A video filmed on March 19 shows Israeli soldiers arguing with Palestinian teachers in a primary school in Hebron, in the West Bank. The teachers were trying in vain to prevent the arrest of a 9-year-old student. The video, while shocking, captures a scene that has become all too common in the occupied territories, particularly in Hebron.
In the video, posted online by various Facebook users and on YouTube by B’Tselem, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit that defends human rights in the occupied territories, one of the teachers is seen yelling, “You can’t take this boy!” in Arabic. He is told by an Israeli officer to let go of the child and step back.
The confrontation took place in the early afternoon outside the Ziad Jaber elementary school in Hebron. Yazan Idris, 9, and his brother Tayyem, 7, finished class at 12:30pm and began walking home, according to B’Tselem. A few minutes later, they ran back into the school towards the headmaster's office.
An Israeli army officer and a soldier soon entered the school and said they were arresting the boys, whom they accused of throwing rocks, according to B’Tselem. Two teachers attempted to stop them from taking Yazan, and the argument escalated when four additional soldiers arrived as reinforcements and threatened to arrest one of the teachers.
The video was posted on YouTube and subtitled in English by the Jerusalem-based nonprofit B'Tselem.
The Israeli soldiers then brought Yazan to the nearest checkpoint, 10 metres from the school. They eventually released him after meeting with school employees and Yazan's mother for more than an hour.
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“They didn't follow Israeli military law”
Amit Gilutz, a spokesperson for B’Tselem, which also subtitled the video, said this scene reminds him of countless others.
Around 200 Palestinian minors are being held in Israeli prisons, according to a March 2019 analysis by B’Tselem, based on data from the Israeli military and the Israel Prison Service. A 2013 report by UNICEF found "widespread" mistreatment of children held in the Israeli detention system, and noted that Israel is the only country that "systematically" tries children in military court.
Minors are frequently arrested in the West Bank, around several hundred a year. They are supposed to be protected under Israeli law, but unfortunately, Palestinian children don’t enjoy the same protections as Israeli children, so they are much more vulnerable.
In general, Palestinians are always arrested under military law in the occupied territories. They are brought before a martial court, where both the prosecutor and judge are members of the military.
Palestinians are completely excluded from the regular judicial system that guarantees everyone the right to remain innocent until proven guilty, and are instead systematically found guilty. But in the case of this child, even military law wasn’t respected. Military law sets the legal age of responsibility at 12, while this child was only nine.
"It's a way to maintain control over people from generation to generation"
The arrest took place in Hebron, which is a special case within the occupied territories. It is the only town where Israeli settlers live in the historic city centre, instead of on the outskirts. There are 2,000 settlers living next to 200,000 Palestinians. The settlers have an extremist ideology and there are many soldiers stationed there to protect them.
This video doesn't show a law being enforced. It shows what daily life is like under the occupation. If children are truly guilty of something, they should be given a summons. Instead, children are always arrested aggressively, with soldiers sometimes showing up in their homes in the middle of the night and pulling them out of bed. Sometimes they're arrested in the street and their parents aren't told where they’ve been taken.
And once they're under arrest, children aren’t allowed to see their parents or another adult. They're also verbally, and sometimes physically, abused.
These arrests occur frequently and are carried out to keep families, as well as the general population, in a state of fear. It's simply a way to maintain control over people from generation to generation.
This story was written by Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira).