Over the past month, Israeli activist Joseph Dana has been chronicling Israel’s practice of arrest and detention of Palestinian children in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. I don’t know what to say except that his reports have left me numb:
“They come for our woman and our children,” Bassem Tamimi, the leader of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh recently told me, “they [the Israeli army] know that woman are half our population and half our strength and so they target them along with the children.” Tamimi, a gentle man with a warm smile spoke to me about the repression of his village as we sat in his home overlooking the settlement of Halamish. “They know where to apply pressure on our resistance. It has become really difficult since the last wave of arrests.”
Israel is devoting maximum effort to the repression of Nabi Saleh’s determination to demonstrate against the Occupation. The specific method of repression has been in development for the past eight years and is not only designed to break the demonstrations but to leave permanent psychological scars on the next generation of Nabi Saleh villagers. In short, children are used to implicate the leaders of the Popular Committee for incitement in demonstrations, providing evidence for their long term incarceration. In the last month, six children have been arrested or detained in Nabi Saleh by the army.
The video above shows the capture of eleven year old Kareem Tamimi who is chased down and grabbed by Israeli border police before he is shoved into a police van. The voice you hear screaming in the background is his mother.
Other videos on Dana’s site are no less disturbing. Two clips document late night home raids by the IDF, who go from from house to house photographing children and recording their names and ID numbers. As Dana explains:
14 year old Islam Tamimi, one of the children seen being photographed in a night raid, has been in jail for the past three weeks. Days after the video was shot he was arrested and detained for a number of hours at the Halamish military base. Two days after he was detained, the army raided his home at 02h00 and arrested him. He was left in the cold, blindfolded and bound for the rest of the night and then taken imminently to interrogation without lawyer or parents present. The interrogation lasted eight hours. Incidentally, the day that Tamimi was arrested the IDF Spokespersons office tweeted that ‘a wanted suspect was arrested overnight and taken for security questioning.’
In another post, Dana reported that fourteen year old Islam had a hearing on February 14 (in which he was brought before a judge while wearing an over sized adult prison uniform). While he originally was held in a cell with his 24 year old brother (who was jailed on stone throwing charges), he was subsequently moved away to another prison. His trial is scheduled to take place next week.
This is not only an issue for Nabi Saleh. According to the Middle East Children’s Alliance, thirty two Palestinian children were arrested by Israeli authorities in the first two weeks of February alone. A recent report by Defense for Children International (Palestine Section) has concluded:
Each year approximately 700 Palestinian children are arrested, interrogated and detained in the Israeli military court system, and reports of torture and ill-treatment are common.
My friend Father Cotton Fite, who is currently visiting Israel/Palestine, has dear friends in the village of Beit Ommar. Shortly before he left, he heard from them that the IDF had come to their home and was targeting one of their young sons. The family was understandably terrified.
Cotton is visiting the family now and is also meeting with B’tselem field workers to find out exactly what is happening on the ground. He promised to send in a post about his experiences. (In the meantime, you can read this report from last summer that claims that over a dozen youth from Beit Ommar were arrested in less than a month’s time.)
Nelson Mandela is famously quoted as saying,
There can be no keener revelation about a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.
Bear these words in mind as you watch the film clip above…