Tag Archives: Defence for Children International – Palestine Section

My provocative question to the panel at “Israel tortures Palestinian children” event.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Mohammed Abu al Reesh, Bernard Regan at SOAS last night.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Mohammed Abu al Reesh, Bernard Regan at SOAS last night.

Last night I asked a provocative question. At SOAS Palestine Society’s Palestinian Child Prisoners: How the Israeli military criminalises a generation I asked Mohammed Abu al Reesh and Ayed Abu Eqtaish what they would like to say to the family of Asher Palmer and his son, one year old Yonatan, both killed when a rock thrown by a Palestinian smashed through the windscreen of the car in which Asher was driving his little boy.

I know it was a “provocative question” because Bernard Regan, who was chairing the meeting, prefaced my question by instructing his audience not to respond to questioners “even if the question seems provocative” but to leave it to the panel to respond.

My “provocative question” was in response to Abu al Reesh, an ex-rock-thrower-turned-journalist, who is on a UK wide tour speaking about his time in Israeli prisons, and Abu Eqtaish, who works for Defence For Children International Palestine Section.

Mohammed Abu al Reesh now works for Al Quds newspaper, but when he was 15 years old he was approached by an Israeli army jeep during a curfew. He claims he was beaten up and so threw stones at the jeep in response. He said he was then arrested at 3am in the night, handcuffed, placed in a military vehicle under the feet of Israeli soldiers and taken away.

He alleged that during his first interrogation he was punched, slapped and threatened with sexual harassment by means of using a stick. During transfers between detention centres he was tied by his arms to the roof of the vehicle.

On reaching Atzion detention centre near Hebron, he continued, he was pushed down the stairs and was put in a small cell with 12 people in it. The cell, he said, had a bad smell and dirty mattresses and inmates were only allowed to go to the toilet once a day and had to use plastic bottles to pee in for the remainder of the day. Food, he said, was little and of poor quality consisting mainly of food left uneaten by Israeli soldiers.

Eventually he reached a plea bargain and spent 28 months in Damon prison near Haifa and by the end of his prison term he said he had skin problems and was weak physically. The good news, he said, was that he could sit his High School exams while in prison and scored a mark of 72. Two weeks after his release he enrolled at Al Quds University where he studied journalism for four years.

Within a year of leaving university he was working for Al Quds newspaper where he covers the arrest of children. And now he’s here on a UK wide speaking tour.

Next, Ayed Abu Eqtaish claimed that Israeli interrogators use psychological torture techniques on children in order to try to extract proper confessions. These include lengthy spells of solitary confinement after which a child will become “eager for human contact” and, therefore, more likely to confess. They also include, he said, threats of sexual abuse, threats to throw the child out of a window and threats made against members of the child’s family.

Abu Eqtaish said there is no point complaining because the Israeli authorities always close any case they open on the basis that there is “no cooperation from the child or the family”. He said that 60% of prosecutions are for stone throwing and there is a 99.74% conviction rate overall.

I was barracked from the moment I entered the lecture theatre to the moment I left it, with one woman screaming “Why is he here?”

I wasn’t barracked by students though. You see, despite it being a student society event there were hardly any students in the 70 strong audience, which seemed to consist mainly of teachers who were members of the NUT.

Bernard Regan, who chaired the event, is Trade Union Officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a leading figure in the Socialist Teachers Alliance.

Kirri Tunks, who also spoke, belongs to the East London Teachers Association. She was there last night to urge people to sign a pledge ensuring “the rights of Palestinian children”. I was there, yes, but at least I’m a SOAS alumnus, and a proud one.

A father had even brought his young son, who could not have been more than 10 years old. The young boy heard a woman in the audience make the allegation that when she had recently visited Hebron stones had been thrown at her by Israeli “settlers” while some of her friends had “faeces and urine thrown at them”.

With a room full of teachers, Abu Eqtaish who works for an organisation dedicated to child welfare and Abu al Reesh who has been able to make something positive out of his teenage rock-throwing and imprisonment I was hoping, although not expecting, that someone might have at least a word of sympathy for the family of one year old Yonatan Palmer, who now lies in his tiny grave because of another Palestinian rock-thrower.

And so I asked Abu al Reesh  and Abu Eqtaish my “provocative question”. This was Abu Eqtaish’s whole and sole response:

“This question should be directed to the Israeli government who broke international law by bringing 500,000 illegal settlers into occupied Palestinian territories. Their existence in the occupied territories is illegal, so the family of the child should sue the Israeli government for what was done against them.”

As for Mohammed Abu al Reesh, ex-rock-thrower-turned-journalist, he remained silent and just gave a long, chilling stare.

I’m still trying to work out which of these two responses is more despicable.

PSC brings allegations of Israel torturing children to the National Union of Teachers.

Photo on flyer for last night's Palestinian Child Prisoners event held at NUT.

Photo on flyer for last night's Palestinian Child Prisoners event held at NUT.

Israel hate came to the National Union of Teachers last night when the PSC was allowed to hold one of its meetings at the NUT’s sumptuous Hamilton House HQ in Euston, London.

About 80 teachers heard PSC Honorary President Betty Hunter call for a boycott of security firm G4S because of its work with Israel. G4S is tasked with securing the Olympics. Imagine the chaos in the UK this summer if the PSC had its way.

Chairing the event was Geoffrey Bindman of Bindman’s solicitors and the event was opened by Kevin Courtney, the Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, who welcomed us.

The title of the event was Bound, Blindfolded & Convicted: Palestinian Child Prisoners and the main speaker was Gerard Horton of Defence for Children International – Palestine Section who presented us with his organisation’s just released report Bound, Blindfolded & Convicted: Children held in military detention.

Horton had recently presented a similar talk at this year’s NUT annual conference.

Here is the 144 page report which took four years to compile. The report was based on interviews with 311 Palestinian children mainly aged from 14 to 17 (116 were 14-15 and 176 were 16-17).

97% of the testimonies were by males. Most arrests were for alleged stone throwing.

The report also contains 25 individual case studies of alleged bad treatment and/or torture by Israel.

The range of common complaints of the 311 included hand ties (95%), blindfolds (90%), physical violence (75%), detention inside Israel in violation of article 76 (63%), arrested between midnight and 5am (60%), confession during interrogation (58%), threats (57%), verbal abuse and/or humiliation (54%), strip searched (33%), transferred on floor of vehicle (32%), signed/shown documents written in Hebrew (29%), solitary confinement (12%).

So either Israel has a lot to answer for in its treatment of Palestinian children or someone somewhere is making a lot of money at the taxpayers’ expense producing what amounts to nothing more than anti-Israel propaganda.

Here’s some information about Defence for Children International – Palestine Section courtesy of NGO Monitor:

Its revenues in 2008 were $1,084,357. Known support includes a 600,000 Euro grant from the EU for the period 2009-2012 for a project called “Promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children affected by armed conflict and occupation.” It is receiving $639,000 from Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and Holland and £12,500 from the UK. It is an active supporter and promoter of boycott campaigns against Israel. It supported the Goldstone Report. It published a list of 352 children who died during Operation Cast Lead but some of them have been identified by B’Tselem as combatants. It continues to promote the libel of a “Jenin massacre” on its website. It calls for Israel to recognise the “right of return” for Palestinians.

The main problem with the report is that, unless I am missing something, you cannot properly identify any of the 311 who gave testimony. There is also an interview with an Israeli soldier from Breaking The Silence where the interviewee is merely known as “Soldier”.

Last night Gerard Horton quoted from Breaking The Silence’s own website, a website that, again, contains anonymous testimony from Israeli soldiers.

But surely, with the alleged offences being so serious some people, at least, need to be named. As a solicitor Geoffrey Bindman, himself, would acknowledge that the report lacks credibility and wouldn’t stand up in a proper court of law.

Gerard Horton seemed to be very pleased with himself that testimonies from 311 people had been taken. But even if the report was based on the testimonies of 3,110 people the result is the same if they are anonymous.

After his short talk Gerard Horton showed us this Defence for Children International propaganda clip starring both himself and anti-Zionist activist Jeff Halper who wishes to boycott Israel out of existence. We  are shown Palestinian children with bruised eyes and swollen wrists allegedly inflicted by Israeli soldiers, but who really knows the truth behind the bruises and swellings.

On her way out one of the teachers told me that Israel is acting like the Nazis did. It’s a frightening prospect if any of your children are being taught by her.

In the meantime NGOs like DCI- PS need to be producing properly substantiated reports. Only then can the quote by Mark Regev, that Gerard Horton is so keen on, that “The test of a democracy is how you treat people incarcerated, people in jail, and especially so with minors” be tested with reference to Israel.

Otherwise what is the point of this NGO being heavily financed by us, the taxpayer? And what is a union like the NUT doing hosting what amounted to an evening of anti-Israel propaganda? Hasn’t the NUT got enough problems to sort out for its own members?