Israel’s ongoing and persistent imprisonment of Palestinian children has been completely overlooked, if not outright ignored, by the larger global community. According to Defense for Children International, Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. 

The Prisoners’ and Freed Prisoners’ Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), reportedly, revealed in April that Israeli occupation authorities have reportedly arrested more than 50,000 Palestinian children since 1967 and pointed out that almost 17,000 of those arrested were detained in the years following the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising in Arabic) in 2000. 

The head of the committee’s Studies and Documentation Department, Abdul Nasser Ferwaneh, said that the detention of Palestinian children is practiced “systemically” by Israeli authorities. The annual rate of child detention, Ferwaneh added, amounted to an average of 700 between 2000 and 2010. The numbers rose to 1,250 between 2011 and 2018, Middle East Monitor reported.

Children are currently being detained under what the Israelis call “Administrative Detention,” a form of imprisonment without charge or trial.

Even more alarming is the fact that children are currently being detained under what the Israelis call “Administrative Detention,” a form of imprisonment without charge or trial. Those unfortunate enough to be imprisoned in such a way are not told of the charges against them; neither detainees nor their lawyers have access to the so-called “secret evidence” being used to indict them.

“Detention without charge is prohibited under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party,” John Quigley, Professor of Law at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, told Inside Arabia. “Article 9 requires that a person placed under arrest be informed of the charges. The Israeli practice involves no charge, and hence violates Article 9.” 

“Israel, however, has filed what is called a derogation to Article 9, as is permitted in ‘a time of public emergency,’ exempting itself from the obligation to inform a person of charges,” he explained. 

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian child July 2017

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian child. July 2017

He pointed out that Israel has been criticized by human rights organizations for taking an overly expansive view of “public emergency” in order to detain prisoners under ambiguous conditions without violating Article 9. “Detention without charge is carried out in the West Bank under a military order. It is carried out in East Jerusalem under an Israeli statute. Under either one, a person may be held six months, that period being renewable indefinitely,” Quigley added.

According to International Middle East Media Center, the Palestinian Detainees Committee reported on October 1, that an Israeli court issued arbitrary Administrative Detention orders against two teenage Palestinian boys from the northern West Bank city of Jenin. The Committee stated in a press release that Nidal Amer, 17 years old and already subject to a six-month Administrative Detention sentence, was supposed to be released within two days, only to find out that he is now subject to a second order that will extend his detention, still without being charged, for another half year.

The second detainee, 17-year-old Hafeth Zyoud, was abducted in September and slapped with a four-month Administrative Detention order. Both detained teens, reportedly, are imprisoned at Majeddo Israeli prison and are denied basic rights in addition to experiencing poor living conditions.

Inside Arabia reached out to the two teenagers’ families.

Asked about the message Nidal’s family would send, Ahmed Amer (Nidal’s uncle), said, “Our message is that we are oppressed people,” referring to Palestinians. He also said that it is about two years since Nidal was first imprisoned. 

Moreover, Ahmed asked what this child could have possibly done to warrant being administratively sentenced without any legal case. He explained that there is no charge against Nidal but he is imprisoned as a minor. He stressed to Inside Arabia that if there is evidence against him, it should be presented in court.

Hafeth’s father told Inside Arabia that his son’s detention is an “unjust and untrue” arrest. He said that his son does not have a case or anything pending against him, and yet they sentenced him administratively to detention. He called on the Palestinian National Authority to remove the administrative detention for all prisoners and children. He noted that adults cannot bear such detention, let alone children. 

Quadra Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, said that arresting children and bringing them to military courts are clear violations of international covenants. He pointed out that when there are clear charges on file, they should be dealt with appropriately with respect to the privacy of their cases. 

Fares told Inside Arabia that “Administrative Detention of adults is an extreme violation of international law and becomes a crime when children are arrested without a charge and a fair trial, and this is what Israel systematically does with children.” 

He called on the international community to pressure Israel to stop the enforcement of this “fascist and reactionary law.”

If the victims were from any European country, their plight would never be ignored for as much as a second. Yet the children of Palestine are immediately forgotten. People somehow cannot conceive that a state which touts itself as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East could actually be doing such things. 

If the victims were from any European country, their plight would never be ignored for as much as a second. Yet the children of Palestine are immediately forgotten. People somehow cannot conceive that a state which touts itself as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East could actually be doing such things.  

They are in denial. Palestinian children are effectively living in a prison within a prison. 

For all that, though, they still have hope, and they dream about a brighter future. For them to realize that future, however, it is crucial that their voices be heard. Calls for an independent investigation of child detention and imprisonment should be heeded. Their suffering is a stain on the international community that, despite raising concerns on some occasions, does not do enough to pressure relevant governments to act.

Palestinians have made it clear that they have had enough of speeches and statements that supposedly show solidarity with them but result in no action. They want to be heard and it is their right to be. Generations of Palestinians have experienced decades of suffering and abuses of their human rights. Unless real action is taken, these children’s lives are unlikely to improve. 

Israeli authorities take other nations’ silence as condoning what they do. And that is how the world makes itself indirectly complicit in crimes committed against the innocent.