As stone-throwing Palestinian children have been in the news lately it is relevant to observe that enlistment of children to carry out these violent acts is in effect no different than enlisting child soldiers, which is a war crime in terms of Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The time has come to recognize that encouraging children to hurl stones and firebombs, as well as using them as human shields, as practiced by Hamas, cannot be described as anything but enlisting them to participate actively in hostilities and therefore a war crime.
The book The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation, edited by Zachery Lockman and Joel Benin, describes communiqués issued during the first intifada by the United Leadership of the Uprising. Communiqué No. 2 says: “O youth of Palestine, O throwers of incendiary stones, clearly the new fascists will be forced to admit the facts entrenched by your ferocious rebellion.... Intensify the use of popular means against all enemies beginning with the holy stones and ending with the incendiary Molotov cocktails.”
Stones and firebombs, even thrown by children, can cause serious and even lethal injury.
For example, according to a report by CIF Watch, rock-throwers caused the crash which killed Asher Hillel Palmer and his one-year-old son. Last December a rock struck a 12-year-old girl, breaking her skull and on March 14, 2013, a three-year-old girl was in critical condition and her mother and two sisters seriously wounded after a car accident caused by rocks thrown by Palestinians. The three-year-old was not breathing when medics arrived at the scene. Before the accident, a number of drivers reported rock attacks. A bus was hit with rocks and a man and a 10-year-old boy also were injured by rocks in the same area.
After a recent spate of daily rock throwing near Hebron 27 youths were detained for questioning. Most of the young children were released within a few hours and handed over to the Palestinian police who called the parents to come and collect them. Only seven were actually held for questioning, none of whom were minors.
The kids who were justifiably suspected of stone throwing were detained to enable the Israeli security forces to examine the video footage they had in their possession, to see which of the youngsters had thrown stones, and the suspicions were justified by the youths’ confessions to the Palestinian police.
Judea Brigade Commander Avi Bluth said that stone throwing at checkpoint 160 had become a daily occurrence until the arrest of these kids, since which the area has been very quiet.
Despite the serious nature of these attacks, all too often even responsible media irresponsibly treat the hurling of stones and rocks as a minor misdemeanor and protest strongly about every effort to deal with them.
For example, despite the fact that only seven of the 27 kids were detained, the B’Tselem website as well as an article on March 31 by Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy described the incident as “mass arrests,” conveying the false impression of huge numbers of children arrested unjustifiably.
Levy contradicted himself in his article. He first claimed the arrests were made indiscriminately, but he also tells us that when handed over to the Palestinian police and asked who had participated in the stone throwing, all raised their hands in the affirmative.
In the circumstances the allegation by Haaretz and B’Tselem that there was mass detention of youths for unspecified reasons is highly irresponsible and unsustainable.
B’Tselem spokesperson Sari Michaeli is quoted in a March 31 Jerusalem Post report as saying, “Even if they [minors under 12] are throwing stones, they cannot be arrested...
there are other ways to deal with children that throw stones.”
I’m sure the Israeli government and the IDF would be very grateful to learn B’Tselem’s secret about how to effectively deal with these hate-indoctrinated kids. In what other way could kids be dealt with whose violence emanates from indoctrination to hate, not only on official PA TV but in their school textbooks, as described by then-senator Hillary Clinton, who said, “These textbooks do not give Palestinian children an education; they give them an indoctrination.
When we viewed this report in combination with other [PA] media that these children are exposed to, we see a larger picture that is disturbing.
It is disturbing on a human level, it is disturbing to me as a mother, it is disturbing to me as a United States senator, because it basically, profoundly poisons the minds of these children.”
Anyone hearing senator Clinton’s complete speech must agree that the problem should be tackled at the source, namely, the indoctrination and incitement not only in PA schoolbooks but in the mosques and media which guarantee that the conflict, terror and war will continue into the next generation.
It is not only Israel that would appreciate sound advice on how to deal with child violence; there is worldwide concern about this problem.
For example, under the headline “Number of child criminals has jumped by 13% under Labour” the Mail Online reported on March 3, 2010, that in Britain almost 160 children are convicted of crime every day – including 10-year-olds.
On September 26, 2012, Euronews reported that in Turkey, new legislation was being considered to deal with the “stone throwing problem” that especially affects Turkey’s Kurdish youth. Hundreds of minors, some as young as 12, have been prosecuted and jailed following clashes with police.
“An entire generation is growing up in the prisons in the southeast,” said a lawyer.
“They are just kids, children, whose rights are recognised by international conventions, but are being punished as if they were members of terrorist organizations under anti-terror law.”
One of the most carefully considered laws for dealing with children accused of crimes is the South African Child Justice Bill that was passed in September 2008 to deal with a situation in which between 9,000 and 13,000 children were arrested each month in the year prior to the promulgation of the Act.
According to a paper published in May 2010 by the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development the act does not do away with arresting children but it introduces a preliminary inquiry aiming to “ensure that a collective, determined effort is made to consider what should be done in the case of each child, and that the inquiry occurs within 48 hours of arrest if the child is detained. The preliminary inquiry is designed to avoid children slipping through the intended safeguards and to change negative practices from the past where insufficient attention was paid to children in the early stages of their case being processed, sometimes causing them to languish in detention for several weeks or even months.”
In its laudable humanitarian efforts and in conjunction with its vigilance in recording Israeli actions, B’Tselem would do well to seriously address the overall background to events. And Gideon Levy’s articles would be more credible if he admitted, even grudgingly, that the Palestinians also have obligations, such as ceasing to stoke the fires of hatred.
Both would be doing a service to the cause of peace if they produced more balanced reports aimed at creating better understanding of the complexities and in the spirit that being pro- Palestinian and pro-Israeli are not mutually exclusive.