I don’t know how to write about this. Is any of the information in the following surprising, or even genuinely new, to me? No. I’ve been reading and writing and protesting the horrors of the occupation for many, many years now, and I know that this is what a lot of Israeli soldiers do. I know, and when I forget, books like Sami al-Jundi’s Hour of Sunlight or organizations like Breaking the Silence or B’tselem come along to wake me up.
But there is a point at which I put things out of my mind in order to not lose it entirely. I don’t always try to think particularly hard about the abuses. I share and respond to whatever information comes my way, and then I turn away, at least a little.
So: Surprising? New? No. But positively infuriating. Enraging. Stomach-churning. And leading directly to the question: And you wonder why they hate us?
How Israel takes its revenge on boys who throw stones
The boy, small and frail, is struggling to stay awake. His head lolls to the side, at one point slumping on to his chest. “Lift up your head! Lift it up!” shouts one of his interrogators, slapping him. But the boy by now is past caring, for he has been awake for at least 12 hours since he was separated at gunpoint from his parents at two that morning. “I wish you’d let me go,” the boy whimpers, “just so I can get some sleep.”
During the nearly six-hour video, 14-year-old Palestinian Islam Tamimi, exhausted and scared, is steadily broken to the point where he starts to incriminate men from his village and weave fantastic tales that he believes his tormentors want to hear.
This rarely seen footage seen by The Independent offers a glimpse into an Israeli interrogation, almost a rite of passage that hundreds of Palestinian children accused of throwing stones undergo every year.
Sameer Shilu, 12, was asleep when the soldiers smashed in the front door of his house one night. He and his older brother emerged bleary-eyed from their bedroom to find six masked soldiers in their living room.
Checking the boy’s name on his father’s identity card, the officer looked “shocked” when he saw he had to arrest a boy, says Sameer’s father, Saher. “I said, ‘He’s too young; why do you want him?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he said”. Blindfolded, and his hands tied painfully behind his back with plastic cords, Sameer was bundled into a Jeep, his father calling out to him not to be afraid. “We cried, all of us,” his father says. “I know my sons; they don’t throw stones.”
In the hours before his interrogation, Sameer was kept blindfolded and handcuffed, and prevented from sleeping. Eventually taken for interrogation without a lawyer or parent present, a man accused him of being in a demonstration, and showed him footage of a boy throwing stones, claiming it was him.
“He said, ‘This is you’, and I said it wasn’t me. Then he asked me, ‘Who are they?’ And I said that I didn’t know,” Sameer says. “At one point, the man started shouting at me, and grabbed me by the collar, and said, ‘I’ll throw you out of the window and beat you with a stick if you don’t confess’.”
In most cases, children as young as 12 are hauled from their beds at night, handcuffed and blindfolded, deprived of sleep and food, subjected to lengthy interrogations, then forced to sign a confession in Hebrew, a language few of them read.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem concluded that, “the rights of minors are severely violated, that the law almost completely fails to protect their rights, and that the few rights granted by the law are not implemented”.
Child detention figures
7,000 The estimated number of Palestinian children detained and prosecuted in Israeli military courts since 2000, shows a report by Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP).
87 The percentage of children subjected to some form of physical violence while in custody. About 91 per cent are also believed to be blindfolded at some point during their detention.
12 The minimum age of criminal responsibility, as stipulated in the Military Order 1651.
62 The percentage of children arrested between 12am and 5am.
The follow-up question being, of course: Hey, Israel – how’s that working for you? Are your civilians safe from 12 year olds yet? Or the angry, embittered, often physically damaged men some of them grow to be?