Since September 2000, Israeli security forces have killed a Palestinian child every three days, on average. Estimates of the death toll among Palestinian children range from 1,398 (children’s charity, Defence for Children International) to 1,518 (the Palestinian ministry of information in Ramallah). Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, stated in May 2011 that Israeli forces had killed 1,335 children in the previous decade – in direct military operations and arbitrary shootings.
Israeli security forces arrest around 700 children every year, according to Defence for Children International. In September 2013, 179 Palestinian children were being held in prison, the lowest number for almost a year.
Israel, the occupying power in Palestine, is the only nation in the world to prosecute children in military courts – while proclaiming itself the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ with the ‘most moral army in the world’.
The Israeli defence forces (IDF) arrest children aged between 12 and 17, frequently in the middle of the night, at gunpoint, blindfold and handcuff them, transport them to an unknown destination lying on the hard floor of a jeep, and subject them to verbal abuse and beatings.
These children are then interrogated without a lawyer or a parent present, and coerced into making ‘confessions’ by being held in stress positions, deprived of sleep, beaten, verbally and/or sexually abused, and even by being put into solitary confinement.
A recent report by Save the Children said: ‘Decades of conflict have resulted in deepening poverty throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian children tell us they live in an environment of violence, fear and limited horizons. They’re denied their rights to freedom of movement, education, health and an adequate standard of living’.
Israel has bowed under pressure recently and made a few cosmetic changes in procedure; but these have largely been ignored on the ground.
So what redress do the Palestinians have? Very little: Israel acts without accountability and with impunity. Unless there is an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, this inhuman treatment will go on and on. So we must act now!
We owe it to Palestine: a chain of events ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 has brought about this dire situation, mostly with the UK’s connivance.