14-year-old Mohammed Khalek, a Palestinian-American, was arrested by the Israeli military last week (Image via Defense of Children International–Palestine)
A Palestinian was arrested last week for allegedly throwing stones and is being held in an Israeli jail, a mundane and daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank. But this case has made headlines–and it’s because the Palestinian is a 14-year-old who also has American citizenship.
New Orleans-born Mohammed Khalek was taken from his home last week by eight rifle-toting Israeli soldiers. He’s accused of throwing stones at Israeli cars near Silwad, northeast of Ramallah. Khalek has yet to be charged, and his detention has been extended until April 14. Addameer advocacy officer Randa Wahbe told Haaretz that Khlaek “was told by interrogators that if he confessed to rock throwing quickly, he would be released.”
Khalek’s case has garnered coverage in the Associated Press and Reuters. The media outlets are highlighting how Khalek’s case is an example of Palestinian children routinely being locked up in Israeli military jails.
Reuters’ Noah Browning reports that Khalek appeared in jail with “his ankles shackled together just above his running shoes.” Browning also reports that the boy’s father, Abdulwahab Khalek, said that Mohammed “was maltreated and had his braces broken from his teeth during the course of his arrest in the early hours of April 5.”
“The Israeli military’s treatment of Mohammed Khalak is appalling and all too common,” Human Rights Watch’s Bill Van Esveld told Reuters. “There’s no justification for … shackling him for 12 hours and interrogating him while refusing to let him see his father or a lawyer.”
The Associated Press story notes that a United Nations report recently castigated the Israeli military for its abuses of the rights of Palestinian children. 700 Palestinian children a year are arrested by the Israeli military, according to UNICEF. Here’s more from the report:
Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized…
The pattern of ill-treatment includes the arrests of children at their homes between midnight and 5:00 am by heavily armed soldiers; the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties; physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints; lack of access to water, food, toilet facilities and medical care; interrogation using physical violence and threats; coerced confessions; and lack of access to lawyers or family members during interrogation.
Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children; denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences; and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel. The incarceration isolates them from their families and interrupts their studies.
These practices are in violation of international law that protects all children against ill-treatment when in contact with law enforcement, military and judicial institutions.
The boy’s father lashed out at the American government’s response to his son’s arrest in an interview with Reuters. “The U.S. government is obligated to do something for us, but it doesn’t even care. They’ve lost the issue somewhere in their back pocket,” he told the news outlet.
The indifference is to be expected. American citizens mistreated by the Israeli military are denied adequate help by the U.S. government. For instance, the U.S. government waited three days to contact the family of Furkan Dogan, who was executed at point-blank range on board the Mavi Marmara, the aid ship part of the 2010 flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Dogan was a U.S. citizen of Turkish descent. The U.S. declined to investigate the death of Dogan, preferring to allow Israel to do so itself.