According to B’TSELEM, an Israeli Human Rights Organisation in the Occupied [Palestinian] Territories, Israel has been holding 146 Palestinian minors in different jails, all on “security grounds”. This was up to September this year but, since then, the number has increased, particularly during the Israeli brutal war on Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian rights organisation, Defence for Children International – Palestine, says that, every year, Israel incarcerates between 500 to 700 children, many as young as 12 years old. The regularly occurring cycle is repeated across all Palestinian Occupied Territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Both organisations highlight two things: one, many jailed children are accused of “stone throwing” at the Israeli soldiers, in most cases causing neither harm nor damage; and, two, almost all of the jailed children are prosecuted before military courts.
Last July, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories said that anywhere between 500 and 1000 children are held in Israeli military detention every year.
Save The Children, a global non-governmental organisation dedicated to the worldwide protection of children, gives similar figures with a focus on what jail life is like for such children. Based on interviews with former child prisoners, it said that 97 per cent of the detainees are boys, with ages averaging between 12 and 17 years old. Shockingly, the organisation says, “Palestinian children in the Israel military detention system” face physical and emotional abuse, with four of every five of them (86 per cent) being “beaten”, while 69 per cent were “strip-searched” and about 42 per cent usually suffer injury at the point of their arrest. Such injuries include gunshot wounds and broken bones, sometimes leading to physical impairment of some kind. Many such children have also reported “violence of a sexual nature”.
Worst of all kinds of treatment is how such child prisoners are transported between jail centres and courts when their cases are being heard. The report says they are usually taken in “small cages”, fitting the Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant’s description of Palestinians as “human animals”, when he announced to the world his plans to “wipe out Hamas off the face of the earth” after its daring 7 October attack on Israel, triggering the current war on the Gaza enclave—that is, before he was forced to negotiate with the same “human animals”, of course.
To see further undeniable proof that Israel is the worst enemy of Palestinian children, much worse than poverty, disease and malnourishment, combined — of which Israeli Occupation is the main perpetrator of them all— look at the mounting civilian casualties in its war on the Gaza Strip. Out of the estimated 15,000 civilian deaths, almost 70 per cent are women and children. This horrific number excludes the number of children, dead or alive, believed to be under the rubble of their homes as rescue teams could not reach them, thanks to Israel’s destruction of roads.
Reading such reports, especially coming from Israeli and international organisations and certified by the United Nations’ relevant organs, gives rise to the simple question: Is not Israel, in every sense of the word, teaching future Palestinian generations to hate it more than anything else in the world? Is it possible, after these atrocities, for anyone, especially someone with a shred of humanity, to be surprised by any current or future Palestinian reaction to Israel? Add to that the fact that most such children are actually descendants of refugees forced out from their homes when Israel was created, and it would become clearer why Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Flood Operation was so violent. These decades’ long Israeli practices are an open invitation to all sorts of Palestinian reactions, however violent they might appear, and they are perfectly understandable. It is inconceivable that Israel did not think of this before the Hamas attack—worse still, it does not appear it is prepared to change anything.
Ironically enough, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on 18 November, said that the future Gaza Strip must not be governed by any “ civil authority that educates its children [Gazan] to hate Israel, to kill Israelis, to eliminate the State of Israel …”. He was referring to the Palestinian Authority’s potential role in the enclave, once the war is over.
The fact of the matter is that Israeli is its own dangerous enemy and remains the world’s number one of best educators of hatred. Generations of Palestinians, under Israeli Occupation for the last 75 years, cannot recall any good thing done to them by Israel, which deliberately keeps violating every single obligation, as an occupying power, under international law.
For the young Palestinian generations, Israel is making sure that it will never be accepted, let alone liked. Just imagine a young boy or girl, sent by the family to the corner grocery store to buy bread, becomes a target of an Israeli bullet the moment he steps outside. He gets hit on the head and ends up in a coma in a hospital, while his family is still waiting for the bread he went out to buy. Not only that, he is immediately taken to prison, accused of attempting (suspected attempt) to throw a “petrol bomb” at the soldiers who are not supposed to be there in the first place because they are Occupation forces. He did not yet throw anything when he was shot!
That is exactly what happened to 14 year old Abdurahman Al-Zaghal on 18 August 2023, in the town of Silwan. He ended up in an intensive care unit, where he stayed until Hamas included him in its list of released detainees in the third batch of exchanges with Israel on 26 November.
Poor Abdurahman has already been transferred between two hospitals, further increasing his suffering. Given his medical condition, his release only meant the removal of the electronic bracelet from his leg which he had already been fitted with since he was first shot, three months earlier.
Even the simple joy of celebrating Palestinian boys’ freedom from jail is banned. Here is Israel’s National Security Minister, Ben Gvir’s instructions:”there are to be no expressions of joy. Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism”, but Israelis are encouraged to celebrate the release of their captives. Only monsters in children’s fairy tales would do that except that, this time, the monster is for real and not an imaginary one.
The trauma and psychological upheavals of the freed children will only start after their release and the end product is clear: a person filled with hatred of anything Israeli, thanks to Israel’s system of hatred teachings that has been going on for decades.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.