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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to deal with stone-throwing kids

Two months ago, we got a call one day from one of my children's school. One of our children, we were told, had been throwing rocks at passing cars, and could we please come get him. My oldest child is 27, so I have had children in school for a long time. This was the first time we had ever been called to school to pick up a child. We would have read the child the riot act (and the principal did read him the riot act), except that it turned out that the story was grossly exaggerated. The child and three of his friends were having a competition during recess to see who could throw the inedible fruit produce of one of the bushes the furthest. They threw too far and hit some parked cars belonging to some people who have an office in the school's basement.

Knowing how I reacted to hearing that my child was throwing rocks at passing cars - even though it turned out to be wrong - I cannot understand the indifference with which other parents in another part of town react when their children are caught throwing stones and the police come and get them at 3:00 am.
In a report to be released on Monday, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, slammed the Jerusalem Police for “systematically violat[ing] the law” for treatment of east Jerusalem minors being investigated for their role in stone-throwing.

B’Tselem accuses the police of waking boys as young as eight in the middle of the night and taking them to the police station for interrogation, not allowing parents to attend their questioning, and using extreme violence and handcuffs on children.

B’Tselem said these rights for children were protected by the Youth Law, an Israeli law that adopts most of the UN’s positions on children’s rights.

The Jerusalem Police dismissed the report.

“It is known that the role of the police is to maintain public order and defend the peace, including in instances when the public order is disturbed by children,” the police said in a statement. The police said that they always gave parents the option of attending interrogations, and that children were only awakened in the middle of the night for questioning “for accepted operational reasons related to the good of the investigation.”

According to B’Tselem, from November 2009 to October 2010, 81 minors from Silwan were arrested or detained, many of them more than once. Nearly 40 percent of these boys were arrested or detained in the month following the September 22 death of Silwan resident Samer Sirkhan, who was killed by an Israeli private security guard.

Statistics from previous years were not available from either B’Tselem or the police, though police agreed there was a “worrisome increase” in violent incidents, especially rock-throwing, in the past year in east Jerusalem. The widespread problem was captured by the international media when Elad (Ir David Foundation) head David Be’eri ran into two youths who were throwing rocks at his car on October 8.

At a meeting of the Knesset’s Committee on the Rights of the Child following the Be’eri incident, police said they were frustrated that their hands were tied when dealing with younger and younger boys who were throwing rocks. In October, police examined the idea of holding the parents responsible for their children’s actions, but have not finalized any new plans.


In October, police called Gnaith’s father to tell him to report with Gnaith at the police station the next day for an investigation into a second stone-throwing incident. Gnaith was kept in detention for one day, and released after his parents left a NIS 5,000 guarantee, a check that the police did not deposit but will hold in case Gnaith is arrested again.
Well, how do you deal with these kids? No one here really knows. You can't exactly lock up an eight-year old. On the other hand, giving a 15-year old stone thrower a few days in jail ought to put a little bit of fear into him. But it doesn't.

The bigger issue is how to deal with parents who are apparently indifferent to the fact that their kids are in the streets throwing stones. Here's the end of this story. "Arouri" is Amer Arouri, B'Tselem's 'east' Jerusalem field worker.
Gnaith’s story is just one of hundreds. According to B’Tselem, the Jerusalem District Police opened 1,267 criminal files against Arab minors living in east Jerusalem who were accused of throwing rocks. Though the police only took action in a fraction of these cases, 32 youths from Silwan were arrested or detained in October 2010 alone. Some have been arrested several times.

The question remains, if the youth in Silwan are suffering so badly from the punishments and harsh treatment by police, why do they continue to throw stones at cars driving through their neighborhood every day.

“Even after the punishment, they still live in the same situation – there’s an occupation, there are settlers...there’s the wall, checkpoints, no work,” Aruri said.

The children will continue to throw stones, he said, because there’s no other action they can take. “There’s no hope in the future,” he said.
Sorry but I don't accept the last two paragraphs. An 8-year old doesn't know about the wall or checkpoints. A 15-year old may not either. These kids aren't throwing stones because they feel 'oppressed.' They're throwing stones because grown-ups - including their own parents - are sending them out to be canon fodder. For that, the parents should be sitting in jail.

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At 5:56 AM, Blogger ais cotten19 said...

Yeah, these kids don't have ANY options other than to throw rocks. After all, why would anyone choose an easily accessible higher education when they can pursue a career in terrorism? I'm so glad that becoming a terrorist wasn't an option when I was a kid - I never would have enrolled in college!

At 6:05 AM, Blogger Bognor Regis Herald said...

Your national tragedy is that you fail to appreciate, for all sorts of reasons, that the rest of the world sees you in occupation there, not as having national sovereignty over that part of Jersusalem. Your views might count if these were Israelis in free Israel. They are Palestinian kids in occupied East Jersusalem and an 8 year old knows well enough about being in an occupied territory.

You cannot pretend this is a normal situation. You think and behave as if that area is part of Israel and your nation clearly has the force of arms to insist it is. At least for now. The UN Charter is based on a major fundamental premise, that the world should cease accepting THAT as the way things can be done. The war that caused that Charter to come into being saw such tactics used to secure possession. Did that make the people of Poland or France accept the occupation as OK?

No matter what YOU believe is the proper, historic, moral or religious status of East Jerusalem, you will NEVER get those kids to accept it in their hearts anymore than your people lost sight of 'Next year in Jerusalem'. How long was that? Centuries. Unless you see their point of view and give them the hope your ancestors had over those centuries, the stones will not stop.

I don't care if you agree with me or not, you simply need to ask yourself, what did we want/ do we want for ourselves, and then ask yourself is it any less reasonable for these kids to have their dreams? Unless you, the current victors, can see that, and in some way compromise or share, none of us outside Israel can see any hope, let alone those kids.

It will be a bed of stones. Is that what you want for all your kids, Israeli and Palestinian, for centuries to come?

At 6:42 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed. Send the parents to jail and place the kids with responsible foster parents. Parenting is a privilege not a right. We don't allow kids to remain with parents who abuse and mistreat them. Teaching your kids to harm others or being indifferent when they do so constitutes just such abuse and mistreatment. Its time Israel revoked parental privilege for Arab adults who won't discipline their own children.


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