In the U.S. or Israel: No Way to Treat a Child
By: Alena Khan/Arab America Contributing Writer
More recently, we see immigrant children being mistreated in the US. With Trump’s new policies, parents are being separated from their children who are being placed in detention centers, or even a foster care system. It’s to the point where parents are forced to pay thousands of dollars in order to be reunited with their children. What we fail to realize, in addition to that, is how badly they are mistreated in Israel. As horrible as the situation is in the US, Israeli policies regarding arresting and punishing children are much worse, and it needs to be addressed.
A joint project of the Defense for Children International (DCIP) and Palestine and American Friends Service Committee by the name of “No Way to Treat a Child” was created in efforts to shed much-needed light to this serious issue.
The No Way to Treat a Child campaign seeks to end Israel’s “prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.”
Israel is the only country in the world which automatically prosecutes children in military courts, and on top of that, the courts lack the basic needs for a fair and equal trial. The campaign aims to get supporters so that possibly, the US government could use all available means to get involved and “pressure relevant Israeli authorities to end the detention and abuse of Palestinian children.”
Palestinian children face hardships like arrests, imprisonment, and prosecution all under an Israeli military detention system that denies them fundamental rights. For many years now Israel has operated separate legal systems within the same territory. Palestinians live under military law, whereas in the West Bank, Israeli settlers are subject to civilian and criminal legal systems. “From the moment of arrest, Palestinian children encounter ill-treatment and torture at the hands of Israeli forces.” According to studies, three out of four experience physical violence during interrogation or arrests.
“Israel applies the civilian criminal law to Palestinian children in East Jerusalem.” There is no Israeli child who comes into contact with military courts. Israel is known to be the only country in the world that “systematically prosecutes” between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year. According to UNICEF, “Ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system remains ‘widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process.’”
Any efforts to stop or at least limit the harshness of these Israeli policies have had little to no impact. “Recent amendments to Israeli military law concerning children have had no effect on their treatment during the first 24 to 48 hours after an arrest when most of the ill-treatment occurs at the hands of Israeli soldiers, police, and security service.”
The No Way to Treat a Child Campaign presents these sad realities with possible solutions, but it’s up to their supporters and the government to really make a change. “As a minimum safeguard while Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation continue to be arrested and prosecuted within the Israeli military court system.” It’s important that Israeli authorities follow and respect due process rights, and the basics to a fair trial, while showing stricter prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of children.
Instead, detention should only be used as a last resort, and for the shortest amount of time possible. Children should have access to proper legal consultation, meaning that they are represented fairly and at all times, including during interrogations. Children should not be subjected to physical or emotional abuse and should be properly informed of their rights. In addition, all interrogations should be recorded, and any allegations of torture or ill-treatment should be “thoroughly and impartially” investigated.
The practice of using solitary confinement or administrative detention orders on Palestinian children must stop. Israel military detention and ill-treatment or torture of children must be put to an end. The night arrests, restraints and blindfolds, separation from parents, and physical and verbal threats all need to be stopped. The No Way to Treat a Child campaign spreads awareness of the troubles that Palestinian children face, the difficulties that they go through, and why we need to address these problems. Palestinian children have the right to a safe, healthy, and just future—it’s up to us as citizens to raise awareness, and the government to take action now and end the detention and abuse of Palestinian children.