Reports on the meetings of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children are routine in many media outlets. In recent years, major stories have appeared with some regularity in the Guardian, Al Jazeera, and the Independent, among other publications. Israeli media outlets, including Haaretz, frequently report on the experiences of Palestinian children in the West Bank. And, of course, Palestinian and other Arabic-language sources regularly document the experiences of individual children in detail.
In the United States, in contrast, the experiences of Palestinian children have not been a primary focus of the mainstream media. Even publications with bureaus in the region, such as the New York Times, do not report on the issue with any frequency. In 2012 and 2013, however, major American media outlets ran a wave of stories about the experiences of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation–bringing the issue to much greater prominence.
In early summer 2012, the Palestinian-Israeli coproduction Five Broken Cameras began screening in American theaters. The film provided audiences with a childs-eye view of the Israeli occupation. Its child protagonist, the director’s son Jibril, grows up surrounded by both the subtle violence of occupation and direct confrontations between local protestors and Israeli soldiers. The film’s most moving sequences include the funeral of a young boy killed in a demonstration and the late-night arrest of one of Jibril’s prepubescent neighbors. The film was released widely in the United States and was nominated for an Academy Award–giving thousands of Americans an intimate window into the lives of Jibril and other Palestinian children.
In the first months of 2012, the New York Times and New York Times Magazine sent reporters to an-Nabi Salah, the Palestinian village where, according to popular rumor, the Israeli army responds most violently to civilian protest. That February, the paper profiled a Palestinian teenager who, like many of his neighbors, was arrested as a child (in his case, at 14) and pressured to inform on his neighbors for protest activities. The article described the violence of the teenager’s arrest and detention. Most significantly, it narrated the aftermath of the arrest: the teenager’s struggle to resume relationships with his classmates and neighbors after, under severe pressure from interrogators, he informed on other members of the community.
In March 2013, the Times Magazine published a lengthy feature about the protest movement in an-Nabi Salah. The piece included detailed depictions of the community’s children at protest, as well as a moving scene of a late-night army raid on the home of a young family.
The following month, on 19 April, National Public Radio’s This American Life series released its own report from an-Nabi Salah. The piece described the late-night raids on households with children that are common across the West Bank. The report echoed the conclusion of many Palestinians that such raids are designed to instill fear in even the youngest Palestinians, rather than to directly tackle illegal or violent activities in the civilian population.