Israel has detained over 7,000 Palestinian children over the past 12 years. Many of them report beatings, abuse and a denial of rights by security forces. It’s time to put things in the wider context.
The detention and abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli security forces has, for a change, been all over the international news media. Unfortunately, it took the severe beating of a 15-year-old boy who happens to have American citizenship for that to happen.
Tariq Abu Khdeir was beaten by Israeli Border Police officers in Shuafat last week, during a protest against the brutal killing of of his cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Tariq was detained and held in Israeli custody for several days, until he was released to house arrest on Sunday on NIS 3,000 bail. He hasn’t been charged with a crime.
American media is paying attention. Tariq is a Florida high school student visiting his family in Palestine over summer break. News of his beating, helped along by video footage and upsetting photographs of his wounds, have been tearing up social and mainstream media.
U.S. media doesn’t generally do a good job contextualizing violence in Israel and Palestine, and the recent uptick is no exception. I haven’t seen much discussion of Israel’s systematic abuse of Palestinian children in the reports of Tariq’s beating. Despite that, his citizenship presents a critical opportunity for the American public to learn a few things about how the Israeli army treats the Palestinian minors under its rule.
According to Defense for Children International Palestine, 214 children were detained in Israel as of May of this year. In the last 12 years, Israel has detained more than 7,000. Testimonies detail terrible abuse and torture while in Israeli detention, with few of the protections afforded children under international or Israeli law. Due process is something of a joke; Palestinians are tried in military courts, where the conviction rate is nearly 100 percent.
Many of those children are accused of stone-throwing – an allegation leveled by the police against Tariq, as well.
But despite the myriad human rights reports and their chilling descriptions, the regular injustices of the occupation rarely make mainstream headlines. Although what happened to Tariq is far from an aberration, few other Palestinian children who land, battered, in Israeli military prisons prompt calls for an investigation by the U.S. State Department and headlines in the likes of TIME Magazine, New York Times the Daily News, ABC, and many more.
Journalists, take heed: there’s an opportunity here. Don’t turn what Tariq went through into an isolated incident. It’s time to give the grisly violence of the last couple of weeks some context. Without it, nothing productive can come out of all of this.