Schoolchild dragged by Israeli soldiers (Photo provided by ISM)

There is not much that shocks me when it comes to the depravity of the Israeli occupation, but an incident which took place a few days ago did just that.

Another CPTer and I were getting ready to end our school patrol. At these we stand by checkpoints near a school to make sure children and teachers are not harassed on the way to school. We got a phone call from a friend telling us something was happening at a nearby checkpoint. When we got there we discovered that 27 Palestinian children had been arrested. An Israeli policeman was explaining the situation to a Palestinian in English, so I listened in:

“They were throwing stones at this checkpoint and this is the reason they are arrested now. I’ll tell you what I’m doing, I’m checking all the 27 that was arrested. Whoever was not involved will be released immediately. This is what I promise you. After we will check if he’s a minor we’re going to take him by the DCL, to the Palestinian Authority, they will deal with the minors who throw stones….” [Palestinian interjects]

“The youngers [minors] cannot be arrested by you.”

“So this is the reason the minors that are not involved will be released immediately. Those that are involved we will taken to the Palestinian Authority. Have a nice day”

Some things to notice from this statement. The Officer admits to arresting minors, which, as the Palestinian rightly mentions, they do not have the authority to do. He also implies that the army was arresting people who were innocent. These boys who were arrested were as young as six years old! The oldest were only 15. They were dragged (literally) into police vehicles and carted off to the police station. (You can see a video of the incident here)

At the police station two boys were released. One of them described the incident: We were passing to go to our school and they arrested us. The soldiers pushed us into the jeep, then they took us away from the school checkpoint. They hit me on my knee. Then the commander came and talked with them in Hebrew. The commander slapped me and my friend on the face and let us go.” These two got it easy, in comparison to the others. All the other kids were interrogated without any adult representation (although teacher and parents demanded to be allowed inside).

After seven hours the children who were considered ‘minors’ were released. This means anyone under 12 years old. According to Israeli law a Palestinian is only a minor up to 12 years old. For an Israeli to be a minor they must be under the age of 14. (Odd how someone’s race determines when you are no longer a minor). So the eight kids under 13, who, by Israel’s own law the the military is not allowed to arrest, were allowed to go free after seven hours. The other 19 were moved to a military compound to continue to be interrogated. A Palestinian who got a short glimpse of the kids said they were handcuffed and blindfolded. This is not uncommon, in 2010 research showed that all children were handcuffed and 90% were blindfolded when taken into detention. After five more hours of interrogation all but three were released. The three remaining were sent to a military prison, not a juvenile prison, (this is also common practice) in Ofer.

As of this post the three have been held for four days. One of the really scary things for me to think about is the unjust system these kids have to work through. They can legally be held for four days without seeing a judge, and in this case they will not see a judge for four more days (their date was pushed back), if they were Israeli kids they would see a judge in less then 12 hours. They can be held in that adult military prison for 60 days without a charge, an Israeli could only be held for 2 days and could not be held in and adult facility. And the kids could wait in jail for a year and a half without trial, an Israeli could only wait six months. Even then most trials for Palestinians last less then five minutes. Less then 2% get a full evidential trial, and 99.77% are found guilty!

I know that statistics can be cold and uninteresting. But I’m friends with the older brother of one of the kids arrested. I’m afraid to talk to him, because when I look at these numbers I can’t offer him words of hope. Even though his brother is more then likely innocent, what chance does he have to prove that in a system that finds 99.77% of ‘his kind’ guilty. I look at these numbers and realize, these kids don’t stand a chance. It is commonly known among Palestinians that the easiest way to get out of jail is to admit whatever the Israelis want you to admit, sign whatever they want you to sign, say anything they want you to say, and pay whatever they want you to pay. I know of kids who have tried to plead their innocence, many of them were held for months without going to trial, until they finally confessed, and were let out on probation. Israel holds all the cards in this situation, and the Israeli authorities will do whatever they want with these children.

This situation, both particular and general, feels so massively evil that I want to despair. Thank God it’s Easter, the holiday where we celebrate the time love conquered the ultimate hopeless evil of death. I’m clinging to this idea, that good is greater then evil and one day evil will be defeated, because right now I feel like I am witnessing something that is pure evil.

Pray for the children of Hebron who are in Prison tonight
Pray for the nearly 200 Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons
Pray for justice
Pray for peace