Palestinian Children in Israeli military detention
Here in South Tottenham (London), attending a Twinning Conference organised excellently and robustly by Haringey Justice for Palestinians, a creative branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, I am just recovering from the icy cold outside, in possession of a brimming coffee and in the company of good people doing good things. Just past registration and no interrogation! Gosh! I must have been an activist too long or not long enough!? The issue for me amongst many and the reason for attending this Twinning Conference is to hear addressed a pre-eminent issue that focuses on the needs and support of the systematically abused children of Gaza and the West Bank held in Israeli military detention centres under the most harsh conditions. They are the future of Palestine. Children are the future of all their respective nations. And Palestinian children are equally so. The children of Palestine have every right to become “arbiters of change” rather than be subjected to Israel’s military courts a situation which is permitted to go on and further exacerbated by the deafening silence of Western complicity, particularly Britain, Zionist shackled America, and the EU.
Is it not an indicative trait marking the acme of a dangerous state of heightened hubris aside from exposing the depths of an “increasingly fascist state”? when Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israel Prime Minister, asserted The test of a democracy is how you treat people incarcerated, people in jail, and especially so with minors.” (The Guardian, 22 January 2012). It is indeed Mr Regev; and history will show that Israel has failed the tests of democracy and the stringent tests of human rights, wilfully and criminally misusing her “right to exist.” So, I accept Israel has a right to exist ok! Get over it!! And recognise through your misunderstanding of self-righteousness, that the children of Palestine have the right to exist as their human rights are suspended and their being and becoming assailed by Israel’s barbaric practices contrary to international law and good conscience. None of us live just to exist, but to live, live, live, in freedom, and in the faith for a better future bathed in the light of justice and a lasting peace. If Israel truly thirsts after righteousness, she would be blessed for “Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be satisfied.
Children for God’s sake Mr Regev, whilst in detention, having protested peacefully against the harsh conditions in Israeli prisons (where they shouldn’t be in first place) are locked into solitary confinement and thereby locked subjectively into deteriorating, psychological, depressive and traumatised states that encircle their tender minds like a tightening noose held in their collective traumatised memory by Israeli persecutors sanctioned by the state, who people as ghosts the children’s nightmares. Solitary confinement has broken the lives of even the most resolute of adults, what then of children? The flowers of any and every nation, including Israel’s, the calyx, the heart of those flowers, are, should be, the perfumed heart of all nations as they play, and as they grow shaping our shared humanity, sacred duty and future. Ah, what harm you have done Israel in your ignorance of laws man-made, and Divine.
In July 2012 Special Rapporteur Professor Richard Falk said “Israel’s use of solitary confinement against children flagrantly violates international human rights standards.” This coming in the “wake” of the UN Special Committee on Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories. The Special Committee’s Chair Person, Ambassador Palitha T. B. Kohona stated “According to testimony received, Israel uses solitary confinement against 12 percent of Palestinian detainees.” Between 500 to 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israel every year. Ambassador Kohona describes the terror, and the Israeli pathology of arrest. “Large numbers are routinely detained. Children’s homes are surrounded by Israeli soldiers late at night, sound grenades are fired into houses, doors are broken down, live shots are often fired; no warrant is presented. Children are tightly bound, blindfolded and forced into the backs of military vehicles.” The criminal abuse has begun so also the damage to the very fabric of that child’s life, the fabric of all children’s lives and that of their families. The children are, (nearly two thirds), transferred to “prisons inside Israel in violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits such transfers.” 
A document that is a must read for all concerned with human rights and Israeli abuse is (Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted, Children held in military detention, produced by Defence for Children International. Palestinian Section. Published April 2012). It is damning of Israel in its intrinsic evidence of the appalling interrogation techniques used to intimidate and damage Palestinian children psychologically. From the get-go the very first paragraph of the executive summary gives us the harrowing picture of life under occupation and the abuse committed by Israel during the arrest of minors, but also adults.
“Since 1967, Palestinians from the West Bank have been living under Israeli military law and prosecuted in military courts. The United Nation (UN) estimates that during the last 44 years, around 726,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been prosecuted and detained under emergency laws. In the past 11 years alone, around 7,500 children, some as young as 12 years, are estimated to have been detained, interrogated, and imprisoned within this system. This averages out at between 500-700 children per year or two children each and every day.” (DCI-Palestine) 
The result of all this wanton cruelty? “The report finds that when the totality of the evidence is considered, a pattern of systematic ill-treatment emerges, much of which amounts to cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as defined in the UN Convention against Torture, and in some cases, torture – both of which are absolutely prohibited. The Report also finds that there is a general absence of effective complaint mechanisms, which best summed up in the following extract taken from a report published by a well respected Israeli [not given] organization. “The chances of a criminal offence carried out by an IDF soldier against a Palestinian successfully navigating the obstacle course of the complaint procedure […] are almost nil.” (DCI-Palestine). In addition, the DCI-Palestine Report includes 311 testimonies of children, “25 of which are detailed case studies of children, as well as interviews with a lawyer, a rehabilitation expert, a former Israeli soldier and an expert medical report into the mental health implications for the children.” 
Israeli soldier Hebron, occupied West Bank, “they were such worms, from a certain point on I remember we literally loathed them. I did. I was such a racist out there too, I was so angry at them for their filth, their misery the whole fucking situation: you threw a stone, now why did you do it? Why do you have to make me bring you here? Just don’t do it. He is there on the floor crying. Hands tied. At some point we unshackled his hands because he wept and pleaded. He screamed there, and was all wet from tears and sweat and mucus. You just don’t know what to do about it. We were shaking him out of desperation. It wasn’t necessarily an act motivated by violence. I think we began to laugh already, even now when I think about it, you get so lost out there in situation like this.” (DCI-Palestine) 
Thaer B arrested 16 December 2011. “They signalled for me to raise my hands. They kept ordering me to do things in Hebrew, but I didn’t understand […] I saw one of them cocking his rifle and I became very scared because I thought they would shoot me, says Thaer” A short time later Thaer was taken to the jeep and made to sit on the metal floor. “Two of the soldiers then got inside and stepped on my body as I was lying on the floor, and that hurt me a lot. The jeep started moving and they started kicking me and hitting me in the face and arms with their hands and rifles, as they were laughing and speaking to each other in Hebrew.” (DCI-Palestine) 
Iyad Misk with DCI-Palestine “As soon as the parents or other parties inform me that a child has been arrested and detained, I contact the detention centres and then police stations to find the child, and to get initial information about the arrest, place of detention and the date of the trial. Once these basic facts are established, I try to coordinate a visit to the child as soon as possible to obtain details of the arrest and interrogation […] in reality due to coordination difficulties with the Israeli authorities, the first time I see most of the children is when the child appears in the military court after they have been interrogated. Under Israeli military law a child can be legally denied access to his lawyer for up to 90 days.” 
A Rehabilitation expert
Nader Abu Amsha, Director for the YMCA Rehabilitation Programme “We have noticed that one of the most traumatizing experiences for the children is being arrested in the middle of the night in big raids, finding the soldiers in their rooms pointing their weapons at them, the shouting, and the breaking of things in many cases. This makes the detention very traumatic from the first minute. Also the handcuffing, the blindfolding, being transferred in the floor of the military jeeps, being beaten, threatened and humiliated during interrogation. Being alone during all this process is a terrifying experience for children. The child feels that the whole Israeli military system is against him, and he has no one to protect or accompanying him. Then, being imprisoned for months far from the family, with people he doesn’t know, sometimes even adults, not being able to talk about his feelings, and having to deal with the conflict between the different affiliations of other prisoners, its all a very difficult experience for the child.” 
Israel has honed her deadly weapons of repression over decades what can be done to help, how, and why? The discourse in the Twinning Conference room moves inevitably through the dates and the eidetic narrative of Israeli violence, British complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the stoicism of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Also Human Rights, Human Rights, Human Rights. Let us not forget the culpable British, as for nearly 100 years Palestinians have “been forcibly deprived of their country, land, homes and civil and human rights by first British and then Zionist/Israeli armies.” (Haringey Justice for Palestinians)  because of this, in spite of this, it was determined that group connectivity transcending international boundaries is establishing a fractal but unbreakable chain of committed groups, who in twinning, have a visceral relationship with Palestinians and are determined to give voice and practical support to those groups in Palestine concerned with the welfare of its citizens; as well as bring to light the unspeakable crimes of Israel and her immunity to prosecution. As for Israel’s right to exist, as I said above and repeat here, Israel you exist get over it, comply with international law and become, against the odds, a compassionate partner in a legitimate peace process we can all support, and, more importantly, the long suffering Palestinians embrace.
But until then and unless “the Israeli government shows it is serious about complying with international law and [thereby] joining the international community of law-abiding nations, the EU must apply economic pressure for it to do so.” (Dr Caroline Lucas MP) also The Parliamentary International Development Committee said in 2004 “Where a sufficiently egregious case of human rights abuse has been established as to warrant sanctions, the EU should not be deterred from imposing them”. Because of the lack of credible action by the EU in regards sanctions, the non-violent campaign Boycott Divestment Sanctions is gathering pace as the EU fails to uphold its constitutional duty to respond to its own rules and guidelines concerning said sanctions. It is worth here giving the facts attendant to the divestment campaign. 
Boycott Divestment Sanctions
“In the UK, the Churches have given the moral lead in the divestment campaign. The campaign has focused on Caterpillar, the company that produces militarised bulldozers that destroy Palestinian homes, sometimes killing the inhabitants. The Methodist Conference has referred the matter to its Joint Advisory Committee for Ethical investment and the General Synod of the Church of England recommended divestment from Caterpillar, in a principled stand. Campaigns across the country and internationally have targeted contracts with Veolia, the French transport systems company. Because of its involvement in a tramway project serving illegal settlements near Jerusalem, it has lost millions in contracts, including ones worth £1 billion in Sandwell, West Midlands, 3.5 billion Euros in Sweden, and 750 million Euros in Bordeaux. The biggest Swedish pension fund, Foersta AP-Fonden have barred Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems from its investment portfolios on ethical grounds because it operates a surveillance system for the illegally constructed wall. Danske bank, the biggest financial group in Denmark, and PKA Ltd, one of the largest funds administrating workers’ pension funds have also divested from Elbit and from Africa Israel, which is involved in settlement construction. The latter has also been removed from the portfolio of the Dutch pension fund PFZW.” 
The dates of suffering
1917 and Balfour, the British Foreign Minister asserted, as at that time Jews represented but 5% of the Palestinian population, that the British Empire would use its considerable “power and resources” to help the Zionists to eventually establish a Jewish state in/of Palestine. 1946 Britain does what it does best suppressing, suppressing the Palestinians and enabling thereby the mass immigration of Jews and, training the growing Zionist army. By 1946 the Jewish people constituted about 33% of the population and owned 6% of the land mass. 1948/49 Britain turns its back on the remaining Palestinians as Zionist/Israeli forces steal three quarters of Palestinian homeland usurping illegally resources, whilst ethnically cleansing the rightfull population of Palestine.  This then is one of the darkest crimes of the 20th Century, the beginning of the longest occupation in history and a violent unfolding scroll of Israeli crimes, egregious crimes, against humanity against Palestinians but with, malice. Don’t forget because of this planned and racist policy, Palestinians are displaced and represent the “largest single group of refugees in the world” the pattern is that around every seven to ten years, approximately, (and linked by a forthcoming Israeli electoral process usually) we see “repeated episodes of war … so they [Palestinians] live with the sense that another outbreak of violence is inevitable. The stifling effect of unrelieved occupation contributes to a feeling of despair. Many well-educated young people long to travel (don’t we all) and explore the world and cannot do so because of the siege. Their anger is justifiable and needs some outlet. The majority of Gaza’s children were born as refugees. The number of Palestinian refugees has increased from one million in 1950 to more than seven million in 2007” (D. Harrold and Dr M. Altawil 2011) . Since 2006 the Gaza Strip “has been under brutal siege; even the basic necessities are denied entry. In the winter of 2008-2009, 1400 Palestinians including more than 300 children [my emphasis] were killed in three weeks of bombing and shelling by land, sea and air.” 
Dr Altawil’s 2006 study took a sharp and distressing look at trauma exposure for children from 2001 the percentages below are from the second intifada. The study revealed, that “99% had experienced humiliation from occupying forces; 97% were used to hearing explosions or bombs; 85% witnessed martyrs’ funerals; 84% witnessed shelling by tanks, artillery or military planes; 79% had friends, neighbours or relatives that had been killed; 66% had had their homes occupied by Israeli soldiers and 65% had directly witnessed someone being killed.” 
Dr Altawil’s research established that in 2006 41% of children had “symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After Operation Cast Lead this increased to 98%.” Operation Pillar of Cloud has come and gone but the trauma rate rises and the children of Gaza cry out “when am I going to be killed”. Of course trying to bring the necessary professional support and human succor to those traumatised children when history, events, show the next round of slaughter and atrocities are around a bloody Israeli corner, is fraught and challenging. Israel plans with malevolent intention, plans in detail as the date is set for the next episodic wave of violence long before prosecuted. However as Dr Altawil shares “Bringing compassion and acceptance to feeling in general can relieve the stresses of everyday life. To learn these skills in relation to traumatic experiences will enable families to become more resilient, more able to interact in positive ways, more capable of monitoring their responses to the ongoing hardships and repeated shocking events.” It is an ongoing challenge that one must find strategies to cope with tyranny. But this is the reality of Palestinians and we demonstrate by twinning and other outreach projects that we stand with them. We are “all Palestinians.”
Harrold and Atawil are right when they say the long term solution must be [can only be] a political one. These repeated and violent acts that give rise to trauma must be addressed by an international community with the political will to force or persuade Israel to adhere to international law and make sure that the children of Palestine inherit a viable state with full sovereignty and contiguous borders, able then, to trade unmolested and independently with third party countries and indeed and thankfully as of right explore the world.
Clive Hambidge is Human Development Director at Facilitate Global. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
 Haringey Justice for Palestinians. www.hjfp.org.uk. I would ask you to visit also http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42768 and, for more info on British responsibility see www.br1917.org.uk
 Luke 11:28; Matthew 24:46
 Israel urged to treat Palestinian child detainees in accordance with rights law – UN, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42527
 Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted: Children held in military detention, April 2012, www.dci-palestine.org. “Defence for Children International- Palestine Section (DCI Palestine is a national section of the international non-governmental child rights organization and movement, Defense for Children International (DCI), established in 1979, with consultative status with ECOSOC. DCI-Palestine was established in 1991, and is dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children in accordance with the United Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as other international, regional and local standards”