In the context of the recently escalating violence in the West Bank, I would like to highlight a particular concern for Palestinian children. According to a 2022 year-end report by Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), evidence they have collected suggests that Israeli forces use intentional lethal force against Palestinian children in circumstances that may amount to extrajudicial or wilful killing.1 Indeed, as of Feb. 23, thirteen children had been killed by Israeli forces already this year.2
Additionally 500 to 700 Palestinian children, mostly teenage boys, are prosecuted in Israeli military courts each year. The rate of conviction is over 99%. No other country in the world has a practice of systematically prosecuting children in this way.
One case that I hope many Canadian Friends are already aware of is that of 16-year-old Shadi Khoury. On October 18, 2022 Shadi was beaten in his home in East Jerusalem by Israeli police. He was then dragged barefoot, blindfolded, bleeding, and alone, from his home, and placed in detention. After 41 days, he was released on house arrest. His lawyers do not expect real discussion of his case until May.
Shadi’s case is perhaps unusual because of who he is. His father, Suhail is the general director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in East Jerusalem, his mother Rania, is the director of the Yabous Cultural Centre. One of his sisters is the director of the Palestine Youth Orchestra and his grandmother, Samia, was one of the founders of Sabeel—an ecumenical grassroots center for liberation theology among Palestinian Christians, seeking to promote peace with justice in the Middle East. Shadi, himself, is a student at the Ramallah Friends School.
What, sadly, is not unusual about his case, is the way it took place. In the year-end report mentioned above, DCIP describes children arriving at interrogation bound, blindfolded, frightened, and sleep-deprived. More than half were detained from their homes in the middle of the night. 99% were interrogated with no family member present. 70% experienced physical violence. 58% were subject to at least one strip search. 25% were isolated in solitary confinement for two or more days. The average amount of time in solitary confinement in 2022 was 21 days. The longest documented was 45.
I have been working with the coordinating group for a campaign endorsed by CFSC called Canada, Stand Up for Palestinian Children’s Rights. The group includes Quakers, Mennonites, United Church members, Presbyterians, at least one Catholic, and some who are not part of a faith community.
“500 to 700 Palestinian children, mostly teenage boys, are prosecuted in Israeli military courts each year.”
Together, we have been advocating for the Canadian government to appoint a special envoy to report to Parliament on the human rights situation of Palestinian children, and to make recommendations for action. A group of Canadian members of Parliament (MPs) originally recommended this course of action in 2018.
We have called upon supporters to sign up to receive an email every month or two with updates on the campaign and sample letters that could be used as templates to send to MPs. If you are willing to join the letter writing campaign, here is where to sign on: https://bit.ly/CanadaStandUp
Here is a sample of a monthly update:
Besides the letter writing we’re working to identify sympathetic MPs and ways to be heard by Parliamentary committees. We’re also looking at how to promote more media attention and more balanced reporting on human rights in the West Bank and Gaza.
For information on CFSC’s work for just peace that would benefit all in Palestine and Israel, and for copies of open letters and statements, see our website.
Currently CFSC partners with Mesarvot, an Israeli network that supports young people who refuse military service. Israel is a highly militarized society and performing military service after high school is a forgone conclusion for most young people. The refusal to serve is perceived as betrayal and conscientious objectors face considerable hostility. You can read their statements and find out how to send messages of support to them via https://refuser.org.
Sara avMaat, Antigonish Worship Group, is a member of CFSC’s peace program committee. She previously spent three months in the West Bank monitoring the human rights situation.