Monday March 19, 2012
Palestinian Children Feel Weight of Occupation
By Dalal Hillou
2012 Spring Intern
Imagine an ideal childhood. More likely than not, one would imagine carefree years of clear skies and an abundance of toys, limitless amounts of food and soda and candy, and a securely united family. A child’s biggest fear would simply be the monster hiding under the bed. During a game of Cops and Robbers, throwing a friend “in jail” would have no significance, and a child’s most difficult trial would be getting on the wrong bus or spilling their juice box.
Now imagine the opposite of such a lifestyle; imagine the life of a child in Palestine, where one can be arrested, tortured and held in an Israeli jail for months.
At least 8,000 children as young as the age of twelve have been detained by the Israeli army since 2000, with 2,301 taken into custody last year. These children are often arrested on allegations of rock-throwing. In Israeli detention centers, jails or police stations, Palestinian minors experience a wide array of painful torture methods, whipped with electric cables, chained to iron bedsteads for hours on end, blindfolded, and subject to various other forms of abuse.
The resulting wounds leave scars - both physically and emotionally. According to a recent report by Save the Children, after being released, Palestinian children experience nightmares, bed-wetting and anxiety. Many become withdrawn or display a change in personality and behavior.
It is usually in the middle of the night that the children are arrested by soldiers, and they are interrogated for hours after. During interrogations, they are tied up, blindfolded, threatened and incessantly accused of crimes. There are reports of not being told that they have the right to remain silent and interrogators may refuse to allow the child the presence of their attorney. The interrogators have usually not been trained as youth interrogators, and it is done in a manner that violates Israel’s own Youth Law.
Parents are rarely told where their children were taken, and family visits are difficult since most of the children are detained within Israel; minors are also usually questioned without a lawyer or parent present and coerced into signing documents in Hebrew which they do not understand. In jail, minors may be in solitary confinement or with other children for days, weeks or months. When they are finally tried, it is by military court.
Arye Shalitar, an Israeli military spokesman, said, “"It sounds like the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is just arresting kids, but people don't understand that these kids are very violent. Instead of playing soccer they are endangering the lives of Israelis." It is a completely incorrect and hateful generalization to assume that someone is by nature violent. But more importantly - where would these children even play soccer when it is reported that some two-thirds of children in Gaza do not have safe areas to socialize and entertain themselves? And when soldiers tear up children’s games and homes in the middle of the night, what do they have to entertain themselves with then?
A child’s life is forever changed for the worse after going through such experiences. The unjust arrests and harsh treatment within detention centers of Palestinian minors by Israeli soldiers needs to end, and people of conscience the world over should come together to demand it.
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