'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, February 16, 2004

Stolen Youth

Justin Podur recently reviewed Stolen Youth: The Politics of Israel's Detention of Palestinian Children by Catherine Cook, Adam Hanieh, and Adah Kay. The book sounds pretty gripping and informative. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Children are arrested "at checkpoints, on the street, or at their homes by heavily armed Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night. The soldiers take them to detention centres in Israeli settlements or military camps… the children are interrogated. This almost always involves some form of torture or abuse, including sleep and food deprivation, threatening language, beatings with heavy batons, being punched and kicked, as well as being tied in painful and contorted positions for long periods of time…"

After interrogation, children are brought before a military 'court' that operates under a different set of laws than those that apply for Israelis. Where Israelis come under Israeli civil law, Palestinians fall under military orders. Whereas Israeli children, including Israeli children in settlements in the occupied territories, get child-specific courts and procedures, Palestinian children are tried by the same Israeli military courts and judges as try Palestinian adults. The rules of evidence and procedure are such that it does not make sense to call the institutions that decide where to incarcerate Palestinian children 'courts' at all. When these 'courts' have made their decisions, most Palestinian children are incarcerated in Israel itself, with children of 16-17 treated as adults by Israel's military laws (according to these laws, Israeli children are children if they are under 18, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, but Palestinian children are adults if they 16 or over). Visiting the children in prison is impossible for family members, given the permanent closure of the Occupied Territories that existed long before the territories were physically walled in as they are now, with the Gaza Strip being surrounded by electric fence and the West Bank nearly surrounded by the apartheid wall. But not content to simply wall and fence Palestinians in on all sides, Israel proceeds to round them up and take them off to prisons inside Israel.

Indeed, prison is "a central feature of Palestinian life", with over 600,000 Palestinians having spent time in prison since 1967 (the population in the Occupied Territories is around 3 million). Prison, Cook, Hanieh, and Kay argue, including the detention of children, is part of Israel's system of control, "permeating every aspect of Palestinian life. It is a system backed by legal, political, economic, cultural and psychological structures, and designed to keep more than 3 million people under submission."

I guess I knew this sort of thing went on, but it's shocking to hear the scale at which it goes on.
(thanks to the postmodern anarchist for the tip)

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