Repeatedly in many ways, the real Israel belies the myth of a free, open, democratic state. In fact, the very notion is ludicrous even to growing numbers of fed up Israelis, voting with their feet and leaving.
As a result, it's no exaggeration calling Israel a failed state, a topic Noam Chomsky addressed in one of his many books.
Titled "Failed States," he listed characteristics they all share, including:
-- their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and other forms of harm;
-- their abrogation of rule of law standards;
-- their lawless belligerent pursuits; and
-- if democracies, their policy deficiencies, exposing a serious "democratic deficit."
Evaluating America honestly, he said "we should have little difficulty in finding the characteristics of 'failed states' right at home." It's as true for Israel, a democracy in name only.
Its treatment of Muslims is especially appalling, notably children, the topic of this article, based on a July 19 Defence for Children International Palestine Section (DCIP) report.
Covering the period January 1 through June 30, 2011, it's titled, "In their own words: A report on the situation facing Palestinian children detained in the Israeli military court system." It follows previous reports on how Israel abuses young children as lawlessly as adults, violating international law in multiple ways.
Each year, about 700 West Bank children are arrested, interrogated, detained, and prosecuted in Israeli military courts. Since 2000 alone, around 7,500 have been affected, facing torture, ill-treatment and other forms of abuse during the entire arrest/transfer/interrogation process.
Belligerent soldiers usually raid homes late at night. Young children are arrested, blindfolded, hands tied painfully, and taken to detention centers. Physical and verbal abuse are common. Reasons for arrest are seldom given, and parents aren't told where their children are held. The entire process is lawless, no different than in a police state.
During interrogations, family members and lawyers aren't present, nor are audio/video recordings made for independent oversight. Moreover, children aren't told their rights because they have none, in Occupied Palestine or in custody. As a result, they're isolated, intimidated, physically assaulted, and forced to sign confessions, at times in Hebrew they don't understand.
Afterwards they're brought to military court. Bail most often is denied. Children as young as 12 (sometimes younger) are affected, and most plead guilty when innocent because it's "the quickest way out of the system."
In September 2009, a juvenile military court was established, though few practices differentiate them from adult ones. Two or three children are brought there together in brown prison attire, legs chained around their ankles and handcuffed. Hand restraints are removed in court, then replaced when leaving.
DCIP based its report on 45 sworn testimonies, also referencing other relevant sources, including media and NGO information. Another 16 sworn East Jerusalem affidavits were also collected, to be covered in a separate report.
Citing international laws, numerous past articles explained that torture is prohibited at all times, under all conditions, with no allowed exceptions. Nonetheless, it's official Israeli policy, even against children. A previous article discussed it, accessed through the following link:
Against Palestinians, even children, torture and other forms of abuse are commonplace. Of the 45 cases studied, two were children aged 11 or younger, one was 12, 22 were 14 or 15, and 22 were 16 or 17. Twenty-eight of them were accused of stone-throwing. Under Military Order 1651, Section 221, it's punishable as follows:
-- against people or property, it carries a maximum 10 year penalty; for children aged 13 or younger, it's six months; and
-- throwing stones or other objects against moving vehicles brings up to 20 years imprisonment; for children 13 or younger, it's six months.
In fact, children most often get sentences ranging from two weeks to 10 months. However, none should get 10 minutes or ever have be arrested and prosecuted. In detention, they're subjected to the following:
Hand ties - 98%
Blindfolds - 91%
Physical violence - 87%
Detention inside Israel in violation of Fourth Geneva's Article 76 - 76%
Confession during interrogation - 69%
Arrested between midnight and 5:00AM - 62%
Verbal abuse - 60%
Strip searched - 56%
Threatened - 38%
Taken to detention on vehicle's floor (a painful process sometimes taking hours) - 33%
Signed/shown documents in Hebrew - 29%
Held in solitary confinement (from one to 20 days) - 9%
In all 45 cases examined, children experienced multiple form of abuse. It reveals a systematic pattern of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in violation of the UN Convention against Torture, Geneva's Common Article 3, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, prohibiting the above practices.
Khaled H (age 16) said:
"At around 2:00 AM, I was sleeping in the same room as my brother....I woke up to a noise coming from the door of the room. Then, the door opened and many soldiers stormed the room. One of them approached me and punched me hard in the head."
In custody during interrogations, most children are blindfolded and have their hands painfully tied, usually behind their back. Some reported extreme pain. Others said said their circulation was cut off, causing their hands to swell and turn blue. Most were held this way for hours. Some reported their feet also shackled.
Othman H (aged 17) said:
After entering his home, "soldiers took me downstairs to the first floor....One of them tied my hands behind my back with one set of plastic cords, and tightened them. He also blindfolded me. They took me out and forced me to stop near a military truck near the house. While I was standing there, one of them hit me so hard in my testicles (that) I felt much pain."
Mohammad H (age 17) said his hands were so tightly bound, he "screamed in pain and asked them to loosen them, but they started shouting and ordering me to 'shut up and don't talk.' "
Malek S. (age 16) said when his hand restraints were removed, "pieces of flesh came off and my wrists started bleeding." When ordered to confess, he said he had "nothing to confess to," after which his interrogator "went crazy and started screaming. He started slapping me and kicking me. He even grabbed my head and slammed it against the metal wall of the room where we were. My forehead swelled and I felt my hands bleeding because of the pressure."
Typical violence includes punching, slapping, pushing and kicking, often hard enough to cause extreme pain. Children reported multiple incidents throughout their arrest/transfer/interrogation process.
Testimonies reveal a combination of physical violence, threats and verbal abuse, at times of a sexual nature or bringing a menacing dog into the interrogation room.
A Final Comment
From January 2001 to late 2010, 645 complaints were filed against Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators, alleging torture, ill-treatment and other forms of abuse. The Justice Ministry's Police Investigation Department "did not conduct a single criminal investigation."
When it comes to Palestinian rights, including young children, Israel is an anything goes society, committing vile abuses with impunity.
Two years after Cast Lead's mass slaughter and destruction, two soldiers were convicted of credit card fraud, two others for using a nine-year-old boy as a human shield. Only the defrauders served prison time. The others got suspended sentences, letting them off scot free.
Moreover, on January 27, 2011, despite Lt. Col. Omri Burberg's conviction for shooting a bound and blindfolded detainee, a military court refused to imprison him, even though prosecutors recommended it.
Settlements also adversely affect Palestinian children. Clear evidence shows arrests and ill-treatment result from living close to them.
The cumulative effect of abusive practices, especially against young children, constitutes torture under international law. Whether mild or extreme, it's absolutely prohibited criminal behavior.
Against Palestinians, however, it's standard practice. In fact, Israel's ISA gets carte blanche authority to abuse with impunity, even kill that sometimes happens.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.