By Elizabeth, Southern West Bank.
Bara is sixteen. His name translates as “innocent”. He has lived all his life with his parents, brothers and sister in a village near Beit Sahour, Bethlehem. Bara is now in detention in Ramallah. Although only 14 miles away, it can take three hours to reach Ramallah from their village because of Israeli checkpoints.
When EAs visited Bara’s home with Tasir the local authority manager, Bara’s father was at work but his softly-spoken mother Aziza agreed to talk with us. In a calm, dignified manner she told of Bara’s arrest. “Seven soldiers came to the house at half past two in the morning. They told us Bara had been throwing stones that day. My husband told the soldiers Bara had been with him working on the land and had not thrown stones. The soldiers took no notice. They took Bara away.”
Internment, or administrative detention as it is often referred to in Palestine, is illegal under Article 79 of the 4th Geneva Convention, unless under exceptional circumstances. This was not an exceptional circumstance but an all too common event and carried out contrary to UNICEF’s recommendations.
Recently the Israeli Knesset voted to increase the law for throwing stones to twenty years, if intent to inflict harm can be proved. The Times of Israel reported Israel’s Minister of Justice justifying this sentence, saying stone throwing is an “act of terrorism”. Jamal Zahalka a Joint (Arab) List Member of the Knesset (MK) criticised the legislation as hypocritical and unjust, “Imagine bringing before a truly just judge the stone thrower as well as those responsible for him throwing stones. Who would the judge put in jail? The one destroying (the stone thrower’s) home, expropriating his lands, killing his brother, or the boy who threw a stone? You are picking on the person who responded to the major injustices. Those who demolish homes receive medals, but the boy whose anger is justified is imposed with punishment.”
Sometimes settlers (Israelis living in Palestine contrary to international law) accuse Palestinians of throwing stones and, with no proof, violently threaten them and their family.
Meanwhile, Aziza tells us of her anxieties. No one in Bara’s immediate family has been detained. Tasir informs us that in recent months twenty boys have been detained from Tuqu’; seventeen are still in prison. He adds “it’s Israel’s way of intimidating the next generation. Israel justifies the arrests by accusing the boys of throwing stones. Very often the boys are innocent but that is always the accusation.”
On August 3rd the Knesset agreed the administrative detention of Israeli settlers. Seven adult settlers were detained on 9th August suspected of the fatal arson attack in Duma. They were released on 10th August.
Aziza knows how scared Bara will be. She says “we are all frightened” and points to Bara’s brother, five year old Kossi who, like the rest of the family, saw the heavily armed soldiers fill his home and take Bara away.
Aziza’s face shows all the strain and anxiety of recent days. While interned, children miss out on education, contrary to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Also, human rights groups have documented that many Palestinian children are subject to physical abuse while in prison and can be held for months without trial. Her pain and anxiety are entirely understandable.
Aziza asks us not to take a photograph of her, but her haunted face shows her anguish, and speaks of her distress and sadness in a way words cannot fully convey.
Read the full article about the new legislation on stone throwing from the Times of Israel at: http://www.timesofisrael.com/knesset-increases-stone-throwers-sentences/