Back in the olden days, Israelis called the occupation “enlightened” — our army was the most moral in the world, after all, and our cause was just. The occupation was unfortunate, but we were doing the best we could. Right?
Yesterday, the Jerusalem police detained and interrogated a seven year old boy for throwing stones. Even when his father came to collect Muhammad, two hours later, they wouldn’t let him in the room. For three more hours.
Have the Jerusalem police, the Israeli army, and Israel’s political class done worse, and to seven year olds no less? Yes. Destruction of the seven year old’s home would be worse. Killing his parents would be worse. Killing the boy himself. Israel has done all this and more to Palestinian children, more times than we can count at this point.
But there is something to that image, of a second grader on a chair in a spare police office, his feet not reaching the floor, his face a blur of tears and mud and snot, his heart pounding, and all he wants is to go home, to be far away from these frightening men, some of whom are nice but some of whom are yelling, all of whom are keeping him from his Baba, his Daddy, all of whom represent so much that is wrong in his young life, why his mother cries at night and his brother can’t build a new house and his sister can’t get to university in the morning and his Baba’s friend was shot — it is an image that makes the breath catch in the throat. An image that makes clear just how seriously Israel takes the holy status of its Holy City.
Nir Barkat, the de jure mayor of Jerusalem and de facto military governor of Jerusalem, toured Issawiya yesterday, and the locals, taking a dim view, stoned his entourage (this is an old tradition in Jerusalem: Old King Alexander Yanai, while serving as High Priest on Sukkot, once upset the religious sensitivities of his subjects, so they stoned him with their citrons). Soon afterwards, reported the Palestinian news service Ma’an, policemen detained Muhammad Ali Dirbas, aged seven, carried him off to a nearby police station, interrogated him for three or four hours, and then released him. Further information, obtained by B’Tselem, shows that Dirbas was was detained by YASAM (riot police) at about 4 P.M., and was then moved to a police station at about 5 P.M. His father came to the police station circa 6 P.M., was kept apart from his child until about 9 P.M., and then Muhammad was interrogated in the presence of his father until around 11 P.M., when they were released.
Where to begin? Well, with the fact the police has no authority over children. The age of criminal liability is 12. I find it very hard to believe the police would have detained a seven-year-old Jewish child – the public outcry would reach the heavens, and justly so. But Dirbas is just a Palestinian child, so it’s hard to believe the Israeli media will pay too much attention to the story.
Very hard, indeed.