They’re severely tortured. They’re forced to sign Hebrew confessions they don’t understand. They’re brutalized until they agree.
Israel’s criminal injustice system is like Guantanamo for kids. Many don’t understand what’s happening. Families can’t intervene to help. Nor legal counsel except to plea bargain.
It bears repeating. Once charged, guilt by accusation follows. There’s no escape. Generations of Palestinians have been abused this way. It’s been ongoing for nearly half a century.
Gross mistreatment leaves lasting scars. Traumas don’t go away. Emotional harm lasts. For many it’s for a lifetime.
Imagine treating young children like hardened criminals. Imagine denying them due process. Imagine no judicial fairness. Imagine Nazism writ large.
Israel is a lawless police state. It’s one of the world’s most ruthless. Palestinians are targeted for being non-Jews. Praying to the wrong God is considered terrorism. So is self-defense.
Stone Cold Justice focuses on three Palestinian boys. Two were arrested in the middle of the night. They were taken to unknown locations. According to one boy’s mother:
“Every soldier stood at the door of a room. I (addressed one of them saying) “What do you want with him?
He said ‘Shut up woman.’ And then they started hitting him and pulling him out of bed.”
Her son said “(t)hey started kicking (him) with their boots in (his) stomach, slaps on (his) face. They pulled (him) up by (his) t-shirt and took (him) out of bed.”
Israel calls this maintaining security. Palestinians call it institutionalized persecution. Enforced ruthlessness makes life intolerable.
“(T)hey want to kick us out out of here and drive us away because they don’t want Arabs in this area.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry lies claiming otherwise. Ethnic cleansing is longstanding Israeli policy. So is maximum land theft with minimum Arabs.
UNICEF released a scathing report. It said “children (are) threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault.”
Other reports say the same things and more. Four Corners said “Palestinian children have more to fear than the Israeli army.”
Reporter John Lyons (presented) clear evidence that “Israeli settlers in the West Bank regularly attack Palestinian school children, knowing authorities will not intervene.”
On February 10, Stone Cold Justice aired. Presenter Kerry O’Brien discussed “a new generation of hatred in the making.”
Imagine heavily armed soldiers making middle-of-the-night raids. Imagine it in Australia or any civilized society. Imagine arresting young children in their beds.
Imagine beating and kicking them. Imagine cuffing and blindfolding them. Imagine ordering parents not to intervene.
Imagine military prisons with young kids in shackles. Imagine isolating them from society outside. Imagine brutal interrogations.
Imagine no-holds-barred torture. Imagine forcing innocent kids to confess. Imagine brutalizing them until they do. Imagine the worst crimes against humanity.
Imagine hundreds of Palestinian children mistreated this way annually. Lyons said imagine a “peaceful evening in a small Palestinian village. A 14-year-old boy and his family sleep.”
Vehicles arrive in the middle of the night. Soldiers are making a raid. Asai Zamara is targeted. He’s a young teenager.
Soldiers claim he threw stones. He insists he did nothing wrong. It doesn’t help. An “18 day nightmare” begins.
Qsai Zamara: “There was this big machine with all the electric wires in it, connected to the electricity. He wanted to give me electric shock with it.”
“He would throw me on the ground and hit me, things like that. He also had a whip with a hose which he hit me with.”
John Lyons: “Fathi Mahfouz would spend the next 82 days in prison – beginning with an interrogation.”
He’s 15 years old. He’s innocent. Accusations were baseless. It didn’t matter. He was brutalized to confess.
Faithi Mahfouz: “They were holding electric batons and they hit me with them. One of the officers lifted up his mask.”
“They all had charcoal on their faces and their eyes were black. He would talk to me and frown at me to scare me and he hit me. He gave me electric shocks.”
Horton said interrogators “started yelling at him and then (he) was placed on some sort of wooden device on the wall, similar in shape to a cross, although if had two legs.”
His hands and legs were shackled to it. He was left there that way for hours. Faithi said “(b)ecause of all the shaking, a piece of wood snapped.”
An interrogator kept hitting him. He asked “(d)on’t you want to confess?” Faithi said he wouldn’t “confess to something (he) didn’t do.”
Beatings continued to force him. After five hours, he was released from the structure.
He was in pain, he said. “Then white foam started coming out of my mouth. Two men came and took me to first aid.”
“Then my chest was cramped. I couldn’t breathe. They took me to the same area I was in, to the same building, there was this small clinic.”
“He took me in and asked me ‘Where’s the pain?’ Then he’d press on it and hit it, and make fun of me.”
John Lyons: “As a 14-year old, Islam Dar Ayyoub (faced) Israel’s security services.”
Islam Dar Ayyoub: “He told me ‘Here, sign this paper.’ I told him ‘It’s in Hebrew and I can’t read Hebrew. Can you read it to me?’ ”
“He said ‘It’s for your release. You need to sign it.’ After I signed it at the court, I was surprised to find out it was a confession paper.”
Hundreds of Palestinian boys face this type injustice annually. Attorney Gerard Horton is leading a campaign against systemic Israeli injustice.
Horton: Middle-of-the-night arrests have “a paralyzing effect on whole communities…”
State-sponsored “fear…makes this system work so effectively well with relatively few soldiers on the ground…”
It makes occupation harshness “cost-effective.” It’s ruthless state terror on the cheap. It’s standard Israeli practice.
Israeli officials and spokespersons consistently lie. They claim no such policies exist. Irrefutable evidence proves otherwise. Denials ring hollow.
Maintaining security is a ruse. No violence exists except what Israel inflicts. Rogue states operate this way. Israel is one of the world’s worst.
It’s hard imaging policies more extreme. Police state ruthlessness describes it.
Horton: “So take a situation involving two children in the West Bank throwing stones, one a Palestinian child, one an Israeli child living in the settlements.”
“The Palestinian child will be prosecuted in a military jurisdiction with far fewer rights and protections, whereas his Israeli counterpart, living sometimes 500 metres away, will be prosecuted in a juvenile justice system which meets international standards and complies, is a sort of system you would expected in any western-style democracy.”
Prosecuting settler children or adults is almost unheard of. Rare exceptions prove the rule. Slap-on-the-wrist punishments at most follow.
Palestinians are fair game. To understand their mistreatment, “come to Hebron,” said Lyons.
It’s the largest West Bank Palestinian city. Around 800 settlers live in its center. They’re surrounded by 180,000 Palestinians.
“The effect of Israel’s occupation is obvious. (Hebron’s center) is a ghost town. Israeli soldiers (prevent) Palestinians (from) walk(ing) along these streets.”
They’ve been forced out of buildings. They’ve been ethnically cleansed. They’re denied all rights. They have no recourse.
A Palestinian man wanted to visit his father’s grave. Soldiers prevented him.
Lyons witnessed Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian children heading to school. They tear-gassed them.
Allegedly in response to stone-throwing. “We could see no provocation from the children who were trying to avoid the gas,” said Lyons.
Teachers said soldiers fire tear gas daily. They do it to protect settlers. They do it maliciously. They do what they can get away with. They do whatever they want with impunity.
Teachers want children in school learning. One teacher said three kids were hospitalized from gassing in the last week.
They’re young children. They’re not criminals. They’re targeted for being Palestinians.
Lyons approached Israeli police. “Why do you fire tear gas (at) children going to school,” he asked?
“We can’t talk to you,” police responded. Lyons persisted. He repeated his question. He was stonewalled.
Hebron is typical of West Bank injustice. Israelis have “one law,” said Lyons. Palestinians another. Systemic injustice is longstanding Israeli policy.
Last July, Israeli soldiers targeted five-year old Wadi’a Mawadeh. An Israeli settler accused him of stone throwing.
Six soldiers terrorized him. They threatened him and his parents. They handcuffed and blindfolded his father.
They handed the boy over to police. They wrongfully accused him of stone-throwing.
Arrests are lawless. They’re violent. Homes are broken into. Property is damaged or stolen.
Children are blindfolded and shackled. They’re terrorized. They’re beaten. Family members are threatened not to intervene.
Even five-year-olds aren’t safe. Imagine detaining them for hours. Imagine traumatizing them.
Lyons asked Wadi’a what he thinks when he sees an Israeli soldier. “I’m scared of them,” he said.
Gaby Lasky is an Israeli lawyer. “I want people to think what they would do if their five-year old child was being taken by an occupier’s army, even by your local police.”
“If a five-year-old was being held by an authority that is not you, you would do anything in order to try to get your child back.”
“Military courts are the long arm of the occupation. We’re not talking about courts of justice; we are talking about courts of occupation.”
Former Israeli commander Yehuda Shaul said he “grew up believing that our actions as a military in the occupied territories (were) to protect Israel from terrorism.”
“What I’ve learned from my three years of service and nine years of activism and Breaking the Silence…is that the main story here is about maintaining our absolute military control over (defenseless) Palestinians.”
“When we see settlers attacking a Palestinian, our orders are not to intervene.”
Israeli settlers harmed three-year-old Adele Biton for life. She has brain damage. Her mother Adva said:
“Eight months ago I was driving back from my parents’ home, back to my home in Yakir, when Palestinian terrorists threw large building stones on my car.”
“The stones, the building stones, hit Adele’s head and also caused me to bump into a truck.”
“We’re fighting together to get her back to life.” She’s hospitalized.
“I don’t think it’s fair for her to sleep here in the bed and don’t do things like children her age. It’s not fair.”
Israeli Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsh said it’s unlikely she’ll recover. “That is terrorism,” he added.
It’s state terrorism. Middle -of-the-night arrests, detentions and brutal interrogations reflect it.
According to Horton, “(y)ou’ll be subjected to violence if you don’t confess. You will be detained for an extended period of time…”
“(T)he intelligence is usually very good, so the interrogator will know if that child’s father has a work permit, for example, to work inside Israel.”
“If that’s the case, the threats sometimes are of the nature of we will revoke your father’s work permit unless you confess.”
Horton said one interrogator stood out. He specialized in terrorizing children. He threatens rape.
He mentions someone outside the interrogation room. He says someone will come in and rape the child.
He threatened one boy by putting food on his head. A dog was brought in to eat it. The boy was terrified. The dog drooled all over him.
He feared being bitten any moment. Someone put food on his genitals. The dog was positioned to eat it. Imagine anyone enduring this.
Imagine a young boy terrorized this way. Imagine Israel calling itself civilized. Imagine rogue state terror writ large.
Most Palestinian boys convicted of stone-throwing face about three months in prison. They shouldn’t face three minutes.
According to Lyons, Israeli security services devise ghastly new tactics. Young children are brutalized to extract information on their villages. Residents in them. On their parents, family members and neighbors.
Gaby Lasky added: “I can see a pattern that Israel’s hasn’t been able to put down the non-violent movement in the occupied territories through violent means.”
“So the best way to do that is by incriminating those leaders, and the easiest way to do that, to achieve, to get those incriminations, is by arresting children which are the weakest link.”
Israel uses Palestinian children for intelligence gathering. It does so by terrorizing them to collaborate.
Stiff punishment follows failure to cooperate. It includes torture and longer prison terms.
Daniella Weiss is an Israeli activist. She’s a former Kedumim settlement mayor. She rejects settler lawlessness.
In the 1970s, she met regularly with Ariel Sharon. She did so when he was agriculture minister.
He was adamant then, earlier and later. “There would be no option for a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
God promised Israel to Jews, he believed. All of it. He opposed Palestinian statehood. So do current Israeli hardliners.
Their notion of sovereignty is isolated bantustans on worthless scrubland. Palestinians can expect nothing more.
Not as long as Washington lets Israel have its way. Kerry’s so-called framework agreement is structured this way.
It’s entirely one-sided. It offers Palestinians virtually nothing. It continues occupation harshness.
It assures legions of traumatized Palestinian children. Perhaps another generation will be destroyed. Militarized occupation assures it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.