Palestinian Children Tortured Upon Interrogation by Israel

by Shifa Al-khatib

This summer I lived and volunteered in Palestine, which enabled me to experience life under Israeli occupation for the first time.  I realized that growing up in the United States gave me a sense of comfort that I would never have felt growing up in Palestine.   The endless checkpoints and run-ins with Israeli soldiers never made me feel at ease.  Unfortunately, many Palestinian children are accustomed to the constant checkpoints.  Their run-ins with Israeli Security Forces can land them in detention where they are mistreated, and even tortured, by definition and according to international law.  This is unacceptable regardless of which side you are on.

According to case studies by Defense for Children International-Palestine Section, mistreatment is documented regularly.  The United Nations proclaimed in the preamble of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, “that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.”[1] The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter The Convention Against Torture) was also drafted to “make more effective the struggle against torture…”[2] Israel has ratified both of these treaties which would lead one to believe that a country priding itself for being “the only democracy in the Middle East” would at least follow international law.   Israel is in violation of both of these treaties.

Defense for Children International released a report that stated “Between November 2009 and October 2010, 1,267 criminal files were opened against Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem who were accused of throwing stones.”   Imagine being accused of throwing stones and being dragged out of your house in ties at 2:00 am.  This is what happened to 15-year-old Ahmad on July 6, 2011 where he was interrogated for throwing stones even though he denied the allegation.  According to Ahmad, he was left outside of the detention center for 8 hours deprived of food and sleep.  Not only was Ahmad denied fundamental rights he was also treated inhumanly when soldiers placed a piece of bread on his head and genitals while a dog ate the bread off of his body.  Then there is the case of 15-year-old Malek, who was arrested from his home at 3 a.m., physically abused and forced into signing a confession for throwing stones and starting a fire.  This written confession was in Hebrew, a language Malek did not understand.  According to Article 99 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “Every order and command addressed to internees individually must, likewise, be given in a language which they understand.”[3]  When Malek was forced to sign a confession that he did not understand, Israel breached international law.  Under Article 1 of The Convention Against Torture, torture is considered a method of intentionally inflicting pain on a person for purposes of a confession, as was the case in Malek’s confession.[4]4  These are only two of many similar stories. 

Not only are these children tortured and forced to confess but also sent to military prisons within Israel, which is a breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.[5]  Israel applies military law in the West Bank providing little to no protections for Palestinian minors.  Whether these minors have committed an offense their rights should be protected.  “The only democracy in the Middle East” should not be above binding international law.  This short blog entry names only a few of Israel’s breaches of international law regarding children and only touches the surface of those breaches.  Unfortunately, these violations of international law are not worthy of news coverage in the United States, so I hope I can bring light to some issues that occur regularly in Palestine.

[1] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force Sep. 2, 1990).

[2] Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, opened for signature Dec. 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85 (entered into force June 26, 1987).

[3] Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 287 (entered into force October 21 1950).

[4] Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, opened for signature Dec. 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85 (entered into force June 26, 1987).

[5] Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 287 (entered into force October 21 1950).

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13 thoughts on “Palestinian Children Tortured Upon Interrogation by Israel

  1. Recently when a wealthy white american girl, the daughter of a Judge is beaten on video, the entire US media are outraged. It becomes front page news-everyone is speaking out against it. Is it only because she also drives a Mercedes that these media puppets can relate to her pain and suffering? What about the children of Palestine? What about the epidemic of child abuse in the USA. They do not care, because it happens to the poor. We all know that poverty, and imprisonment of children is a form of child abuse-when the government and the wealthy are the cause of, and allow child abuse, when they silently watch and do nothing as Paterno did, are they not as culpable as Joe Paterno? The USA is equally as evil as that Freemason Judge who beats his daughter. The Rothschild central bank wants all social programs to the poor stopped with austerity programs that make the rich bankers even richer. The elitists of the mainstream media are completely selfish hypocrites. As long as there are economic classes of haves and have nots, as long as selfishness /inequity is not considered the unacceptable evil, excuse for abuse that it is, humanity has not lived up to its true potential to love one another as they could have, and it is the innocent children who just all need to be loved-equally, who suffer-so much pain, physical and emotional. That is why it says over and over that the rich can never enter heaven. These monsters in Israel are being allowed 100 years to do all the evil they can do, why? It is so they will have thousands of years to pay for all their crimes, and during that time-we will have a world of peace and love-while the monsters are chained up in Hell. It says so in the Bible. Everything they do to these children will happen to the monsters again and again and again until they pay for every amount of pain and suffering they caused-to so many people-it will take forever. The children are everything good in the world they deserve only love. The monsters are monsters because they want to destroy everything good in the world-they world will be a heavenly place, soon once they all disappear to the Hell they have earned for themselves.

  2. One would hope that international law means something, unfortunately it rarely seems to matter. The US is a signatory to these same treaties, but we have our own well-documented cases of torture. Sorry, I meant enhanced interrogation. International law is nice in concept, but it’s meaningless as long as powerful nations only pay attention to it when it benefits them, and brush it aside when it does not. Treaties express nice words and sentiments, but unfortunately they cannot constitute “law” without some sort of meaningful enforcement mechanism.

  3. Torture of children is unacceptable no matter what. Torture of adults in custody is also unacceptable. Mat made a good point about the US complete disregard for treaties signed and ratifies when it comes to human suspects in our care. This is horrible and unacceptable both for American and Israeli soldiers. Growing up in Israel most of my adult life, and having served in the Israeli army gives me a special perspective on this issue. Some would say that I can’t be objective about this issue. I disagree.
    The situation back home is incredibly difficult. Since I was a little girl I knew that of I go to Tel Aviv or any other central city in Israel, for shopping, visiting friends or family, I might not survive. All throughout my childhood I remember news footage about bus explosions killing 5, 10, 20, 30 civilians. Pizza places exploding, security guards in malls killing themselves trying to avert harm to children and civilians in their care. Living under this trauma, these footages, day in and day out can make you different. Jaded, bitter, and unable to trust. I have two different types of friends. Those who sympathize with the minority of soldiers disregarding the laws (both international and humane standards) and I have friends and family who stand beside Palestinians every weekend protecting the occupation of the territories. Abuse of power takes place in every military organization, both in western and non-westernized countries. Sadly it happens in Israel as well. This doesn’t excuse it. I have absolutely no qualms trying these soldiers in court once the war is over. I have no qualms trying the worst now, while the war is going on. And believe me, this is a war. Everyday I get calls from my hometown of Ashdod, from friends and family members that are running down to the bomb shelter in the middle of the night holding nothing but their babies in one hand and a gas mask in the other. Alarms are becoming a regular fixture in my hometown. There is a war going on. And fallible people are engaged in it. People who don’t know how to use their power at times when their enemies are women and children strapping a bomb to their chest (with extra shrapnel and nails to hurt as many people as possible) and walking into a Sbarro pizza joint. They don’t know how to deal with ambulances that are trying to push through checkpoint, claiming they are holding injured people inside when they are really holding bombs. The laws of nature don’t apply here. A pregnant woman left her toddlers at home and went to a mall in Jerusalem intending to kill as many women and children she can get. The laws of nature don’t apply here and we are surprised soldiers are disregarding the laws when interrogating prisoners?
    Torture of children is unacceptable. .suicide bombing in a civilian mall or café is unacceptable. These don’t excuse each other but people need to understand the complexity of the situation before pointing any fingers. As far as I’m concerned the fingers are pointing every which way. The only solution is leave hubris and pride outside the door and pretend to forget everything that happened up until this point. I sure can’t. But I’m not at the negotiating table; the only way for peace in the region is for people to understand that the majority f the population is comprised of civilians who want peace and quiet both in their lifetime and in the lifetime of their kids.
    These are people, not monsters, on both sides. We need to remember our humanity before anything else. This is the job for our generation. And let that be our legacy.

  4. If these events transpired in another country, the justified moral outrage about this would receive press. Unfortunately, I feel as a country, we have chosen to overlook it because of an, I believe misguided, unquestioned support for an Israeli state.

  5. The problem with trying these soldiers in court “once the war is over” is a little confusing to me. This has been an on-going conflict for years so to wait for a conflict to end to try someone and allow these violations to occur is absurd. This next statement is just a thought, because these are not isolated incidents I do believe that the Israeli government allows these violations to occur. I agree with you that this happens in many countries but in this case I don’t believe it is an isolated incident.
    I know you mentioned that you do not have a problem trying “the worst now” but how can you justify what crimes are the worst. In my eyes they are all terrible violations of human existence.
    I do feel terrible for any Israeli civilians that died in attacks as well as the thousands of Palestinians that have died in attacks. This is off the topic of my article but do you think that it was not the Israeli governments decision to use a chemical weapon that is illegal under the Geneva Conventions in the Gaza Massacre of 2008. This killed over 1000 civilians and burns at approximately 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. That is why I have doubts on whether or not the government is behind other violations of international law.
    Regarding the ambulances, I cant deny whether or not people are inside them using bombs because I have not heard that there are or are not those incidences-I could look that up more later. But what about the people that are trying to get through to hospitals using ambulances. Pregnant women left to give birth on the way to hospitals because security won’t let them pass a checkpoint because curfew may have passed. What about the Israeli attacks on ambulances in Gaza in 2008. Innocent people left to die because no one can reach them to help or risk being attacked at.
    And to your question about “we are surprised soldiers are disregarding the laws when interrogating prisoners?” In a way I am not surprised because it is a reoccurring theme that Israel violates these laws so no I am not surprised. I do agree with you that fingers are pointed in many directions but I don’t think you can say that people need to understand the complexity of the situation before pointing any fingers because all the real facts are out there and there is no denying the thousands of innocent people Israel has killed and imprisoned.

    I do agree with you on one issue, that many people do want peace in their lifetime for themselves and their kids and I hope one day we can get there.

  6. I am glad you mentioned an “enforcement mechanism” because that is what I was thinking yesterday. Maybe the only way we can get countries to follow the law is to impose sanctions on them like the US has done in other instances. What about some sort of economic sanction on Israel by the United States. From 2007-2017 we will give them 30 billion dollars in Military Aid….that’s some food for thought 🙂

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  7. I am not advocating allowing any violations to occur. It is absurd to me though to believe that after any sanctions are made on either side that the violations would immediately stop. I think growing up with this, day in and day out, being in the military and being in a position of power is a bad situation. I’m sure any country involved in this conflict after dozens of years will produce young people who devalue human rights on both sides of the issue. It is extremely extremely unfortunate. I think that it is though since Israel has become so much better at thwarting terrorist attacks and infiltrations. I know we become so much better because our casualty number had decreased substantially and whenever an attempt is not thwarted it rises to lynching. Something that should never happen to Israeli soldiers, Palestinians or any other human. There are many cases where people give birth at checkpoints or even die because they couldn’t get passed a checkpoint. Sadly it is the only way Israel knows how to defend itself. I know many Israeli soldiers that are tormented by what they are forced to do, stop people from crossing, because there are so many terrorist attacks they are not “at liberty” to allow other people to cross the border. People that are mostly innocent and need Israel’s help. They can’t do that because if they allow them in at times where the security level is so high they are risking sure death to civilians in crowded street corners in Tel Aviv. And it is sad that any attacks do get on the news faster when an American student happens to be one of the casualties. I would absolutely love to have Israel recognize friend from foe in checkpoint and allow in ANYONE who needs their help. Sadly the bombers are now teenagers and women.
    Darine Abu Aisha, a suicide bomber followed a fatwa by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin , a religious leader for the Hamas calling women to commit suicide bombing in order to kill as many Israelis as possible. It is a human rights violation – I FEEL – to strip down a religious Muslim woman in order to allow her to cross the border. Should Israel just let her go in and kill as many as she can? I don’t advocate violations of human rights of any kind but (and I am truly saddened there is a but here) – what else is there to do????
    Two months ago two Palestinian kids threw rocks at an Israeli car; an act some would say is merely symbolic given all the trauma they have suffered by the hands of the Israelis. The rocks caused the driver to swerve and the car ended up flipping over killing him. 25 year old Asher and his one-year old son. Does that happen every time rocks are being thrown? No. Does it mean that rock throwing should be taken seriously? Yes. If I could try every soldier in Israel for any violation they committed and any Palestinian civilian or soldiers for any violence committed or any human rights violation they committed I would have 3 million people at least waiting to be adjudicated. It is horrible. And violations are being committed everywhere in that region. I don’t think sanctions or trials are a logical route after these 60 years of fighting and killing. I think the only way for the state of Israel to co-exist with any Palestinian state is through putting EVERYTHING behind us and negotiating for peace.

  8. Very enlightening article, Shifa. It’s amazes to see how this can happen to innocent children in Palestine without any intervention. If this were to happen in any other country, you would hear about it everyday on the news. But in this case, people turn a blind eye.

    Thank you for informing us about this issue.

  9. If a 13 year old child started throwing stones at people in an American city or at police thay would be arrested and sent to a special school for Truants.

    Stop crying wolf.

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