Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO that collects testimonies from former Israeli soldiers about their experiences serving in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, has released a compilation of testimonies describing army mistreatment of Palestinian children. The approximately 30 soldiers interviewed describe 47 incidents that occurred between 2005 and 2011 in cities and towns across the OPT (a disproportionate number occurred in Hebron). A majority of the testimonies describe violent arrests and detention of children; others narrate encounters at check-points, at protests, and in prison.
The testimonies provide a valuable window into the thought processes of soldiers who commit human rights violations against children, often without direct orders or of their own volition.
Some cited their own youth and desire for excitement. One soldier described firing rubber-coated steel bullets at protesting children as “fun and games, elation, a chance for release.” Another described his behavior as “a twelve year old… with weapons.”
Most often, the soldiers report that they saw their violent arrest and detainment of children as a just punishment for their victims’ crimes. “We’d blindfold and shackle them… for five hours… that’s the punishment we’d give them [for petty theft],” one said. Another reflected that his treatment of children arrested for stone-throwing was “like disciplining a child, as soon as you let him do something wrong, he’ll keep doing it.” A third said that the arrests were meant to teach a “lesson” against stone-throwing.
These accounts of unofficial extrajudicial punishments are especially striking. Many of the Palestinian children arrested for stone throwing and similar crimes receive months-long prison sentences in Israeli military courts–sentences that, according to human rights groups, are disproportionate. It is alarming that Israeli soldiers believe that they, rather than the courts, are responsible for meting out justice for children’s crimes.
The full text of the report is available here.