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New testimonies from Palestinian children tortured by Israeli authorities

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(Photo: Activestills)

(Photo: Activestills)

Yesterday, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), released a press release titled “Adalah to Attorney General: Shocking testimonies from Palestinian children who were tortured during arrest and interrogation.” The byline of the release serves as a chilling introduction to a recent investigation’s horrific findings:

[Israeli] Investigators threatened children with beatings, isolation, torturing their fathers and raping their mothers and sisters; children were denied food for dozens of hours unless they confessed to the charges against them.

Adalah has sent an “urgent letter” to Israeli Attorney General (AG) Yehuda Weinstein, “demanding an end to the practice of physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment against Palestinian children from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) during their arrest and interrogation by Israeli security personnel,” and calling for open criminal investigations so that those responsible can face due punishment for their serious crimes.

The letter was sent on 1 June 2014. As of the writing of this present article, no response has been received (or, if a response has been received, it has not yet been made public).

In its letter, Adalah relays the findings of a recent investigation conducted by Defense for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS). The organization’s lawyers compiled 21 testimonies made by Palestinian children who had been arrested, interrogated, and tortured by Israeli authorities. In its press release, Adalah writes

The dangerous practices described in the testimonies constitute serious criminal offenses such as assault, damage, threat, sexual harassment and other unlawful activity committed by security authorities, ranging from soldiers, to GSS interrogators, and to prison wardens.

It goes without saying such practices are in blatant violation of both Israeli and international law. Adalah’s attorneys also noted that Israel is in direct violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) treaty, to which it is a signatory. The CRC dictates that authorities immediately inform the child and any relatives as to what exactly is being charged against them (Israel regularly ignores this basic, fundamental right for many Palestinians, regardless of age—even Palestinian legislators). The CRC furthermore prohibits the use of physical or physiological pressure in interrogation and explicitly “forbids children’s exposure to any type of abuse, torture, humiliation and inhuman treatment.”

To those who pay close attention to Israel’s internal affairs, this investigation may not necessarily be surprising. Just last year, in its periodic review of Israel’s child rights record, the CRC expressed “its deepest concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police, and about the State party’s failure to end these practices in spite of repeated concerns expressed by treaty bodies.”

The CRC corroborated much of what we will see in the following testimonies, including systematic “physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restraints, hooding of the head and face in a sack, threatened with death, physical violence, and sexual assault against themselves or members of their family, restricted access to toilet, food and water.” The CRC report even explained that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) used Palestinian children as human shields multiple times.

What this new investigation does offer us, however, is a more detailed picture of what many Palestinian children in occupied Palestine must go through, based on first-hand accounts of the brave young survivors themselves.

The following is a collection of points made in the children’s testimonies, as outlined in Adalah’s press release:

– The majority of arrests were made during late-hour night raids.

– Palestinians’ homes were “violently broken into by dozens of soldiers who intimidated both the children and their families.” In 100% of the testimonies, children said they were bound and blindfolded, before being transferred hundreds of meters away in military vehicles.

– In many of the testimonies, children revealed that soldiers went into their rooms, “aggressively woke them up, and shackled their hands and feet while they were still in bed.”

– In one testimony, a child who had been sleeping in his bed when the “brutal kicks of the soldiers” woke him up, had to have his finger amputated. Israeli soldiers ignored his wounded finger, tying up his hands and feet, for over 12 hours, leading to an inoperable infection.

– When family members inquired as to why exactly their young children were being harassed, assaulted, bound, blindfolded, and taken away in the middle of the night, Israeli soldiers often replied by beating and insulting them.

– In the preponderance of the arrests, neither children nor their families knew why they were being taken away. Family members would not be allowed to accompany the minor, and they would not be informed as to where Israeli authorities would be taking them.

– While soldiers were transferring the detained children to interrogation sites, soldiers regularly “used extreme physical and verbal abuse against them, including beatings, smashing the child’s head against a wall, threats of violence, and threats of sexual assault and rape.”

– In one testimony, a child was separated from his family so that soldiers could interrogate him. When finished, the soldiers ordered in four of the child’s friends, to see their peer being beaten before their eyes. In this torturous event, the detained child “confessed” that he, along with his friends, had thrown stones. Later, however, the same child admitted he had only confessed in order to stop the beatings, and he withdrew his “confessions.”

This is what Israeli officials do to Palestinian children who they think threw a few stones.

Adalah’s press release also notes that Israeli investigators, at interrogation and detention sites, regularly employed interrogation techniques that are forbidden under international law:

– 100% of the detained children’s interrogations lasted many hours. A majority said they were denied food, water, and access to a toilet. In some cases, children, who had been denied food for dozens of hours, were told they would only be fed if they confessed.

– 100% of the detained children “were left handcuffed on both their hands and feet while seated on a low chair.”

– Most of the detained children were stripped naked and strip-searched numerous times. Those “who refused to be strip-searched while naked were violently assaulted by the wardens.”

– 0 of the investigations were conducted in the company of a lawyer or relative, in flagrant violation of Israeli law.

– When children asked to meet with a lawyer, investigators told them it was “forbidden.”

– 100% of children were held in solidarity confinement for multiple days, and in some cases even weeks. One child testified that he had been held in uninterrupted solidarity confinement for 28 days.


– 100% of children “described their cells as being in very poor conditions.” Cells were windowless and incredibly small; they held only a small mattress and a foul-smelling toilet. It was not permitted that children lean on the rough walls. The cells were also lit 24 hours per day by a bright light. This light “hurt the children’s eyes” and made it difficult for children to fall asleep; from this forced sleep deprivation, children lost a sense of time, and presumably suffered from other ailments associated with sleep loss.

This is by no means the first time Adalah has contacted Israel’s Attorney General. On 22 March 2007, the human rights organization contacted AG Menachem Mazuz, requesting a criminal investigation. Israel’s General Security Services’ (GSS) had been tampering with political and legal documents published by Arab Israeli NGOs and scholars.

Two months later, Mazuz responded to the letter. He defended the GSS’s actions, saying they were “undertaken in coordination and consultation with the relevant parties within the legal apparatus,” reaffirming the GSS’s own insistence that it “is required to thwart the subversive activity of entities seeking to harm the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, even if their activity is conducted through democratic means.”

A year before that, on 13 August 2006, Adalah placed an ad in Haaretz. The somewhat unconventional ad was an open letter to AG Mazuz. In it, the organization wrote

We wish to draw your attention to the judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which convicted senior commanders and politicians for killing civilians and the destruction of villages and houses, among other charges. The Tribunal imposed sentences of between 15 and 45 years’ imprisonment.

This provocative ad followed another, published in the same paper—Israel’s oldest newspaper, and the most widely read English-language Israeli publication—only 10 days before. In this bold public warning, somewhat reminiscent of cigarette warning labels—an arresting, vibrant red border contrasting strikingly with drab black and white text—a variety of Israeli human rights organizations, including Adalah, Amnesty International, the Arab Association for Human Rights, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, called

upon the Israeli government to act urgently towards the declaration of a ceasefire that will lead to the end of killing and destruction in Israel, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and remove the threat hanging over the lives and property of every civilian …


employing military force against civilian targets, bombing residential areas, turning thousands of people into refugees, and causing long-term damage to civilian infrastructure is


Adalah’s most recent letter might lack the panache of its missive brethren, yet its substance is just as worrisome.

We patiently await Yehuda Weinstein’s response. If history is any indicator, nevertheless (and it almost always is), the reply will not be positive, and the Israeli Attorney General—the individual in charge of the legal system of what is often called “the only democracy in the Middle East”—will fail to do his job. Israel will still be a country in which Palestinians live under a completely different set of laws.

Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer based in New York City. His work has been featured in a variety of publications. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton. His website is

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23 Responses

  1. Zach S on June 5, 2014, 2:17 pm

    “used extreme physical and verbal abuse against them, including beatings, smashing the child’s head against a wall,”

    Can Ben provide photographic evidence of the damage caused by these abuses?

    • Cliff on June 5, 2014, 6:45 pm


      If he can’t – does that mean it didn’t happen?

      Or do you only press for ‘photographic evidence’ when non-Jews are involved?

    • Woody Tanaka on June 5, 2014, 7:04 pm

      Yeah, the I”D”F thugs who murdered the Palestinian boys have the photos. Or are you still pretending they don’t exist?

    • Hostage on June 5, 2014, 10:17 pm

      Can Ben provide photographic evidence of the damage caused by these abuses?

      We are dealing with the evidence obtained from direct the testimony of the children who were tortured. In any event, we’ve already seen from the videos and still images of the Ofer prison shootings that you don’t accept photographic evidence anyway.

      • Kay24 on June 6, 2014, 7:58 am

        It is a waste of time showing photographic, or video evidence to supporters of human rights violations, and torture of little children, inflicted by criminals wearing the uniform of their country.
        They will then imply that it has been doctored, or similar BS, because to them, whether it has been authenticated, or confirmed by human rights groups, they will keep insisting everything is fraudulent, and every one is lying. Notice the first reaction is to pretend it never happened.

    • W.Jones on June 6, 2014, 12:34 am

      “evidence of the damage caused by these abuses”

      Israeli soldier knocks a child in the face with impunity:

      7 year old after being hit by soldiers:

      Video of soldiers punching detained Palestinian children behind a chain fence:

      16 year old with whip marks from prison


    • Talkback on June 7, 2014, 4:28 am

      Zach S says: Can Ben provide photographic evidence of the damage caused by these abuses?

      Zach S’ follow up question:
      Can anybody provide evidence, that the damage is real and if so was done by Jews?

      • talknic on June 7, 2014, 10:41 am

        @ Talkback Correction …

        Zach S’ follow up question:

        “Apart from the photos, video, first hand testimony from the victims, medical reports, Human Rights reports, self contradictory statements from the IDF, statements by ex IDF personnel, can anybody provide evidence, that the damage is real and if so was done by Jews?”

    • talknic on June 7, 2014, 4:53 am

      @ Zach S … Are you, an eager peddler of ziononsense proven wrong time after time, implying the children who gave testimony are liars?

    • Bumblebye on June 7, 2014, 10:07 am

      SadZach, addicted to zio-cruelty porn.

  2. W.Jones on June 5, 2014, 2:36 pm

    Thanks for writing this, Ben.

    How about the UN reports of Israeli guards caning and whipping Palestinian children with electric cords?

    …she also began participating in civil disobedience and numerous demonstrations during the first Intifada. Late one night, Jebreal was arrested and whipped in an Israeli prison, but was released after 24 hours because she is an Israeli citizen.i

    At one screening, (the filmmaker) says, Barbra Streisand questioned the film’s account of a whipping [the schoolgirl] Jebreal received. “You know what I wanted to do? I wanted to pick up [Jebreal’s] shirt and show her her back,” he says. “I’m not making this stuff up.”

  3. amigo on June 5, 2014, 2:50 pm

    Mayhem to Zach S—how many of these terroeests A-rab kids did you beat the crap out of today??.

    Zach S–lost count.Probably 5 or 6 of the little monsters.Two of them crapped in their pants.We will teach them who are the untermenschen and who are the Master race.And how was your day.Did you slap any A-rab women around.

    Mayhem– slow day.Only managed to slap two of them.One was pregnant, so I got 2 for the price of one.

    Giggle , giggle.Jeez , I love my job and when I arrest 5 more , I get a promotion.

    Yup , Most moral Army etc etc.

    • W.Jones on June 5, 2014, 7:09 pm

      Unfortunately, that is the way some of them think. If it were not, then they would not be making T shirts about it.

      It is like college students joking about what parties they went to. It must be very humiliating.

    • Talkback on June 6, 2014, 2:42 am

      Mayhem is only critizing behaviour towards Palestinians, if I call a Palestinian woman gorgeous. He seems to have no problem, if Jews torture their children.

  4. just on June 5, 2014, 6:50 pm

    Brave of you to research and document this madness and profound cruelty, Ben.

    Totally against International Law and antithetical to ANY semblance of morality/humanity. The list of war crimes committed by Israel seemingly has no end…

    And this has been our bestest ally forever? We need to disassociate from this rogue statelet STAT and say why– yell it from the rooftops over and over and over.

    I want no part of it.

  5. Felixio on June 5, 2014, 7:08 pm

    This looks pretty much like Nazi Germany to me and I suppose to others too.

  6. a blah chick on June 5, 2014, 8:09 pm

    Has anyone done studies of the levels of domestic violence in the families of these soldiers? I just don’t see this as the kind of violence you turn on and off with a switch.

    • W.Jones on June 6, 2014, 12:37 am

      Blah chick: Israeli parents are not allowed by their national laws to use physical punishment on their children. Period. Don’t expect consistency when it comes to imprisoning and whipping Palestinian children, leaving lifelong scars.

    • W.Jones on June 6, 2014, 12:41 am

      By Dan Izenberg, 26 January 2000
      JERUSALEM – The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that corporal punishment of children by their parents is never educational and always causes serious harm to the children. Yitzhak Kadman, head of the National Council for the Child, declared that the ruling established a precedent and “finally recognized the right of children not to be exposed to violence of any kind, even when those who use violence makes excuses for it, saying it is ‘educational’ or ‘punitive.'”

      The justice wrote:

      “If we allow ‘light’ violence, it might deteriorate into very serious violence. We must not endanger the physical and mental well-being of a minor with any type of corporal punishment.

      One child is fortunate and fully protected, another gets the opposite.

    • jgarbuz on June 6, 2014, 9:23 am

      Israel human rights record is second to none in the world. But the Palestinian penchant for propaganda and distortion is also second to none in the world.

      • talknic on June 7, 2014, 4:58 am

        @ jgarbuz “Israel human rights record is second to none in the world”

        The Committee on the Rights of Children doesn’t seem to think so.

        “But the Palestinian penchant for propaganda and distortion is also second to none in the world”

        A documented example proving your point please … thx…

      • eljay on June 7, 2014, 7:31 am

        >> Israel human rights record is second to none in the world.

        If by “second to none” you mean “59th“, I agree.

        >> But the Palestinian penchant for propaganda and distortion is also second to none in the world.

        I would rank it well below North Korea, and no worse than Israel.

  7. Hostage on June 6, 2014, 10:56 pm

    Israel human rights record is second to none in the world.

    You don’t have a clue. Israel is actually one of the few countries on Earth that doesn’t have a written constitution guaranteeing all citizens equal rights, privileges, and protections under the law. There are many other countries that were not established by making three-quarters of the indigenous population permanent refugees.

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