Four Palestinian children, ages 5 to 9, were cuffed and detained for over an hour by Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel’s occupation in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum.

The detention of these children, who witnesses say had their hands cuffed behind their backs and were held without an adult or parent present, comes against the backdrop of a recent UNICEF report entitled, “Children in Israeli Military Detention.”

The report found widespread abuse of children who come into contact with the IDF and its military justice system, concluding:

It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.

[...]

Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears
to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized. This conclusion is based on the
repeated allegations about such treatment over the past 10 years and the volume,
consistency and persistence of these allegations.

While this report found the IDF’s practice of awaking children at night, blindfolding them and escorting them, unaccompanied, to interrogation centers most troubling, it also highlighted Israeli soldiers’ practice of binding children and holding them to be of concern.

The children who were cuffed and detained on Friday were, according to an Israeli military spokesperson, suspected of preparing to alight a tire, and that the children were detained to “prevent mayhem.” However, witnesses say that Israeli troops’ presence at the weekly protest is what sparked clashes, and that soldiers began rounding up children after stun grenades were thrown toward them.

According to The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the use of instruments and methods of restraining children should only occur if they pose “an imminent threat to themselves or to others, and all other means have been exhausted.”

All too often, young children (below 12 years old) are detained by authorities in ways that contravene international norms. And while Israel has attempted to amend some of its practices after the UNICEF report, abuses still remain all too prevalent.

They are abuses which not only violate basic human rights, but create an ethos of enmity. An ethos on both sides – amongst the young soldiers detaining children, and the children being detained – which continues to feed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A conflict which must end.

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What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.


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