To the Coming Generations
On May 10, 2019, CPT Palestine was called out to a major incident in Tel Rumeida. On arrival, we found that around 50 Israeli soldiers, together with a number of armed settlers, had just arrested two young Palestinian men. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut!
At first, Israeli soldiers photographed our passports, and we were not allowed to enter the immediate area, as it had been declared a “closed military zone.” Finally, when we were allowed in, the first person we saw was the mother of one of the men, sitting on a step. She looked distraught.
A settler had falsely accused the Palestinian men of attacking him, a common situation in al-Khalil (Hebron). The arrested men had been beaten and taken into a nearby settlement. Eventually, after no evidence could be produced against them, they were released. The immense relief and great joy on the faces of the mother and her son as they hugged each other was moving to see.
Our children are our future, so what will the terrible effect of such incidents be on Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation? Every school day, CPTers watch as children, together with their teachers, pass through the Israeli military checkpoints, their bags sometimes checked or their bodies searched. Access to education is seriously undermined by Israeli military operations and settler-related incidents. Soldiers regularly fire tear gas and sound bombs into the Palestinian schools. Sometimes, they even come into the classrooms, pointing guns at children to intimidate them.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that every child has the right to an education, but the Israeli military and the settlers do not recognize this. The Israeli military offer disproportionate response when Palestinian boys, 10-14 years of age, vent frustration by throwing stones towards checkpoints: the soldiers fire back tear gas, sound bombs and sometimes rubber bullets.
Unfortunately, every once in a while, children are arrested and detained, often on false or exaggerated charges. Sometimes they are released quite quickly but, if not, life can get very tough indeed. Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, child detention should be seen as a last resort. That, however, is certainly not the case in Israel. Whilst Israeli children living in the settlements are subject to civil law, Palestinian children are subject to military law (with all its consequences, including being held legally responsible as adults at age 12).
The April 2019 newsletter of Military Court Watch reports that 215 Palestinian children are currently held in Israeli detention facilities (a 23% increase since 2018). Testimonies taken from children in 2018 revealed that 51% were arrested at night, 94% had their hands tied, 89% were blindfolded, 70% were physically abused, 75% were denied access to a lawyer before questioning, and parents had no right to be present during interrogations. Almost all enter plea bargains in an attempt to return home as soon as possible. Pleading not guilty may cause a child to spend longer waiting for trial than their sentence would have otherwise been. What’s more, if they fight it, their chances are slim, as the military courts have a conviction rate of 99%.
On April 30, 2019, US Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced a bill, HR 2407, into the House of Representatives in an effort to try to curb Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children. It is called the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. McCollum says, “Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families. It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that US tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”
It is heartening to see a spreading awareness in the US, as Israel continues to commit human rights violations against the Palestinian population. We invite you to contact Congresswoman McCollum to thank her for speaking out against the abuse of Palestinian children. Help us encourage politicians to stand against the illegal Occupation. Find Congresswoman McCollum’s contact information here.