Australia- “What would you do if your child was handcuffed, hooded, interrogated, mistreated and not reachable? What Israel does to Palestinian children.” This was the tweet. Thirty-nine retweets, two favourites, a couple of queries, and the inevitable but laughable troll or two, was the response.
This was not a just a random tweet. This was a representation of the real, daily struggle that Palestinian children have to endure in this current day and age. The tweet was inspired by an image that the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) posted on their Facebook page. It was also inspired by something I personally experienced during my stay in Palestine last year but never wrote about.
March 22, 2011 was the date where I, along with my dear friends, visited the spiritual Bethlehem and the microcosm of apartheid in Hebron. Walking towards the Mosque of Abraham, we encountered young teenage boys who could not be older than sixteen, hanging out in the old winding streets of Hebron. We also saw around six children aged between six and eleven years, haggling tourists with beaded bracelets that their mothers made as a source of income. After visiting the Mosque, encountering fully armed Israeli soldiers, and going through those hideous electronic gates that made humans feel like cattle, we headed back out. We met those children once again. We bought the bracelets because they were beautifully made and because those kids could haggle! I was talking to one of the children who seemed the youngest, and suddenly as we were chatting, the Israeli soldiers were walking in a line with the teenage boys we saw earlier and one of the older children selling the bracelets. The children were held by the back of their necks and shirt collars, towards the security check area we had just passed. We stood back, but as this happened, the six-year-old child, whom I had never met before in my life and never knew his name, hid behind me. The soldier saw him; I placed my hand to cover the child, whilst he hid behind me, and the soldier made a remark in Hebrew that I could not understand and walked away. The child ran in the opposite direction. This all happened in a matter of seconds. I never got the child’s name, but for him to seek security from a complete stranger because of a vile oppressor got to me. I asked my friend who was a local, “What will happen to the kids?” He said, “Detained for a few hours, maybe longer, then released.” Then I asked, “Why? They didn’t do anything.” He replied, “Welcome to Palestine and the daily struggle.” Even as I recall this memory today, I still choke up.
These are children. They came into a world where they are constantly being denied basic rights. Where they are accused of being terrorists, when all they seek is peace and justice. When they are arrested, interrogated, cannot contact their parents, and are tried under military court, then you seriously need to question the silence of the world; not only that, but raise awareness. Contact your local parliament member, and seek to demand justice.
“Israel arrests up to 700 Palestinian children each year. Up to 94% are held in pretrial detention without bail.” That’s the chilling statistic provided by IMEU, Defence for Children International and No Legal Frontiers.
The question remains, what would you do?