Part II: The Palestinian Political Prisoners We Do Not Hear About
September 23, 2003
The update from Defence of Children International-Palestine on the status of their lawyer, Daoud Dirawi is not good. He was due to be released on September 2nd, 2003 but was informed that his administrative detention would be renewed for another 6 months.
Israel has democratic laws on its statutes, but Dirawi has no charges against him and did not go before a court of law. His administrative detention was renewed via the military. Surrealistically this scene can be played over and over again indefinitely. He was first arrested February 21, 2003. Between then and now he has been abused; his jaw was dislocated and he was left without medical attention; in pain and without the ability to eat.
Because of mainstream media's continued limited perspective concerning Israel and the Occupied Territories, initial reaction from the public at large may be to wonder and speculate about a connection to terrorism. Daoud Dirawi was taken into custody while attempting to purchase medicine for his two-year-old daughter in Jerusalem. However, he has, indeed, a direct connection and a special association with those who are terrorized.
Daoud Dirawi is a coordinator for the Juvenile Justice Program, funded by UNICEF. As a lawyer for the Defence of Children International (DCI) his job involved going from prison to prison, checking on the Palestinian children kept in Israeli prisons and taking their statements and testimonies. The children who are held captive in Israeli prisons come directly from the constant open terror where they live inside the Occupied Territories to the confined horrors and terrors of prison life. Many of them, like their lawyer, are imprisoned under illegal administrative detentions. Many have been remanded in collective round-ups. No charges are filed and they can be held like this indefinitely and without legal recourse. They are children who have disappeared from their families, as Daoud has disappeared from his wife and small daughter.
Before he was detained, abused and imprisoned, Daoud traveled on this different kind of Road Map. It was a journey that led him to places where children are traumatized on a daily basis. Some of the horror that they face in abuse is equivalent to what adults in Israeli prisons are subjected to and suffer: beatings, shabeh (positional torture), verbal abuse in the form of shouting of threats and abuse; blindfolding and hands tied; sleep and toilet deprivations. And of course, combine this with the standard lack of medical treatment, extremes in temperature, over-crowding, inadequate nutrition.
Presently, the youngest child suffering in this form of captivity is 13 years old.
Last month there were false hopes for the families of child prisoners; followed by a sad sense of shallowness and insincerity prompted by Israel's so-called gesture of goodwill that released some political prisoners. It was soon discovered that most of these selected prisoners were about to be released in another month or two anyway. There were 13 children out of the 443 being held who were released. Almost all of them were due to be released. One can be glad for their sooner than later, while at the same time frustrated, angered and deeply saddened by all the other children belonging to families that were optimistic about seeing their children again.
The political prisoners being held under administrative detentions are actually in worse precarious standing than before the ceasefire. After each individual act of terrorism, massive and collective punishments that include children, take place in the Occupied Territories. Do not presume that these prisons where children are detained house only Islamic terrorists. There are those prisoners who are charged and linked to terrorism and there is the normal criminal element who are being punished for an assortment of criminal charges, but also consider that administrative detainment has been used widely against the very men and women Israel claims to desire in Palestinian leadership; men and women of good conscience who choose to exercise their right of protest in non-violent forms. It seems insanely ironic for the IDF to deliver non-violent protesters to prisons when Israel needs to feel safe from violent protesters before further Peace negotiations. Wouldn't those be the very men and women of greatest import to a more peaceful clime in Palestine?
Since August and the most recent suicide bombings, the IDF has embarked upon widespread mass retaliations against groups of civilians at large. Can one imagine how a Palestinian parent must rationalize the cruelty and harshness of separation in the form of a child's detainment in prison relative to the present statistic on the children being shot and killed on their way to school?
This brings up a further important question and issue: Who do you think is more afraid, the Israeli in the nightclub? or the Palestinian child on their way to school?
The only difference is, one is vulnerable to a terrorist who wears a uniform and represents a government, while another is vulnerable to one who stalks and recruits those deranged enough to wear a bomb. Opinion of who has a greater right to existence seems acutely reflected in media coverage.
September 1st a small girl named Aya Fayad, age 8 was shot and killed in the Occupied Territories while riding her bicycle. Most of the world did not hear or read about her "routine" shooting. She was but one child; but one who was precious.
Who are these uniformed carriers of terror and why did we not hear about them?
According to DCI, there has been a steady and continuous rise in IDF violence against Palestinian children. Today, while I was writing this, I received a report that Jenin was once again invaded and 5 children shot. I have yet to read about this in the news medias.
While the Israeli government awaits the rebuilding of the infrastructure that they rather purposefully destroyed, in order for Palestine to be "responsible" for individual acts of terrorism, the Palestinian children in Israeli prisons receive an education from the Israeli government. It is not a humanitarian education and it is not an education that will serve peace.
We may wonder, do they stand next to actual terrorists? Do they sit and have meals with pacifists or non-violent protesters and do they shower with the regular criminal element of thieves and offenders? We do not know much about them and with their lawyer gone it is more difficult to find out. But one can fairly surmise that the prison experience for a Palestinian child will not be a positive reinforcement that will lead them towards being better and stronger individuals in a civil society.
Since first writing about Daoud Dirawi's illegal administrative detainment and the situation about the children in Israel's prisons, I attended the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society In Support Of the Palestinian People. While there was much discussion and meaningful dialogue with regards to awareness and actions, there were also audience participants intent upon discussing such Talmudic topics as zionism vs. anti-zionism. Another audience member felt the need to defend Israel's right to nationalism.
No one had expressed any interest in zionism nor asserted any denials concerning Israel's right to nationalism. The word "anti-Semitism" was predictably thrown about more than once, but not in context with how Semites in the Occupied Territories suffer racism, hatred and abuse; included with Palestinians are also Bedouins and Arab-Israelis.
Why is it? whenever anyone ever criticizes the country of Israel, they are accused of anti-Semitism? If I criticize Italy, am I anti-Italian? Will the Pope send his intelligence officers to investigate me because I pose a threat in criticizing him? If I condemn a dictator in a South American country, am I hailed as anti-hispanic even though my mother was born in Honduras? And if that country is primarily Catholic, am I anti-Catholic?
If I criticize my government's involvement in funding Israel' s illegal disregard for International and Humanitarian Laws, am I now anti-American?
I write to you as a sincere and dedicated American who urges all in America AND around the world to take a long and critical look into Israel's illegal practices especially with regards to children and the great hindrance this creates towards embarking upon a path towards meaningful and lasting peace in the Middle East.
The issues we need and must address are clear and demand our immediate attention. That is:
International and Humanitarian Laws are Non-Negotiable
While Israel demands that Palestine take responsibility for attacks by individual suicide bombers, we must demand that Israel be responsible for its attacks upon civilian populations that include international peace workers and children. We must condemn Israel's blatant disregard of International and Humanitarian Laws. Americans, in particular, must demand that representatives confront these issues and investigate American dollar support that helps fund terrorism perpetrated against an entire generation of Palestinian children.
The International and Humanitarian Laws are clear and well defined. If the Israeli government has nothing to hide, it should welcome closer scrutiny that will prove its respect and compliance with International and Humanitarian Laws. American tax dollars used to support offensives against children and civilian populations in the Occupied Territories is counter productive to peace and morally and ethically wrong. In writing about all of this and educating a public about these issues, I am made poignantly aware of other situations that have involved fascism, apartheid and ethnic cleansings.
I would remind my readers who either deny or who suggest an exaggeration of truth: that it is YOUR moral obligation to discover the truth and to discover why it is so often misrepresented by the mainstream medias.
One person who asks can inspire another and another and another and until adequate answers are provided, we must all keep asking.
For further information about the children:
Please refer to the DCI web site at www.dci-pal.org or call +972 (0)2 240 7530 and ask for: George Abu al-Zuluf: Director or
Annelien Groten: International Advocacy Officer
or mail email@example.com
For further statistics and definitions of administrative detentions and political prisoners in general see:
"No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age" (Article 37, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)
Mary La Rosa is an artist and librarian living close to New York City
Mary La Rosa