The Israeli veterans’ organization Breaking the Silence released a shocking new report this morning on the abuse of Palestinian children in the occupied territories.
The Independent’s report includes many testimonies, devastating stories of incomprehensible humiliation. They open featuring one young man, Hafez Rajabi, 21, who was taken hostage by Israeli soldiers in 2007 when he was a teen.
Beaten into submission fearing for his life he succumbed to confessing to ‘stone throwing’.
The report also features a soldier from Breaking the Silence describing the same episode although Hafez had never heard the soldier’s account.
Sitting beneath the photograph of his late father, the slightly built 21-year-old in jeans and trainers points to the scar above his right eye where he was hit with the magazine of a soldier’s assault rifle after the patrol came for him at his grandmother’s house before 6am on 28 August 2007. He lifts his black Boss T-shirt to show another scar running some three inches down his back from the left shoulder when he says he was violently pushed – twice – against a sharp point of the cast-iron balustrade beside the steps leading up to the front door. And all that before he says he was dragged 300m to another house by a unit commander who threatened to kill him if he did not confess to throwing stones at troops, had started to beat him again, and at one point held a gun to his head. “He was so angry,” says Hafez. “I was certain that he was going to kill me.”
“We had a commander, never mind his name, who was a bit on the edge,” the soldier, a first sergeant, testifies. “He beat the boy to a pulp, really knocked him around. He said: ‘Just wait, now we’re taking you.’ Showed him all kinds of potholes on the way, asked him: ‘Want to die? Want to die right here?’ and the kid goes: ‘No, no…’ He was taken into a building under construction. The commander took a stick, broke it on him, boom boom. That commander had no mercy. Anyway the kid could no longer stand on his feet and was already crying. He couldn’t take it any more. He cried. The commander shouted: ‘Stand up!’ Tried to make him stand, but from so much beating he just couldn’t. The commander goes: ‘Don’t put on a show,’ and kicks him some more.”
Both Hafez – who has never read or heard the soldier’s account – and the soldier recall the commander forcing him at one point during his ordeal to throw a stone at them, and that the boy did so as feebly as possible. Then, in the soldier’s words “the commander said: ‘Of course you throw stones at a soldier.’ Boom, banged him up even more”.
Weiss response to the report:
I’m most of the way through the new Breaking the Silence testimonies and my response is similar to what I’ve felt on earlier BTS statements, sheer horror, and anger at the prospect of the American media once again ignoring this evidence of the tyranny of the occupation.
The testimonies involve the abuse of children, over the last eight years or so, and they document:
–the use of children as human shields, either to go into houses where Israeli soldiers believe a wanted Palestinian is barricaded (the “neighbor procedure”), or, dangled in front of Israeli soldiers, to protect them from stones.
–routine cruelty inflicted on Palestinian children because the Israeli soldiers are bored—beatings typically, but in at least one instance, tightening plastic handcuffs so as to cut off the kids’ circulation and turn their hands blue after a few hours. This is surely torture.
–a policy of scaring children so as to control villages that are protesting the occupation. This includes harassment-style detentions, routine beatings, some vicious.
–the words “beat to a pulp” are a litany throughout the anonymous reports. Apparently beating a child to a pulp is a routine event in the occupied territories
–dehumanization and humiliation. The report teems with instances of teenagers, some 14 and 15, held till they foul themselves. They soil themselves because of beatings or because they are manacled and not allowed to go to a bathroom overnight. Other forms of humiliation include slapping children in the face, making them take off their pants to be searched, and stepping on their testicles.
The most grotesque incidents in the report involve the oppression of entire villages and cities. Soldiers are so bored in Hebron that they provoke riots. They stop people’s movements entirely for hours on end till someone at last lashes out and then the soldiers retaliate and soon there is a full-fledged riot. The soldiers and commanders seem to regard this as a form of entertainment. Shocking.
Of course settlers never come in for any of this treatment in the occupied territories. “The Jew is free to do whatever he likes,” states one soldier with caustic irony, after a settler beats a Palestinian, and walks away past the soldiers.
That testimony speaks to the bias inherent in these reports. They are obviously the statements of whistleblower types, the sensitive or politicized. The overwhelming percentage of occupying soldiers evidently have no problem with what is going on. “Nazis,” an Israeli photographer arrested at a demonstration shouts at them as they destroy his equipment.
Of course it is well known throughout the Middle East that Israel is abusing Palestinian children. Israel killed over 300 children in the Gaza slaughter and routinely detains Palestinian children, sometimes to get them to squeal on their demonstrator relatives. Why this isn’t a big story in the US press I have no idea. It is because the west treats Israel like a spoiled child, as Turkey’s Erdogan said.
Don’t miss Harriet Sherwood full report from Jerusalem for the Guardian, including the video below. Here’s just a snatch:
One of the ex-soldiers describes serving in Hebron in 2010: “You never know their names, you never talk with them, they always cry, shit in their pants … There are those annoying moments when you’re on an arrest mission, and there’s no room in the police station, so you just take the kid back with you, blindfold him, put him in a room and wait for the police to come and pick him up in the morning. He sits there like a dog …”
Children frequently soiled themselves, according to the testimonies. “I remember hearing him shitting his pants … I also remember some other time when someone pissed in his pants. I just became so indifferent to it, I couldn’t care less. I heard him do it, I witnessed his embarrassment. I also smelled it. But I didn’t care,” said another.
“That specific kid who actually lay there on the ground, begging for his life, was actually nine years old. I think of our kids, nine years old, and a kid handling this kind of situation, I mean, a kid has to beg for his life? A loaded gun is pointed at him and he has to plead for mercy? This is something that scars him for life. But I think if we hadn’t entered the village at that point, then stones would be thrown the next day and perhaps the next time someone would be wounded or killed as a result.”