Abed was only 15 years old when he was awoken late one night by a masked Israeli soldier standing over his bed pointing a rifle at him. “Wake up Habibi (my darling),” the soldier said, shortly before he blindfolded and handcuffed Abed tightly behind his back. This was the start of an ordeal that this child and his family endured when he was arrested in the middle of the night, taken to an undisclosed location, harshly interrogated and imprisoned on the suspicion of stone throwing. This grim scenario is played out in hundreds of homes each year across the West Bank.
Abed’s story is one of several told in “Detaining Dreams” a new film by Amr Kawji that is premiering on Tuesday, June 2 at Busboys and Poets in Washington DC.
John and Joyce Cassel, retired school consultant and high school teacher, traveled to the West Bank this spring to gather testimonies from children who have experienced the Israeli Military Juvenile Detention system. The Cassels worked with the staff of Defense for Children International Palestine to gather these testimonies. DCIP is committed to securing a just and viable future for Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Joyce Cassel, describing the experience of sitting in a family’s living room and listening to a child and his family tell them and DCIP staff the details of his arrest, transport interrogation, and time in jail. “As each boy told his story, we began to get the picture of how destructive and traumatizing this ordeal was to him, to his entire family to the entire community. One family we visited had three of their sons arrested, each in the fall of their junior year in high school and each for allegedly throwing stones.”
The film was made under the auspices of the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, which focuses attention on the brutal experiences Palestinian children face in the Israeli Military Detention system. According to Defense for Children International, every year more than 700 Palestinian children experience the Israeli Military Juvenile Detention System. UNICEF in February 2015 reported that children are “being subjected to multiple violations throughout the arrest, transfer, interrogations and detention phases.”
The 2013 UNICEF report states “there is no exceptional circumstances in which torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment are permitted, not even security considerations or threats of acts endangering the security of a state or its population.” (Convention on the Rights of the Child, CAT: Convention against Torture, and other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment)
Tell Congress to investigate.
To bring attention to this horrific aspect of the Israeli occupation, the No Way to Treat a Child Campaign and the American Friends Service Committee will hold a Congressional Briefing on June 2. Sponsored by Congressman Keith Ellison (D, MN), the briefing will feature portions of the film, as well as live testimony from Tariq Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian American teenager who was arrested and brutally beaten by Israeli police in the summer of 2014. Representative Ellison will give the opening remarks and Rabbi Brant Rosen of the American Friends Service Committee, Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch and Bradley Parker of Defense for Children International-Palestine will also be testifying.