One morning this past January a 14-year-old Palestinian boy left his school after finishing his exam. Some boys were throwing stones at an Israeli military jeep. He continued on, but was followed by Israeli soldiers who shot him with a rubber bullet, then tied his wrists and blindfolded him.
He was interrogated for hours and accused of throwing stones. He was finally released after seven days in detention and a $275 fine.
A few months later, a group of Israeli settler youth threw stones at Israeli soldiers in the same area. The soldiers arrested an 18-year-old but he was released a day later after producing evidence that he wasn’t in the area at the time.
These experiences were routine, not remarkable. But they provide a stark picture of the vastly different ways in which youth in the West Bank are treated, based solely on whether they are Palestinians or Israeli settlers.
Palestinian youth are frequently arrested simply on suspicion of throwing stones. Israeli youth who throw stones are sometimes arrested, but at times are even protected by the Israeli soldiers.
When they are arrested, Palestinians are subject to the Israeli military court system, which has a 99 percent conviction rate. Israelis are subject to the Israeli civilian court system, where there is an 8 percent chance that a charge will be brought.
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. has joined the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, which seeks to raise awareness about this vital issue and calls on U.S. policymakers to press their ally, Israel, to make changes to this deeply unjust system.
On June 8, the campaign sponsored a congressional briefing looking at the lives of Palestinian children after 50 years of Israeli military occupation. One of the speakers was Yazan Meqbil, a student at Goshen (Ind.) College.
Meqbil described the experience of being threatened with detainment, his father’s arrest and the death of two close friends. He concluded with a plea: “this is a request from a Palestinian whose childhood was taken away from him. Please do something.”
Learn more at nowaytotreatachild.org and encourage your members of Congress to raise this issue with Israeli officials.