In part two of a special report to El País, Nobel literature prizewinner Mario Vargas Llosa describes “Israel’s… systematic intimidation and psychological destabilization of [Palestinian] children and teenagers between the ages of 12 to 17.” He writes about this harsh reality with detail which makes its sever psychological ramifications clear.
The report is the result of touring with “Breaking the Silence” which included meeting Salwa Duaibis (Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling) and Gerard Horton (Military Court Watch) as part of a “Breaking the Silence” project which brought renowned authors to learn and write about the occupation.
Vargas Llosa writes of the methods of intimidation:
“This is done by “demonstrating the ubiquitous presence” of the Israeli Defense Forces, “the cauterization of the conscience” and “simulated operations disturbing the peace”. In other words, generating panic to prevent terror.
“[…] The operations designed to induce panic are generally carried out at night by masked soldiers who first throw grenades into homes accompanied by shouting, with the aim of frightening families – above all, the children. These raids come out of the blue and are carefully orchestrated. The teenager or child who has been betrayed by an informer is blindfolded and handcuffed. The young suspects are then taken away in a truck, usually on the floor of the truck with the soldiers’ feet on top of them and the odd kick to keep them scared.
“In the interrogation room, they are left tied up on the floor for five to 10 hours. This helps to lower their morale and frighten them further. The subsequent interrogation follows a pattern; they are advised to admit to throwing stones, which will get them no more than two or three months behind bars. Otherwise, they will have to wait seven or eight months for their case to go to trial, which could means a worse sentence.
“Once the IDF have the youngsters’ full attention, there is a suggestion that they become informants. They may be warned they could be tortured or raped, abuses that are not usually carried out, except in exceptional circumstances. Often all that needs to be implied is that the army will come for their nearest and dearest – often their mother or sister. Some youngsters agree then to become informers and almost always come out of the experience confused and disgusted with themselves. According to those behind the procedure, this vulnerable state of mind reduces the potential threat posed by the youngster. It’s also quite likely to affect the entire family.
“The object is not so much to identify the stone-throwers as to introduce an element of fear and insecurity into homes and villages through their children. Fearful of falling victim to one of these nighttime raids in which their homes will be trashed and their children arrested, families become less of a threat. Nonsensical rules, curfews, sudden changes to routine and daily upheavals are part of the same strategy. Confusion and upheaval make conspiracy harder. Thanks to the raids, the Palestinian population remains psychologically disarmed.”