What does it take to make someone wield a screwdriver and attack a fully armed, well-trained, well-protected soldier, knowing that if he got injured no ambulance would take him to hospital, and if he is lucky he will spend the best years of his life behind bars? Thaer Abu Ghazala from Shu’fat refugee camp and other minors have been doing this for years now.
The Israeli Army, formally called the Israeli Defence Forces, has occupied the West Bank for more than 50 years – neither international law, UN resolutions, civil society appeals, nor negotiations have been able to convince the occupiers to leave. On the contrary, the occupiers constantly reiterate that this occupied land according to international law is granted to them by no one other than God Himself, that it has belonged to them for thousands of years, that they are staying there forever and that there has never been a Palestinian people.
Israeli authorities are grabbing Palestinian land, building illegal settlements, seizing water resources, destroying Palestinian livelihoods in particular their farms, building advance highways strictly for Jews, and building hundreds of checkpoints on Palestinian roads. These roads are old, bumpy and Palestinians are horded along them like cattle for hours. The wall extends for 770 kilometres within Palestinian land, forcing Palestinians onto just six per cent of the West Bank.
Consider a 16-year-old who has lived all his life under occupation, has never had the chance to travel abroad, and has watched his family members be killed, imprisoned or forced to leave the country. Given how he has grown up, would it make sense for him to attack a fully grown man armed to his teeth with a screwdriver or a kitchen knife, or throw a stone at his tormentors?
Israeli occupiers have a peculiar way of explaining this situation. These teens, according to them, are no more than terrorists who come from “troubled families”. They are lured by money, instigated by terror organisations and encouraged by the leniency of Israeli democracy and the judiciary system, even though Israeli authorities demolish the attacker’s family home and in many cases leave him on the ground bleeding to death.
In 2018 B’Tselem reported that 220 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli jails. All detained Palestinian children, according to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2018, are tried in military courts, which have a near 100 per cent conviction rate. Statistics published by the Palestine Ministry of Information show that one Palestinian child has been killed every three days by Israel for the last 13 years. Issa Qaraqe, the former Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs, declared that since 1948 Israel has killed more than 2 million Palestinian children. In 2017 Israel, according to Human Rights Watch, destroyed 381 homes and other property, forcibly displacing 588 people as of 6 November in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post has reported that over 60 babies have been born after sperm was smuggled to Palestinian prisoners. Collective punishment does not stop at locking Palestinians up and depriving them of having babies. It extends to bulldozing their homes, displacing their children, and leaving them without social or economic support.
Religion today plays a pivotal role in Israeli politics like never before. No words can better describe the current Israeli situation than the words of Isaiah, who prophesied the doom of a sinful Kingdom of Juda: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, devastation and destruction are in their highways. They do not know the way of peace, and there is no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.”