As stone-throwing Palestinian children have been in the news lately it is
relevant to observe that enlistment of children to carry out these violent acts
is in effect no different than enlisting child soldiers, which is a war crime in
terms of Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal
The time has come to recognize that encouraging children to
hurl stones and firebombs, as well as using them as human shields, as practiced
by Hamas, cannot be described as anything but enlisting them to participate
actively in hostilities and therefore a war crime.
The book The
Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation, edited by Zachery Lockman and
Joel Benin, describes communiqués issued during the first intifada by the United
Leadership of the Uprising. Communiqué No. 2 says: “O youth of Palestine, O
throwers of incendiary stones, clearly the new fascists will be forced to admit
the facts entrenched by your ferocious rebellion.... Intensify the use of
popular means against all enemies beginning with the holy stones and ending with
the incendiary Molotov cocktails.”
Stones and firebombs, even thrown by
children, can cause serious and even lethal injury.
according to a report by CIF Watch, rock-throwers caused the crash which killed
Asher Hillel Palmer and his one-year-old son. Last December a rock struck a
12-year-old girl, breaking her skull and on March 14, 2013, a three-year-old
girl was in critical condition and her mother and two sisters seriously wounded
after a car accident caused by rocks thrown by Palestinians. The three-year-old
was not breathing when medics arrived at the scene. Before the accident, a
number of drivers reported rock attacks. A bus was hit with rocks and a man and
a 10-year-old boy also were injured by rocks in the same area.
recent spate of daily rock throwing near Hebron 27 youths were detained for
questioning. Most of the young children were released within a few hours and
handed over to the Palestinian police who called the parents to come and collect
them. Only seven were actually held for questioning, none of whom were
The kids who were justifiably suspected of stone throwing were
detained to enable the Israeli security forces to examine the video footage they
had in their possession, to see which of the youngsters had thrown stones, and
the suspicions were justified by the youths’ confessions to the Palestinian
Judea Brigade Commander Avi Bluth said that stone throwing at
checkpoint 160 had become a daily occurrence until the arrest of these kids,
since which the area has been very quiet.
Despite the serious nature of
these attacks, all too often even responsible media irresponsibly treat the
hurling of stones and rocks as a minor misdemeanor and protest strongly about
every effort to deal with them.
For example, despite the fact that only
seven of the 27 kids were detained, the B’Tselem website as well as an article
on March 31 by Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy described the incident as “mass
arrests,” conveying the false impression of huge numbers of children arrested
Levy contradicted himself in his article. He first claimed
the arrests were made indiscriminately, but he also tells us that when handed
over to the Palestinian police and asked who had participated in the stone
throwing, all raised their hands in the affirmative.
In the circumstances
the allegation by Haaretz and B’Tselem that there was mass detention of youths
for unspecified reasons is highly irresponsible and
B’Tselem spokesperson Sari Michaeli is quoted in a March
31 Jerusalem Post report as saying, “Even if they [minors under 12] are throwing
stones, they cannot be arrested...
there are other ways to deal with
children that throw stones.”
I’m sure the Israeli government and the IDF
would be very grateful to learn B’Tselem’s secret about how to effectively deal
with these hate-indoctrinated kids. In what other way could kids be dealt with
whose violence emanates from indoctrination to hate, not only on official PA TV
but in their school textbooks, as described by then-senator Hillary Clinton, who
said, “These textbooks do not give Palestinian children an education; they give
them an indoctrination.
When we viewed this report in combination with
other [PA] media that these children are exposed to, we see a larger picture
that is disturbing.
It is disturbing on a human level, it is disturbing
to me as a mother, it is disturbing to me as a United States senator, because it
basically, profoundly poisons the minds of these children.”
hearing senator Clinton’s complete speech must agree that the problem should be
tackled at the source, namely, the indoctrination and incitement not only in PA
schoolbooks but in the mosques and media which guarantee that the conflict,
terror and war will continue into the next generation.
It is not only
Israel that would appreciate sound advice on how to deal with child violence;
there is worldwide concern about this problem.
For example, under the
headline “Number of child criminals has jumped by 13% under Labour” the Mail
Online reported on March 3, 2010, that in Britain almost 160 children are
convicted of crime every day – including 10-year-olds.
On September 26,
2012, Euronews reported that in Turkey, new legislation was being considered to
deal with the “stone throwing problem” that especially affects Turkey’s Kurdish
youth. Hundreds of minors, some as young as 12, have been prosecuted and jailed
following clashes with police.
“An entire generation is growing up in the
prisons in the southeast,” said a lawyer.
“They are just kids, children,
whose rights are recognised by international conventions, but are being punished
as if they were members of terrorist organizations under anti-terror
One of the most carefully considered laws for dealing with children
accused of crimes is the South African Child Justice Bill that was passed in
September 2008 to deal with a situation in which between 9,000 and 13,000
children were arrested each month in the year prior to the promulgation of the
According to a paper published in May 2010 by the Department of
Justice & Constitutional Development the act does not do away with arresting
children but it introduces a preliminary inquiry aiming to “ensure that a
collective, determined effort is made to consider what should be done in the
case of each child, and that the inquiry occurs within 48 hours of arrest if the
child is detained. The preliminary inquiry is designed to avoid children
slipping through the intended safeguards and to change negative practices from
the past where insufficient attention was paid to children in the early stages
of their case being processed, sometimes causing them to languish in detention
for several weeks or even months.”
In its laudable humanitarian efforts
and in conjunction with its vigilance in recording Israeli actions, B’Tselem
would do well to seriously address the overall background to events. And Gideon
Levy’s articles would be more credible if he admitted, even grudgingly, that the
Palestinians also have obligations, such as ceasing to stoke the fires of
Both would be doing a service to the cause of peace if they
produced more balanced reports aimed at creating better understanding of the
complexities and in the spirit that being pro- Palestinian and pro-Israeli are
not mutually exclusive.
The writer is a commentator on current affairs.