« | Home | »

The Children’s Court

Tags: |

Camp Ofer near Ramallah is an Israeli ‘incarceration facility’ for detaining and processing Palestinian prisoners, including children (there are currently more than 200 Palestinian children in Israeli detention; a fifth of them are under 16). A delegation of three British Labour MPs who visited Camp Ofer last December told Amira Hass in Haaretz what they saw. More than two-thirds of detained children said they had been beaten. They were all ‘better off pleading guilty regardless of whether they had done something, because if they were detained until the end of proceedings, this could be three times longer than their punishment’. One of the MPs was disturbed to hear from his escort that this was a relatively good day: the children’s hands were cuffed in front of them rather than behind their backs.

A report on the prison in Haaretz last month included the case of a 14-year-old boy who had been in custody for six days before being brought before the judge (in Israel suspects have to be brought before a judge within 24 hours; in the Occupied Territories they can be held for up to eight days). His lawyer told the court that the child had been ‘interrogated in a cruel, undignified fashion’. As is common in such cases, the defendant and his lawyer didn’t know what the charges were. The boy was remanded in custody for another ten days, after which ‘he will be sentenced to another few months in prison’ for a crime he has no idea of.

Aya Kaniuk and Tamar Goldschmidt of Machsom Watch have described a typical Monday in the ‘children’s court’ at Camp Ofer. The judge works efficiently and quickly, sending one child after another to jail, processing 23 boys in one day. Twenty-one of them were rounded up in the middle of the night from Kalandia refugee camp. ‘Some boy gave their names in,’ Kaniuk and Goldschmidt explain.

That is how it usually happens. A child is arrested for one reason or another. And he is told, give us fifteen names and we’ll let you go. First he says, no way. Eventually he gives them names. Usually they are the names of boys he knows, his age, sometimes of boys he’d never met, in order to supply the required number.

The children are dressed in brown or orange prisoners’ uniforms. ‘Chained feet. Shackled hands, one hand shackled to that of another boy,’ Kaniuk and Goldschmidt write. ‘Some of them are so small that their feet wave in the air when they are seated on the bench.’

The Israeli treatment of Palestinian children in detention violates both international and Israeli law. In his powerful documentary Arna’s Children, filmed over more than ten years, Juliano Mar-Hamis followed the Palestinian children who belonged to a theatre group set up by his mother in Jenin. Three of the children were killed by the IDF; one became a suicide bomber; two were imprisoned by Israel. Juliano was murdered last month by masked gunmen. The slow infanticide of Palestine continues.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement