Days of Palestine - Bethlehem
Three young Palestinians were late last night admitted to hospital in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem after they were severely beaten by Israeli soldiers, according to Palestinian security sources.
They told the official WAFA news agency that soldiers stopped the three youths at a flying checkpoint at the entrance of Beit Fajjar village, south of Bethlehem, and assaulted them without any clear reason before releasing them.
The three were admitted to Beit Jala hospital for treatment after suffering cuts and bruises all over their body.
This conduct exposes Israel’s policy which aims to allows authorities to continue this maltreatment of Palestinian minors while shrouding in a cloak of legality an extensive, systematic, and well-documented abuse of the fundamental human rights of hundreds of minors, every year, for decades.
It stands to reason that the law enforcement system would treat these teenagers in an age-appropriate manner that takes their physical and mental maturity into account, recognizing that every action could have long-term repercussions for the boys themselves as well as for their families. It stands to reason that the system would treat the boys humanely and fairly and provide them with basic protections.
But that is not the case. Instead, Israel’s law enforcement system treats them as members of a hostile population all of whom, minors and adults alike, are presumed guilty until proven innocent and employs against them extreme measures that it would never venture to use against other segments of the population.
Israel’s justice system is, by definition, on one side of the fence, with Palestinians on the other: The police officers, the prison guards, the prosecutors, and the judges are always Israeli citizens who arrest, interrogate, judge, and lock up Palestinian teenagers who are seen as enemies out to harm the interests of Israeli society.
This aspect of life in East Jerusalem cannot be separated from Israel’s overall policy in the city. In 1967 Israel unlawfully annexed approximately 7,000 hectares of land – namely, some 600 hectares that constituted the Jordanian portion of Jerusalem, along with some or all of the land belonging to 28 nearby villages and towns. Yet, it has always treated the people living on that land as unwanted and state authorities and their agents have never viewed them as having equal rights.
All Israeli authorities operating in East Jerusalem follow a policy aimed at encouraging Palestinian residents to leave the city. This is why strict bans are in place on residential construction and East Jerusalem residents must live in overcrowded conditions or – in the absence of any other alternative – risk building without a permit and then live in fear of demolition.
This is why strict policies are in place with regards to family reunification, effectively forbidding East Jerusalem residents who married residents from elsewhere in the West Bank or from the Gaza Strip to live with their spouses in the city.
This is why institutional, systemic discrimination is practiced in municipal and state budgeting, as a result of which East Jerusalem residents suffer from substandard infrastructure and a chronic shortage of public services.
There is no possible justification for the extreme measures the law enforcement system uses against East Jerusalem minors. The reality is part of the underpinnings of Israeli control over the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem.
So long as this control continues, Israeli authorities will in all probability continue to treat Palestinians in East Jerusalem as unwanted, less equal people, with all that implies. Real change will come only if the reality in Jerusalem is completely overhauled.