Violence and Detention of Children
According to Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), more than 1,800 children have been killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2000. Most of these deaths are attributed to military incursions, live fire and less lethal crowd control weapons used by police and security forces.
Each year, approximately 500 to 700 Palestinian children are arrested by police and security forces and prosecuted in Israeli military courts. DCIP reports that children can be arrested without warrants and they are denied access to an attorney during interrogations. This often results in children being pressured to make self-incriminating statements, and pre-trial detention is often the norm.
As of February 2018, 330 children are being held in Israeli prisons. Many of them are accused of throwing stones, which can carry a 20-year jail sentence under Israeli Military Order 1651. In 2015, Israel passed new measures that would impose a minimum four-year prison term for Palestinians who throw rocks or Molotov cocktails. This may include sentences to minors between the ages of 14 and 18.
According to Brad Parker, an attorney with DCIP, “Ill treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system is widespread and systematic, as nearly three out of four kids experience some form of physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation.” Since 2016, DCIP also reports that Israeli authorities are holding children in solitary confinement for longer periods of time.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also determined that Israeli police are abusing detained children. HRW reports that, "Security forces have choked children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts." HRW has also cited cases in which children had "signed confessions written in Hebrew, a language they don't understand."
Legislative Response from U.S. Congressional Representatives
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) has introduced legislation (H.R. 4391), that prevents the use of U.S. tax dollars for the Israeli military's ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children. Specifically, it prohibits 1) torture, inhumane, or degrading treatment; 2) physical violence or psychological abuse; 3) incommunicado or administrative detention; 4) solitary confinement; 5) denial of parental or legal access during interrogations; or (6) force or coercion to obtain a confession. As of March 2018, the bill has 21 co-sponsors.
Are Palestinian Children Terrorists?
Ahed Tamimi is a 17-year old Palestinian activist who journalist Ben Erenreich described, as the "symbol of a new generation of Palestinian resistance." Settlers have called for the death of Ahed Tamimi and Israel's Education Minister, Naftali Bennett has said she [and her family] "should finish their lives in prison."
Ahed Tamini lives in Nabi Saleh, a small Palestinian village in the West Bank. In December 2017, when Ahed was 16, a video of her slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier went viral. Lisa Goldman, with +972 Magazine described how the video generated a "near binary contrast" between what Israelis see and others see. She wrote, "For Israelis, one of their soldiers was provoked, almost unbearably, but still managed to rise above the situation. For almost everyone else, the video shows an unarmed adolescent — who could easily, based on her appearance, be an Israeli teenager shopping at the mall — bravely confronting an armed soldier in her own village."
For nearly a decade, Ahed Tamimi's family has been leading nonviolent protests against Israeli settlers who have stolen water and land from their village. Next to Nabi Saleh is an Israeli settlement and military base. In 2009, the settlers took control of spring that was the Nabi Saleh's only water source. The residents of Nabi Saleh began organizing weekly protests. As Ben Erenreich describes, "In December 2009 they held their first march, protesting not just the loss of the spring but also the entire complex system of control — of permits, checkpoints, walls, prisons — through which Israel maintains its hold on the region. Nabi Saleh quickly became the most spirited of the dozen or so West Bank villages that hold weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation."
Ahed's father, Bassem Tamimi, was one of the leaders of the weekly protests. By the time Ahed was 10-years old, Bassam had been arrested eleven times and had been imprisoned for more than a year. When he was arrested detained in 2012, Amnesty International declared Bassem Tamimi a prisoner of conscience and demanded his release. In a statement, Amnesty International said, "Tamimi is committed to non-violent resistance and has a long record of peaceful protest."
Ahed's mother, Nariman Tamimi had also been arrested many times during the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh. One of her arrests was captured on video, and 10-year-old Ahed can be seen trying to stop soldiers from taking her mother away.
Following her arrest, Nariman was interviewed about her views on nonviolent resistance, her work with B'Tselem, her family, and how her arrest was a traumatic experience for her children.
Over the years, other members of the Tamimi family have been injured or killed during the weekly protests. Ahed's brother, Wa'ad, spent five days in a hospital when he was shot in the leg with a rubber-coated bullet. Her brother Mohammed, was injured when he was shot with a tear gas canister in the shoulder. Ahed's cousin Mustafa was killed when he was shot at close range with a tear gas grenade. When the military ruled that the killing was in accordance with regulations, B'Tselem filed an appealed against the decision, but it was denied.
Last December, one hour before Ahed Tamimi slapped an Israeli soldier, she had just learned that her 14-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, had been severely injured when soldiers shot him in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet. Mohammed underwent six hours of surgery and was placed into a coma for 72 hours. In February, the Washington Post reported that a top Israeli military chief for the Palestinian territories had charged that the shooting was "fake news," and that Mohammed was injured when he fell off his bike.
Four days after the release of the video of Ahed slapping the police, she was arrested and charged by the military court, with 12 charges including aggravated assault of soldiers, preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties, and incitement on social media. Her mother Nariman was also arrested and charged with assault, as well as Nour Tamimi, Ahed's cousin.
On January 17, 2018, an Israeli military judge denied bail and ordered that Ahed and her mother remain in custody pending their trials. The judge said, “I found no alternative other than to order her detention in custody until the end of proceedings,” the judge ruled, referring to 16-year-old Ahed. “The gravity of the offences of which she is accused does not allow an alternative to custody.” With the usual delays that occur in the military court system, Ahed and Nariman Tamini may remain in prison for many months. They have been held in Ofer Prison since December 19, 2017.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the court's decision. He tweeted, “There is justice in the military court, and I welcome the decision to keep the terrorist Ahed Tamimi in custody until the end of the proceedings.”
To learn more, watch Interviews with the Tamimi Family:
- Bassem Tamimi speaks out about his daughters arrest.
- Ahed Tamimi and her family talk about life under occupation and their fight for dignity and Palestinian rights.