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Tariq Abu Khdeir wasn't the first and he won't be the last

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.

Read +972′s special coverage: Children under occupation

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.

Palestinian kids detail abusive interrogations, arrests
There is no war of images, only occupation
Kidnappings leave a wake of ‘revenge,’ racist violence

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    1. Ben Zakkai

      Can we please stop abusing the word “children?” While it is true that some legal and general-purpose dictionary definitions of the word “child” are expansive enough to include anyone under the age of 18, that’s not the everyday commonsensical use of the world. No one looks at a group of 17-year-olds enjoying a basketball game and says, “My, look at those children at play!” On the contrary, that’s what one might say while watching a bunch of six-year-olds on swings, seesaws and slides. Once a boy or girl has reached puberty and/or teenage years, it’s pretty much an insult to call them children. More natural and accurate descriptions would call them kids, youths, young people, or maybe minors in the legal sense. But during the recent reciprocal violence between Israelis and Palestinians, each side has used the word “children” in a distorted, polemical way, in an effort to exaggerate the horror of the already terrible murders, beatings, imprisonment and other abuses inflicted on young people. Please folks, what’s been happening is awful enough; there’s no need to gild the lily for the sake of a few propaganda points.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lo

        The suspect is 15 years old, which meets the legal definition of “child” in the US and also Israel (I would presume). You can feel he should be treated as an adult, but that does not change the fact that he is legally treated like a minor.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          Yes, I agree you don’t treat a minor like an adult for legal purposes, my point was lexical not legal.

          Reply to Comment
      • Gearoid

        Israel has detained children as young as 7 and the 12-16 age range is pretty regular.

        Further, Jewish teens receive all the benefits of the law as minors, including ones that commit crimes against Palestinians and that are violent.

        Reply to Comment
        • Adam Dayton

          Unlawful enemy combatants comes in all shapes, sizes and ages. These individuals are entitled to very little legal rights.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Apparently this unlawful enemy combatant was able to get out on bail. Which could not happen if he was detained under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants law.

            Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          Gearoid, you are correct.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Richard

      Whoops – didn’t see the story about the stone-throwing kid getting arrested (not killed, even though someone throwing stones back at him could have done that, and might have been tried as an adult and sent to prison for life, in Florida, where this person is from) because I was watching the guy who machine guns people in ditches and controls an area over twice the size of Israel crowning himself caliph of the Muslims. Guess I missed the real story huh.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Craig

      What was he doing with the slingshot? Why hasn’t a single reporter had the gall to ask that question?

      Throwing rocks and shooting them with a slingshot can kill and some Israelis have been murdered by rock-throwing Arabs.

      I have a hard time believing that this young adult is innocent just because he got the crap beaten out of him.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Israeli police said he had a sling shot. Ever think they lied to cover their asses……….it would not be the first time

        Reply to Comment
      • Johnboy

        Craig: “I have a hard time believing that this young adult is innocent just because he got the crap beaten out of him.”

        A question that does rather evade the issue.

        The issue is this: that boy had the crap beaten out of him **after** he had been wrestled to the ground by those police officers.

        So whether he was good or bad, innocent or not, he was definitely in police custody…. whereupon those police proceeded to beat the crap out of him.

        That’s a crime, and it is a crime regardless of what he was doing prior to the police taking him into custody.

        If you are a police officer then you disarm a perpetrator, you arrest him, and you incarcerate him.

        At no stage does a police officer take advantage of an opportunity to “beat the crap out of him”, and if he does then he has just committed a crime.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Vadim

      Sadly, he won’t be the last.

      Parents – don’t let your kids attend violent demonstrations.

      (I don’t justify the policemen, I deplore such senseless violence.)

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        “I don’t justify the policemen”

        You just did. I ask why you said “Parents – don’t let your kids attend violent demonstrations,” when you could have said: “Police – don’t beat the crap out of people you arrest, especially kids.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          Maybe I was misunderstood.

          Here you go, from the bottom of my heart –

          Police – don’t beat the crap out of people you arrest, especially kids – Jews, Arab, Druze or any. Moreover, I think such policemen should be tried and punished.

          Please don’t confuse responsibility and stupid behavior. The policemen are fully responsible for their actions. But parents that allow their children to attend such riots act stupidly. Allowing your kid to attend a dangerous place is plain stupid.

          Now, without making any moral comparisons, I can say the same thing regarding the three murdered Israeli kids. The murderers are fully responsible for their actions. They murdered three teenagers just because they were Jews. Given that, the behavior of the kids, their parents and teachers in allowing them to hitchhike at such time is plain stupid.

          Am I clearer now?

          Reply to Comment
    5. Evan Salmon

      Israelis need to stop being racist. For people who have suffered so much through history it is shocking to see their behavior. The double standards need to end. This has become South Africa all over again until boycotts of the 1980s forced change

      Reply to Comment