clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The real outrage of Israeli forces beating and arresting a 15-year-old Palestinian boy is how common it is

Tariq Abu Khdeir and his mother meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas several days after Khdeir's arrest.
Tariq Abu Khdeir and his mother meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas several days after Khdeir's arrest.
Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Tariq Abu Khdeir is a 15-year-old Palestinian-American boy. He normally attends high school in Florida but, last week, was in East Jerusalem protesting alongside other Palestinians over the murder of his 17-year-old cousin, who had been burned to death by Israeli extremists. Clashes broke out between the protesters and Israeli security forces, as they often do. Police detained Khdeir and, after they'd subdued him, were captured on film beating him senseless; photos show his face swollen and purple. An Israeli court released him on bail to nine days of house arrest.

Many people in and outside of the Palestinian territories were outraged at the Israeli police's beating and detention of a 15-year-old; so was the US State Department, which said it was "profoundly troubled" by the incident. But, as Noa Yachot of the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out at the Israel-based 972 Magazine, Israeli security forces detain Palestinian children with staggering frequency.

According to a February 2013 report by UNICEF, the United Nation's Children's Fund, about 700 Palestinian minors are arrested, interrogated, and detained by Israeli security forces every year. That has been sustained for the last ten years, bringing the total to 7,000 under-age Palestinians detained by Israel, or about two per day, every day, for a decade. Almost all are boys, and according to the report many are released with substantial bruising and cuts.

According to the UNICEF report, "The common experience of many children is being aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers and being forcibly brought to an interrogation centre tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear. Few children are informed of their right to legal counsel." The most common charge is stone-throwing — as it was against Khdeir — and most detained children confess, almost always without a lawyer or parent present.

In 2009, bowing to international outrage over the prosecution of Palestinian children as young as 12 by Israeli military courts, Israeli established the world's only juvenile military court. However, Palestinians detained by Israeli security forces still typically face trial by Israeli military courts, rather than by their own Palestinian justice system, and are much more likely to be convicted than are Israelis under the Israeli civil system.

The UNICEF report concluded, "Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized." It is, in other words, another extension of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and its pernicious effect on the lives of Palestinians. The arrest and beating of 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir was unusual, and thus attention-generating, only in that he held American citizenship; in every other way, his treatment was practically routine.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.