The Associated Press reports that a 14-year-old Palestinian-American boy has been held in Israeli military lockup since last week after Israeli soldiers “burst[ed] into his family home and arrest[ed] him in an overnight raid for allegedly hurling rocks at Israeli motorists in the West Bank.”
The boy’s father, Abdelwahab Khalek, said his 14-year-old son Mohammad was taken into custody early last Friday morning by eight assault-rifle wielding soldiers. They shackled and blindfolded his son as his five siblings watched, he said.
The military said Mohammad hurled rocks at Israeli vehicles that were speeding down a nearby highway and at military jeeps on several occasions. The military said there has been a spike in rock-throwing attacks on drivers, including an incident in early April, when rocks thrown at a civilian car next to a Jewish settlement injured seven, including an infant who was critically wounded.
The military confirmed the arrest and said his detention was extended until Sunday.
Khalek, a car dealer who splits his time between the West Bank and New Orleans, hasn’t been allowed to visit his son in jail. But he has spoken to him at three court hearings, most recently when Mohammad was officially charged on Thursday.
Mohammad’s lawyer, Randa Wahbe, said he told her in court that he was interrogated for hours and at one stage, was pushed so hard that his dental braces were broken. She says he was told by interrogators that if he confessed to rock throwing quickly, he would be released. A military spokesman said no complaints of abuse were filed.
“He appears okay, he’s a strong kid,” said his 46-year-old father. “But there is no law in the world that justifies the way (Israeli forces) acted.”
In typical fashion, “American consular officials declined comment”, says the AP.
This doesn’t suprise me given the deafening silence from US officials in 2010, when Israeli forces killed 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, a Turkish-American who dared to participate in the Gaza Flotilla. And who can forget the US government’s failure to give a shit about Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old peace activist who was deliberately crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer as she protected a Palestinian home from demolition in 2003.
Nevertheless, we’re talking about an American child here. Though the US government has never really cared about Israel’s routine abuse of Palestinian children–who are regularly detained and held in Israeli military detention without trial, counsel or parental visits for months–the fact that this is a US citizen child might force US officials to do or say something.
Still, this speaks to the larger issue of Israeli treatment of Palestinian kids. As the AP points out:
“Unfortunately this case is symptomatic of the Israeli military’s abusive treatment of Palestinian children in detention,” said Bill Van Esveld of the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch.
Rights group Defense of Children International says there were 236 minors in Israel military detention in February, 39 of them between the ages of 12 to 15. The group said it receives its numbers from Israel’s prison authority.
And this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Night raids by Israeli forces are common and force Palestinian children to live in a state of terror, often wondering whether they or their father or brother will be taken away at night. But it’s as thought they’re much safer during the day. After all, just a few weeks ago Israeli forces arrested 30 Palestinian children, among them an 8-year-old boy, as they headed to school in the morning. Apparently, no time of the day is safe for a Palestinian child.
Defence for Children International explains that this is the norm in Palestine (emphasis mine):
“In every way, this is a typical case involving the arrest and mistreatment of a Palestinian child by Israeli forces,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI-Palestine. “Sadly, night time arrests and the abuse of children are systematic within the Israeli military detention system. This case is exceptional only because the child happens to also have US citizenship.”
Some form of physical violence during arrest, interrogation and pretrial detention occurred in nearly 79 percent of cases documented by DCI-Palestine in 2012. In more than half of those cases, children were arrested from the family home between midnight and dawn.
DCI-Palestine evidence shows that children arrive to Israeli interrogation centers blindfolded, bound and sleep deprived. Unlike their Israeli counterparts, Palestinian children have no right to be accompanied by their parents during an interrogation. They are questioned alone and rarely informed of their rights, particularly their right against self-incrimination. The interrogation techniques are generally mentally and physically coercive, frequently incorporating a mix of intimidation, threats and physical violence with a clear purpose of obtaining a confession.
DCI-Palestine and Addameer maintain that all children must be entitled to have a parent present at all times during interrogation, as well as have access to a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogation, and preferably throughout the interrogation process. All interrogations of children must be audio-visually recorded.
In March, there was a total of 4,812 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, according to Addameer. Of those, 236 were children aged 12-17, based on DCI-Palestine research.
This is torture, plain and simple. As I’m writing this, adult Palestinian prisoners are staging a hunger strike due to the torture inflicted upon them in Israeli detention. Just imagine what that same treatment is doing to the mental health of child prisoners.
Meanwhile, the US government has nothing to say.