In 2013, a UNICEF report revealed the Israel Army’s systematic abuse of young Palestinians. That report was confirmed by another report in 2015 and even more recent data shows that little has changed. This year already, over 111 Palestinian children and teenage minors have been taken prisoner by the foreign soldiers that enforce the military Occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. For the most part, the ‘evidence’ presented against Palestinian minors facing Israeli military Courts is couched in vague language lacking required specificity. The Israeli Occupation’s military Courts occasionally impose fines, as well as imprisonment, on these children and even try, at times, to extort large sums of money from impoverished families for the release of their children. Palestinian families are well aware of the physical and verbal violence that their children are subjected to and the Israeli Occupation enforcers know that, in desperation, families will very likely try to find the money to bring them home. That contributes to the financing of the Occupation.
Israel contrives apparent justification of its persecution of Palestinian children by ensuring near-100% guilty verdicts. A non-governmental organisation, Military Court Watch, monitored the treatment of more than 450 Palestinian minors held captive by the Israeli military between 2013 and 2016. The data collected revealed that 94% of those taken prisoner in 2013 and 2016 reported being painfully handcuffed. In an even more needless and terrorising abuse, 82% were blindfolded. Verbal violence was experienced by 46%. These actions are designed to ‘soften up’ the youngsters and make them more amenable under interrogation. In both years, 60% suffered more physical violence while under interrogation. The persecution of Palestinian children is racist and there is no legal justification for treating Palestinian and Israeli children differently.
Thanks to cell phone and other forms of covert video, the world is becoming familiar with the malicious violence that heavily-armed Israeli soldiers unflinchingly inflict upon defenceless Palestinian children. What drives these soldiers to behave as they do? A televised interview with an ex-Israeli soldier, aired online last month, gives us some idea:
Eran Efrati: “I was the terrorist”
Talking to Abby Martin, Eran Efrati, who served in the Israeli Army in the Palestinian West Bank town of Hebron, explained that Israelis are “brought up from kindergarten to believe that the military is part of one’s identity”. He explained how he and other Israeli troops would:
“Invade Hebron to enforce curfew on 180,000 Palestinians so that Occupation settlers can fill the town to celebrate the Jewish holiday.”
“Heavily armed soldiers with guns, grenades and six-packs of ammunitions scream “curfew” at the people, causing them to run in panic.”
People would hastily close shops and businesses to get home:
“because wherever you are when the curfew starts, that’s where you stop. The military order with regard to anyone who breaks the curfew is, “shoot to kill”. This is well understood by the Palestinians, hence the panic.”
Eran Efrati’s realisation that Palestinian children were terrified of the soldiers eventually brought him to understand with disgust that his role was to enforce, through terror, an apartheid system in which Jewish rights are superior to those of non-Jews. If he saw a settler molesting a Palestinian, he could not intervene, even though the Palestinians are forced to live under the rule of the soldiers. As an Israeli soldier, he was able to enter Palestinian homes whenever he chose and even commandeer them for use as military posts “for a few hours, to a few days, even for weeks.”
He has realised that he has been lied to, understanding now that the Israeli Army’s mission is to scare people so that they could not even think of resistance. In the interview he explains his reasons for breaking the silence:
“I don’t want to live in an ethnocracy. I don’t want to live in an only-Jewish state that values privileged Jewish life on every other life. I want my kids to grow up in a place where they don’t have to oppress anyone.”
Israel poses as a democracy yet, daily and brutally, it violates international humanitarian law. In fact, this lawlessness is essential to the realisation of the Zionist enterprise. An Israel High Court ruling prohibits the summary execution of prisoners by the Israeli Army. That is the public face. Efrati explains how things are actually managed on the ground after a person has been selected for elimination. The orders are whispered at night to a group of soldiers outside a Palestinian house:
“We are going to quietly let ourselves into the house, go up to the bedroom, enter it, go up to the bed, point a gun at his head. If he just wakes up and surrenders, we take him away. But if he screams, you shoot him in the head. If he lifts the blanket, you shoot him in the head. If he makes any kind of movement, you shoot him in the head.”
Thus, the Israeli Army can pose as ‘the most moral army in the world’ while breaking into family homes at night, blindfolding children and dragging them away. This behaviour is fostered by upbringing:
“You are brought up to believe all the Arabs hate you. You go on to the military so full of hate and fear. We see Palestinian men and women as subhuman.”
As Eran Efrati put it to Abby Martin, “if you will not respect existence, you can expect resistance”. In the Second World War, many countries were subjected to ideologically-driven brutal military Occupations. Resistance to Occupation by captive people was understood and honoured. The Resistance was spelt with a capital R and the World War Two allies supported the various European Resistance movements. So too, in the fight for justice for Palestinians, the world community has a duty to join the Resistance against Zionist military rule. There are many forms of Resistance. A youngster in Gaza, Yousef Bashir, was shot in the back at the age of 15 by Israeli soldiers who had been occupying his home for four years. The family were allowed to live in just a tiny part of their home but they stayed on as an act of Resistance. Even after the shooting, Bashir’s father preached tolerance. He continued to treat the soldiers as though they were guests rather than enemies. He told his son: “That’s what human beings do and that’s what people who care about the Holy Land must do even if it’s the most unrealistic thing in the world . . .” A Washington Post article tells us Yousef was able to move to the United States to finish high school and now gives talks about what happened to him in order to reach out and appeal to people’s humanity.
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, now living in the UK, is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter and very much concerned with the responsibility of the world community, both for the present plight of the Palestinian people and the action needed to enable the realisation of a peaceful solution. He points out that, without the support world public opinion gave to the Zionist movement, the Nakba (massacres suffered by the Palestinians and the creation of refugees) would not have occurred. He writes:
“Had the international community rejected the idea of partition, a unitary state would have replaced Mandatory Palestine, as indeed was the wish of many members of the UN. However, these members succumbed to violent pressure by the US and the Zionist lobby and retracted their earlier support for such a solution. And today, if the international community alters its position once more and revises its attitude towards Israel, the chances for ending the Occupation would increase enormously and so maybe also help to avert a colossal bloodshed that would engulf not only the Palestinians but also the Jews themselves.”
The two-state ‘solution’ is nothing more than a cover to enable the Zionist state to make its Occupation in the West Bank and ghettoisation of the Gaza Strip appear temporary. It also diverts attention from the discriminatory nature of its regime inside the 1967 borders. Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinian refugees’ UN-recognised right of return is proof of its contempt both for the Palestinian people and the world community. The highly unjust partition does not allow for the return of even 50% of Palestinian land to the people and Palestinians are being required to concede that, if they are ever to have a so-called ‘state’, they will have to be content with, at most, 20% of their territory. Israel’s conditions for allowing the existence of a Palestinian state are that it must have no sovereignty, no means of defence and no control over natural resources, air space or borders. Conditions for the people would resemble those being enforced today upon the Gaza Strip.
Two diametrically-opposed principles face each other here. While the world community recognises and guarantees the basic human right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, the Zionist state’s ideology asserts that the Palestinian people have no such right. Instead, Israel compounds its crime by expelling more Palestinians from Greater Jerusalem and along the path of its illegal annexation Wall. The Zionist project has not yet been completed. Ilan Pappe notes that:
“We as the Jews should want them to return because otherwise we will continue to live in a state where the value of ethnic superiority and supremacy overrides any other human and civil value. And we cannot promise ourselves and the refugees such fair and just solution within the framework of the two states’ formula.”
Ilan Pappe tells Israel that it:
“ . . . cannot justify anymore its crimes against the Palestinians in the name of the Holocaust. More and more people in Europe realise that the criminal policies of Israel abuse the Holocaust memory and this is why so many Jews are members in the movement for boycott.”
The liberation of Palestine requires united global support for the BDS movement, coupled with resolute action by the United Nations in support of international law. New Zealand’s successful sponsoring of Resolution 2334 is one positive step towards this end. The next step must be to end the present impunity with which the West favours Israel. This wake-up call would force the comfortable Zionist majority to at last face the reality that their racist regime is neither democratic nor acceptable.