On Friday, Israeli soldiers arrested a 14 year-old Palestinian American from his home in the West Bank during an overnight raid. Israeli soldiers arrested the minor, who has been identified as Mohammed K., due to his alleged involvement in throwing stones at passing Israeli vehicles on a nearby highway. According to his father, Abdelwahab Khalek, Israeli soldiers broke into his house during the night, blindfolded Mohammed, tied his hands and roughened him up as he was escorted into a vehicle that drove him to a nearby police station where he was interrogated. The Israeli soldiers did not allow Abdelwahab Khalek to accompany his son to the police station or meet him while he was being interrogated.
Randa Wahbe, advocacy officer at Addameer (Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association) stated that "Mohammad was arrested without a warrant, denied access to an attorney, and interrogated without the presence of a parent." He added, "There is also evidence that he was mistreated during his arrest and transfer. It is difficult to find a right that was not violated." This week an Israeli court allowed an extension to Mohammed’s detention and interrogation period.
The main reason why the story has been deemed newsworthy by the mainstream media is because Mohammed is a U.S. citizen. Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI (Defense for Children International)-Palestine said that "this case is exceptional only because the child happens to also have U.S. citizenship." Night-time raids and subsequent arrests of children in the West Bank is a customary and almost daily activity for the Israeli soldiers.
According to the DCI-Palestine, 6,700 Palestinian children were arrested by Israeli forces between 2000 and 2009. In 2009 the total number of children held in detention was 423. By 2010 this number had dropped to 280.
Other than the large number of children held, the UN, various humanitarian groups, and numerous NGOs have expressed a great deal of concern regarding the way in which these arrests are made and the way the detainees are handled. According to a UNICEF report released this year, arrests are almost always made during the night, between midnight and 5 a.m. Children are blindfolded, their hands are tied with plastic ties and they are subjected to verbal and physical abuse in front of their families while being transported to a detention facility and while being interrogated. UNICEF argues that this treatment is inconsistent with Israel's international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has demanded that Israel soldiers make arrests only during daylight hours, take greater care during strip searches and allow detainees access to their parents, a lawyer, medical care, proper food, and sanitary necessities.
On the other hand, stone-throwing incidents by Israeli settlers on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank are seldom reported and almost always go unpunished. In an incident in March, several Palestinian buses carrying fifth and sixth grade girls back from a field trip was attacked by Israeli settlers, severely injuring an 11-year old girl in the process. According to Yesh Din, an organization that closely monitors Israeli acts of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, of the 688 complaints filed by Palestinians against Israeli acts of violence between 2005 and 2011, only 9% resulted in an indictment.
While the Israeli forces continue to operate at will with vehement disregard to international humanitarian laws and regulations, attempts by the UN and numerous humanitarian groups have proved useless in curtailing these violations. UN resolutions and continuous demands by the international community with regard to curbing Israeli injustice in the West Bank not only with regard to the treatment of Palestinian children, but also the demolition of Palestinian buildings and the illegal Israeli-sponsored settlements, have resulted in absolutely no alterations in behavior on Israel’s part and virtually no repercussions for the Israeli state or the government.