US-Palestinian boy faces trial for stone-throwing

"The American government is obligated to do something for us," says father of 14-year-old suspected of stoning cars in W. Bank.

Palestinian throwing stones at Israeli border police 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Palestinian throwing stones at Israeli border police 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
A 14-year-old boy with dual US-Palestinian citizenship who was accused of throwing stones at cars in the West Bank went before a military court on Thursday.
The case has cast a spotlight on the hundreds of Palestinian minors detained by the military for stone-throwing.
The IDF says that the age of detainees is irrelevant when set against the fact that throwing stones can kill, but human rights groups have condemned such jailings nonetheless.
Muhammad Khalak was accused, along with two other youths, of pelting both military and civilian vehicles outside the village of Silwad.
The case was adjourned until next week.
Khalak’s father Abdulwahab accused the United States of not doing enough to help his son.
“The US government is obligated to do something for us, but it doesn’t even care. They’ve lost the issue somewhere in their back pocket,” he said, adding that consular authorities had visited the boy but not promised any help.
The US Consulate in Jerusalem declined to comment, citing American privacy laws. A US State Department spokesman in Washington on Wednesday said he was unaware of the case.
Abdulwahab said his son, born in New Orleans, was maltreated and had his teeth braces broken during the course of his arrest in the early hours of April 5 in which, he said, heavily armed soldiers entered the family home.
The IDF declined to comment on the accusations.
Defense of Children International, a human rights group, says that there are 236 Palestinian minors aged 12-17 among a total 4,800 Palestinians in Israeli jails.
“The Israeli military’s treatment of Muhammad Khalak is appalling and all too common,” said Bill Van Esveld, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“There’s no justification for... shackling him for 12 hours and interrogating him while refusing to let him see his father or a lawyer.”
Stones thrown by Palestinians at an Israeli vehicle outside Ariel last month caused a car crash that left a three-year-old critically injured. In 2011, Palestinian youths hit the car of American- born settler Yonatan Palmer with rocks outside Hebron, killing him and his infant son.
“These kinds of events show you that throwing stones is not a game – it endangers innocent lives,” said an IDF spokesman. “The thrower’s age doesn’t change the fact that these objects kill, and it’s something we take seriously.”
Israeli military law in place in the West Bank prescribes a maximum of 20 years in jail for throwing rocks at vehicles, though offenders usually receive much shorter terms.
Palestinians complain that they face regular stone-throwing by settlers and say that soldiers seldom intervene, even when they witness the incidents.
At the end of last month, Palestinian officials said two Palestinian school buses were hit by settlers throwing stones, leaving seven children lightly wounded.
Two Palestinian teenagers throwing Molotov cocktails at soldiers died during clashes between protesters and troops last week, as popular resentment against the IDF and its detention system led to weeks of street protests.
“Look at this oppression – a big, strong army has nothing to do but harass little kids? Is this justice? Is this peace?” said Ali Hamed as he watched his 16-year-old son Imad, another suspect from Silwad accused of stone-throwing, in the courtroom dock on Thursday.