Nureddin Sabir: Remember Israel’s Abuse of Palestinian Kids
By now the whole world must have heard about the alleged kidnapping of three Jewish squatters’ offspring in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.
The three, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gilad Sha’er and Naftali Frankel, both 16, are said to have disappeared while hitchhiking near the Jewish squatter colony of Kfar Etzion, close to the occupied city of Hebron.
Predictably, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was quick to blame the Palestinian faction Hamas for the disappearance of the squatter kids.
Not to be outdone, Israel’s so-called “intelligence” minister, Yuval Steinitz, went further, blaming the Palestinian national reconciliation for the squatter kids’ mystery.
And, like a parrot, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, waded in on the Israeli side, regurgitating the Israeli mantra that “many indications” pointed to Hamas’s involvement.
Meanwhile, another Israeli security official disputed that any of the known Palestinian factions was behind the squatter kids’ disappearance, saying instead that the kidnapping was likely carried out by a small group of militants with no direct orders from Hamas, ISIS or any other regional group.
True to form, Israel responded to the alleged disappearance of the squatter kids by imposing collective punishment – a crime under international law – on the occupied Palestinians, at the time of writing arresting as many as 125 without any evidence of involvement in the alleged kidnapping.
Whatever the truth, the attention that is being given to this story hides a much more serious crime.
Real crime against humanity
This is Israel’s detention and abuse of hundreds of Palestinian children who are routinely mistreated, traumatized and denied their rights.
In February last year, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF published a 22-page report, “Children in Israeli Military Detention”, which stated that abuse was “widespread, systematic and institutionalized”.
“In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees,” the report said.
Pointing out that Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children violates international law, the UN report cited terrifying night-time arrests, physical and verbal abuse, painful restraints, denial of access to food, water and toilet facilities, solitary confinement, coerced confessions, lack of access to lawyers and family members, shackling during court appearances and transfer to prisons outside the occupied Palestinian territories.
In October 2013, UNICEF published a follow-up bulletin revealing that the situation for child prisoners in the Zionist state had worsened since the original document was released.
As 2013 came to a close, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel reported that Palestinian children had been held outdoors in iron cages while awaiting court hearings. Other reports noted that this practice took place during the freezing winter storm of that year.
Hazards of living on stolen land
In truth, at the time of writing no one knows what has happened to the Jewish squatter kids.
They may well have been kidnapped by a misguided “militant” group or individuals – this is the risk of living on stolen land. They may have been taken by criminals – paedophiles, for example. Or they may have gone on an adventurous juvenile trip, running away from home and squatter colony.
Alternatively, the whole “kidnap” episode could be a trick by the particularly nasty Hebron Jewish squatter community to provoke action against the Palestinians.
Whatever the truth is, let us be clear about one thing. It is hypocritical – criminal, in fact – to belittle or turn a blind eye to the ongoing crimes committed by the state of Israel against hundreds of Palestinian children while devoting countless column inches and hours of airtime to the alleged disappearance of three teenagers whose parents have freely chosen to live on stolen land and in a conflict zone, with all the known risks that doing so entails.