The Australian has teamed up with Four Corners to investigate the Israeli military’s treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank.
The Australian has provided a preview of John Lyons Four Corners story, airing February 10, 2014.
“ISRAEL has foreshadowed a dramatic overhaul of its military justice system in the occupied West Bank, following several years of international criticism of its treatment of Palestinian children…”
It was all going well until one officer made an absurd comment. Every so often in journalism you hear something that makes you wonder about everything else that person has said. My question had been simple: how many Palestinian children go through Israel’s military court each year?
“Unfortunately our computer software cannot distinguish between children and adults,” the officer said. “Maybe 200.”
The answer was ridiculous: Israel’s army and intelligence service know every kilometre of the West Bank. My assessment, based on reliable sources, is that Israel has as many as 20,000 paid Palestinian informants in the West Bank. Israel is also a leader in technology; the notion that its computers were unable to distinguish between detained minors and adults was absurd.
I replied that UNICEF estimated it was about 700 children a year. “That would be right,” he agreed instantly.
There is a serious debate in Israel over a policy that is a public relations disaster but that the army supports. The issue is how Palestinian children are treated; last year a UNICEF report concluded that ill-treatment of children by Israeli security forces appeared to be “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”. “The interrogation mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess,” the report found.