A 5-year-old being taken to an army vehicle in Hebron. Screen capture from a video.
Incidents of Palestinian teenagers being arrested for throwing rocks are common in Hebron, where tensions with Israeli settlers usually run high. But videos recently filmed by activists show the detention of an exceptionally young child – just five years old.
The incident, which occurred on Tuesday afternoon, was captured on film by activists from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation that has equipped field workers with cameras throughout the West Bank. The first video, filmed in Hebron’s old city, shows the screaming, crying boy being led by a Palestinian teenager into an army vehicle as a group of armed soldiers watched.
From there, according to B’Tselem, the boy was taken home, where the soldiers picked up his father, identified as Karem Maswadeh; they then took both of them to a nearby checkpoint, where B’Tselem activists resumed filming. In the video, the father is seen blindfolded and handcuffed, with his son by his side, as IDF soldiers wait for a liaison with the local Palestinian authorities to arrive. An IDF spokesman told FRANCE 24 that it was standard procedure for people to be handcuffed and blindfolded when taken inside a military structure, like Maswadeh was.
According to a statement released by the IDF, which says the boy was caught hurling rocks towards a public street in Hebron, “he was passed onto the care of the Palestinian Security Forces, all the while accompanied by his parents. The child was not arrested and no charges were filed.” The boy and his father were then released.
Under Israeli law, children under age 12 cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions. B’Tselem’s director has written a letter to the Judea and Samaria legal adviser contending that the soldiers had illegally arrested the child, and is now awaiting an answer.
The video has become front-page news in Israeli media, prompting outrage among many commenters. Prominent columnist Ami Kaufman argues in 972 magazine that the child’s treatment was motivated by racism.
“This scene is extreme, but it should raise alarm about a system that allows this to happen”
Sarit Michaeli is an activist with B’Tselem, the activist organisation that released the videos.
Every so often, we see cases of Palestinian children under 12 being detained. But it’s rare to see this with a child so young. This scene is extreme, but it should raise alarm about a system that allows this to happen.According to local witnesses, the boy threw a stone at a stray dog. We don’t know what actually happened – it is common for Palestinian youth, as well as Israeli settler youth, to throw stones in Hebron. But there are other ways of dealing with it, for example by contacting social services, or dealing with the parents directly. Once they found out who the child’s parents were, there really was no reason for him to come along and witness his father being handcuffed and blindfolded!What’s also disturbing is that in the videos, the soldiers are very calm, and appear to think they were acting correctly. We believe that they’re doing this to scare all the children into stopping their stone-throwing. Indeed, this can be dangerous, but we have noticed that they are not treating all children the same way. We have seen many cases in which settler children throw stones, and soldiers do not intervene. So it’s clearly discriminatory. [An IDF spokesman, when asked whether settlers’ children are detained, told FRANCE 24 that two Israeli children in a nearby settlement were detained last week for trespassing at a water facility.] The solution, of course, is not to arrest settler children either – all children should be treated as children!