It was an average day in the occupied territories. Heavily armed Israeli soldiers arrested a 9 year old boy from his elementary school, brandishing their guns and threatening everyone around them.
— CNN (@CNN) April 1, 2019
This is a regular occurrence in the West Bank, where young Palestinian children are routinely assaulted and arrested by Israeli soldiers, often no older than 18 themselves, but conscripted by their government to enforce an oppressive military occupation. You may remember, for instance the arrest and prosecution of a young Palestinian girl who had the temerity to slap a soldier who barged into her yard.
Israeli soldiers wield deadly force against Palestinian children quite regularly. DCI-Palestine reports 56 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces in 2018. Israel’s army prosecutes 700 Palestinian children in military courts every year, which lack basic safeguards. Israeli children in the same region are sent to civilian courts.
Soldiers routinely flaunt even their draconian military laws. The age of culpability is 12, which makes the arrest of this 9 year old illegal. By the way, they also wanted to arrest a 7 year old, but the teachers managed to hide him in a classroom.
The day before we met, human rights campaigner Aref Jaber recorded the arrest of a 9-year-old Palestinian boy, taken out of school in the West Bank city of Hebron by armed Israeli soldiers. His footage shows soldiers inside Ziad Jaber elementary school, arguing with the school principal and other teachers, as they attempt to remove Zein Idris and his 7-year-old brother Taim.
At one point on the video, one of the teachers is told that if he does not let go of Zein, the soldier will break the teacher’s arm. The age of criminal culpability in Israel — under both civilian and military law — is 12, but when the principal points out that the brothers are just young children, an Israeli officer replies, “They threw stones, I don’t care how old they are.”
Taim was hidden in a classroom but, as the video shows, Zein was eventually frog-marched away and taken to an army vehicle. According to the school and residents of the neighborhood, he was taken off to a nearby military post and held for just under an hour. — www.cnn.com/…
That phrase “break your arm” is a familiar one to Palestinians, many of their bodies bear the physical scars of the occupation. Yitzhak Rabin, who is now lionized as a peace-maker, ordered soldiers to “break the bones” of Palestinian protesters during the First Intifada. In the recent protests in Gaza, tens of thousands of protesters have been shot and injured.
If this also reminds you of incidents in the US, that is not coincidence. Oppression, dehumanization, other-ing, racism and militarization work the same way all over the world.
We don’t even have to reach for analogies, we can find elected politicians in the US loudly trumpeting the same kind of institutionalized anti-Palestinian bias that leads to soldiers aiming rifles at teachers to drag a 9 year old from his elementary school.
In my own city, which is one of the most diverse in the world, one of our council members could not resist the temptation to indulge in some Palestine-bashing via tweet:
Palestine does not exist.
There, I said it again.
Also, Congresswoman Omar is an antisemite. Said that too.
Thanks for following me. https://t.co/apM565HoEV
— Kalman Yeger ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם (@KalmanYeger) March 27, 2019
The prominence of Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib has brought a whole bunch of anti-Palestinian bias out in the open. This is similar to the dynamic that brought a lot more anti-black racism out in the open after Obama’s election.
Yeger knows of course that this claim “there is no such place as Palestine” has been used for decades to aid the oppression of Palestinians. It is not an accident that many of the same people who demand politicians proclaim Israel’s “right to exist” are also silent when people deride Palestinian rights, or even existence. They can be forgiven for thinking they can continue to get away with it. After all, we have streets named after Golda Meir who proudly proclaimed “There were no such thing as Palestinians. […] They did not exist.”
But times are slowly changing. Mr. Yeger (who is a Democrat by the way), was promptly removed from the immigration committee. Since a sizable portion of New York’s immigrant population is middle-eastern, they presumably would likely not take kindly to someone who denies their very existence as a people.
Mr. Yeger’s remarks came after Zainab Iqbal, a journalist for Bklyner, reported that Mr. Yeger had referred to “so-called Palestinians” in a tweet. He responded by calling Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota anti-Semitic. The councilman’s pronouncements led to a cascade of criticism calling his comments “hateful” and “Islamophobic,” and prompted demands for an apology and his removal from the City Council’s immigration committee. […]
On Monday, the City Council’s leadership team met for more than an hour and decided to remove Mr. Yeger from the immigration committee, The New York Times has learned. There was “broad consensus” that Mr. Yeger’s views were inconsistent with the committee’s mission, participants said. […]
Mr. Yeger’s earlier remarks led to a small protest by pro-Palestinian groups outside his office in Borough Park, which was met with a much larger counterprotest from Mr. Yeger’s supporters, including one incident where a protester asked a Muslim woman whether her young daughter had “any bombs on her to blow us up.” — www.nytimes.com/…
PS. While you’re here, please go and view Assaf’s excellent series on the upcoming Israeli elections, the fourth installment is here: Israeli Election Circus 2019, Act 4: 3 Super-Generals and A Clown