by Stephen Lendman
Societies are perhaps best judged by how they treat prisoners, the elderly, their most disadvantaged and children.
Israel fails on all counts. On July 9, perhaps it reached a new low. Seven IDF soldiers and an officer terrorized a 5-year old boy. 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. Many other children face similar charges.
Guilt by accusation is policy. Justice is a four-letter word. Fines, detention or longer-term imprisonment follow. More on the latest incident below.
Defence for Children International (DCI)/Palestine "is a national section of the international non-government child rights organisation and movement."
It "promot(es) and protect(s) the rights of Palestinian children." It does so according to international law principles.
Each year, about 700 West Bank children are arrested, detained, interrogated, terrorized, and prosecuted in Israeli military courts. DCI lawyers represent 30 - 40% of them.
They're treated like adults. According to DCI, Israel operates "almost completely devoid of international scrutiny."
It systematically spurns human rights and humanitarian law. It does so with impunity. Due process and judicial fairness don't matter. Israel does what it pleases. It remains unaccountable.
Palestinian children are routinely terrorized. It's done for any reason or none at all. They're arrested at checkpoints, on streets, heading to school, coming home, helping parents plant and harvest crops, at play, and while sleeping pre-dawn.
Family members are threatened not to intervene. They're beaten if attempt to. Regardless of weather, they're forced onto streets in their nightclothes. Their homes are disruptively ransacked.
Arrests are lawless. They're violent. Homes are broken into unannounced. Property is damaged or stolen. Children are blindfolded and shackled. They're terrorized. Often they're beaten.
They're forced into jeeps. Sometimes it's face down. They're taken to interrogation and detention centers. Verbal abuse, other degrading and inhumane treatment and torture follow.
Most often they're placed in a cell. Family members have no contact. Legal council is denied for days. Sometimes for weeks. It doesn't matter. Guilt by accusation is policy. Kangaroo court justice prevails. It's cruel, unforgiving and unjust.
On July 11, B'Tselem headlined "Video footage: Soldiers detain Palestinian five-year-old in Hebron," saying:
B'Tselem wrote Israel's Judea and Samaria Legal Adviser. It "demand(ed) his response to a grave incident in which soldiers detained a five-year-old boy in Hebron for two hours, after he (allegedly) threw a stone."
"Detaining a child below the age of criminal responsibility, especially one so young, has no legal justification."
Manal al-Ja'bari is B'Tselem's Hebron-based researcher/video camera project coordinator. She saw what happened. She videotaped it.
Five-year-old Wadi'a Maswadeh was terrified. Soldiers took him home. They told his mother he'd be handed over to police.
She refused until her husband, Karam, came home. He arrived 30 minutes later. He was told his son was under arrest.
Wadi'a spent the entire time "hiding behind a pile of mattresses in the house and crying." Soldiers told Karam he'd be arrested if he intervened.
He told B'Tselem:
"When I got home, I saw several soldiers standing at the entrance to my house. An officer came up to me and ordered me to get my son, Wadi'a."
"Before I got home, the soldiers had tried to persuade my wife to hand Wadi'a over, but she had refused to do it until I came back."
"The officer told me that he was going to arrest Wadi'a and hand him over to the Palestinian Coordination."
"I asked him: 'Why arrest a five-year-old boy?' A soldier standing next to the officer showed me a stone and claimed that my son had thrown it, and that it had hit the car of a settler who was driving north, near 'Abed checkpoint."
"I tried to persuade the officer not to take Wadi' to the DCO, but he said that if I didn't bring him, I'd be arrested."
"I went inside the house and got Wadi'a, who was hiding there. He was crying."
He and Karam were taken to an Israeli army base. They were detained for 30 minutes. Karam was handcuffed and blindfolded.
"(I)n full public view, together with his son," he was walked "to the Policeman's checkpoint, where the soldiers detained them for another thirty minutes."
An Israeli Lt. Col. questioned Wadi'a. He asked him why he threw stones. He reprimanded arresting soldiers. His concern was videotape evidence of what happened.
He complained about "harming our public image." It can't get much worse than already.
Israel terrorizes Palestinians brutally. It does so with impunity. It's longstanding policy. Children are treated like adults. Age makes no difference.
Police held Karam and Wadi'a. They "were briefly questioned and released."
Jessica Montell is B'Tselem's executive director. She's a longtime human rights advocate. Her letter to Israel's Judea and Samaria Legal Advisor said:
"The footage clearly shows that this was not a mistake made by an individual soldier, but rather conduct that, to our alarm, was considered reasonable by all the military personnel involved, including senior officers."
"It is particularly troubling that none of them apparently thought any part of the incident wad problematic: not the fact that they scared a five-year-old boy out of his wits, nor threatening him and his parents to 'hand him over' to the Palestinian Police, nor threatening to arrest the father on no legal grounds, nor handcuffing and blindfolding the father in front of his son."
Israel acts lawlessly. It does so systematically. It continues "procedures in which soldiers detain Palestinian minors suspected of stone throwing, and transfers them to the Palestinian Police, at the Palestinian DCO."
It does so without legal justification. International law is systematically violated. Principle 1 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child says:
"Every child, without exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to (fundamental human and civil) rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family."
They're entitled to special protections and opportunities. It's to help them develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually, and socially. It's so they'll do it under conditions of freedom and dignity.
They're entitled to fundamental rights Israel denies. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states:
"No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment....
No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily....
Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect.... (and)
Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance...."
CRC mandates detention as a last resort for the shortest possible time. Israel does it preemptively, repressively, and irresponsibly.
It's done to harass, abuse, inflict bodily and emotional harm, torture or kill. Detained children are subjected to:
• bad food and unsafe water;
• poor healthcare or lack of it;
• bad sanitation and hygiene;
• insect infested cells;
• cramped and crowded conditions;
• inadequate air and light;
• insufficient clothing, blankets and other protections;
• no play or recreation;
• isolation from the outside world;
• no family visits;
• denial of legal help for days or weeks;
• detention with adults;
• solitary confinement;
• verbal, physical and sexual abuse; and
• no education.
Torture is official Israeli policy. Age and gender make no difference. Nothing is too brutal or extreme. Forced confessions in Hebrew are extracted. They're gotten under duress.
Under international law, adulthood begins at age 18. Under militarized occupation, criminal responsibility begins at age 12.
Israeli security forces are prohibited from arresting anyone younger. They do so anyway. Human rights organizations documented numerous incidents.
When Israeli minors throw stones or otherwise abuse Palestinians, no punitive measures follow. They're free to act with impunity. Settlers take full advantage.
Militarized occupation is ruthless, brutal and lawless. Early in life, Palestinian children learn how bad.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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