Absolute submission to Israeli authority is required of every Palestinian under military occupation.
When past lessons in submission fail to induce acceptable levels of obedience, fear and collaboration, then these lessons must be relearned to please those in power. Israel’s military courts and prison system are key disciplinary mechanisms in this regard, especially for children.
Israel is the only nation in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts. Each year between 500-700 Palestinian juveniles are tried in such courts.
As this short, graphic video by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) makes clear, rights abuses and violations against detained Palestinian children are routine and severe, with long-lasting physical and psychological consequences. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a 2013 report, found mistreatment of Palestinian kids by Israel’s detention system to be “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process.”
The Story of Osaid M.
Osaid M., a teenager of 15, was arrested in February this year with a friend outside the West Bank city of Tulkarm. Ten Israeli soldiers abducted the boys.
“The soldiers tied our hands behind our backs using plastic cords and blindfolded our eyes,” Osaid said. “They then started beating and slapping us. They ordered us to walk while blindfolded, and they kept hitting us while we were walking.”
The boys were detained for several hours in Einav, an illegal, Jewish-only settlement in the West Bank, before being transferred in the evening to a police station in another Israeli settlement, Ariel, roughly 22 miles south of Einav.
In his cell, Osaid was “bound and blindfolded, without water or access to a bathroom.” His interrogation began at 2 a.m.
The boy told DCIP that his interrogator “shackled my feet and did not inform me of my rights, such as my right to remain silent. He was shouting and accusing me of throwing stones, but I never confessed.”
Neither Osaid’s parents nor an attorney were present for his interrogation. A Palestinian child has no right to legal counsel during interrogation. Most children accused of a crime never meet their attorney until the first hearing before a military judge; a small number are allowed to speak briefly to a lawyer, usually by telephone, before formal interrogations begin.
Eventually, under duress, Osaid signed a statement written in Hebrew, a language he does not understand. This is common.
Palestinian youth understand that pleading guilty is generally the fastest way to get out of prison. Give the occupiers the lie they want, take a plea deal, go home sooner. Israeli military judges rarely grant bail, and the alternative to pleading out is a military trial that can drag on interminably while the child remains behind bars.
Osaid was convicted of throwing stones and paint canisters – a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years, depending on the circumstances. On July 10, five months after his arrest, the boy received a sentence of 6 months and a fine equivalent to $550 dollars. Five days later, he was released with time served on remand.
The Story of Ahmad S.
DCIP says 75 other children suffered a fate similar to Osaid’s between January and August. One was Ahmad S., 17, who was arrested in February on charges of throwing stones and abetting a fugitive. He was held in solitary confinement for 22 days, subjected to degrading conditions, threatened with physical assault if he did not confess, and cruelly interrogated in a stress position, a form of torture:
“I was detained in a small cell that barely had room for one person,….” It had a tiny toilet with a bad smell. I used to sleep on a filthy mattress that had a disgusting smell. The light was turned on all the time, causing pain in my eyes. The walls were gray and had a coarse surface. I was not able to lean against them. The cell had no windows, but it had ventilation gaps.
“I was interrogated many times and I was always tied to a metal chair that was [a] few inches above the ground.”
-Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine