By Candice Bodnaruk
On September 7 Larry and I had the opportunity to attend the Winnipeg launch of No Way to Treat a Child and hear lawyer Brad Park of DCI [Defense for Children International] talk about arbitrary arrests and detentions of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons (see video, above). Independent Jewish Voices is a key supporter of this campaign as well as the Mennonite Central Committee.
Israel is the only country in the world which detains 500-700 children each year under military law. Children are also tried in military courts by a military commander, not before a jury of their peers. Meanwhile, Israeli settler children and youth are subject to the civil law of Israel.
Palestinian children are also housed in Israeli prisons, which is a violation of international law and this also means the children are prevented from seeing their families for sometimes months at a time because the families are not allowed to travel into Israel. Children may also be pressured to sign confessions in Hebrew, which they may not understand.
Children may be arrested and imprisoned for a staggering ten years, for something as simple as throwing stones at Israel’s Apartheid Wall.
Parker also screened a short film, Detaining Dreams, made by the legal aid and advocacy group Defense for Children International-Palestine. The film tells the stories of four young men, all arrested by the Israel government, who spent time in Israeli jails and the long term effects incarceration has on their lives once released.
The evening was both informative and a call to action. If you haven’t heard of this campaign, visit www.nwttac.canada.dci-palestine.org for more information. There is also a petition you can sign at:www.nwttac.canada-dci-palestine.org/petition. Parker is also encouraging Canadians to sign up to visit their MPs to talk about the campaign, and how Canada, which always claims to be a voice for human rights in the world, should be speaking out against Israel’s illegal detention of children. You can do this at Canada@nowaytotreatachild.org.
Israel’s treatment of children also stands in violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child as Israel’s definition of a child is anyone under 16, whereas according to international law a child is any human being under 18. In the West Bank, Israel defines Palestinian children as anyone under 16, this does not apply to Israeli children.