No Way to Treat a Child

“The life of a Palestinian child is one of fear, humiliation, and rage.”

That’s a statement from one of four young Palestinian males featured in the video Detaining Dreams by Defence for Children International.

The video chronicles the experiences of four boys arrested and detained by the Israeli military. It was the centrepiece of the workshop No Way to Treat a Child offered at the Festival of Faith held in connection with the meeting of the 43rd General Council.

The workshop reflects a partnership among Defence for Children International-Palestine, The United Church of Canada, the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel, and several other organizations to highlight and end the arrest and incarceration of Palestinian children.

In the video, four Palestinian boys tell the story of their arrests, incarceration, and eventual release.

In simple but graphic detail they describe their arrests, beatings, transport, torture, interrogation, psychological abuse, ill treatment, deprivation, walking long distances to induce exhaustion, blindfolding, being hand-cuffed and ankle-cuffed, and forced confessions.

One young man reported being stripped and held in a cold cell.

“Three-quarters endure some form of physical violence following arrest,” said the Rev. Steve Berube, who led the workshop. “They were not informed of their rights in 84 percent of cases.”

“Each year, between 500 and 700 children are arrested and appear in military courts—with a 99.75 percent conviction rate,” said Berube.

The most common conviction is for throwing stones. And the punishment, typically, is up to 10 years for throwing stones against a wall, and up to 20 years for throwing stones at a person.

While the full length of these sentences is rarely carried out, the conviction stays on the record of these young people for the rest of their lives.