Kafr Qaddum is a small Palestinian village located between Nablus and Qalqilya in the northern West Bank. The inhabitants of the village feel angry and abandoned, with most of their land located under total Israeli military control. Thus, they are subjected to land theft by the ever-expanding nearby illegal Jewish colonies.
Protesting the Israeli occupation and the illegal colony expansion is a recurring event in Kafr Qaddum and it is likely that the little boy, Abdul Rahman Shatawi, had taken part in these protests in the past. But not on that particular day.
It was a Friday, and Abdul Rahman was visiting and playing with his friends outside one of the village’s humble dwellings.
When the boy was first shot in the head, the Israeli army claimed that he was most likely hit by a rubber bullet. But that was not the case at all. According to an independent investigation conducted by the London-based research group, Forensic Architecture, the near-lethal shooting was carried out by live ammunition.
Three months after the accident, Abdul Rahman is still lying in a hospital surrounded by his devastated parents and family. His brain has been damaged by the immediate impact of the bullet, but also by more than 100 bullet fragments that are still lodged in his brain, according to forensic experts.
Expectedly, Israel refuses to take any responsibility for the boy’s tragic fate, just as they refuse to take any responsibility for thousands of such cases of children who have been killed, maimed for life, tortured and imprisoned.
The sad reality is that Abdul Rahman’s story is a regular occurrence in occupied Palestine where there is little or no accountability for those who routinely violate human rights and have no qualms about treating children as adults.
In fact, Israel has its own definition of what constitutes a ‘child’ that only applies to Palestinian children. Although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a “child” as “every human being below the age of 18 years”, Israel chooses not to abide by that definition. For Israel, there are two kinds of children: Israeli children who are 18 years old or younger, and Palestinian children, 16 years and younger. This definition allows Israel to expand the list of Palestinians it can arrest, torture and imprison.
According to a research conducted by Israeli rights group B’Tselem, at the end of August 2019, 185 Palestinian children, including two younger than 14 years, were held in various Israeli prisons as “security detainees and prisoners”.
Thousands of Palestinian children are constantly being rotated through the Israeli prison system, often accused of “security” offences, which include taking part in anti-Israeli occupation protests and rallies in the West Bank. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Association estimates that at least 6,000 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons since 2015.
In a statement issued last April, the Association revealed that “98 per cent of the children held had been subjected to psychological and/or physical abuse while in Israeli custody” and that many of them were detained “after first being shot and wounded by Israeli troops”.
Numbers demonstrate that Israel’s targeting of children is part of a calculated strategy aimed at thwarting Palestinian protests. On Friday, October 4, the theme of the popular weekly mobilisation at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel was honouring the 78 children who have been killed by Israeli snipers. The weekly protest began in March 2018 under the banner of the ‘March of Return’.
In a written submission by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the State of Palestine last March, the group reported that “Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 years from the West Bank and [occupied] East Jerusalem, continue to be detained and arrested by Israeli forces
Criminally reprehensible treatment
‘Friday of 78 Children’ was commemorated and yet another Palestinian was killed and 57 others wounded. Time and again, international rights groups have highlighted Israel’s criminally reprehensible treatment of Palestinian children.
In a written submission by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the State of Palestine last March, the group reported that “Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 years from the West Bank and [occupied] East Jerusalem, continue to be detained and arrested by Israeli forces”.
“Israeli security forces routinely interrogate children without a guardian or lawyer present, use unnecessary force against children during arrest, which often takes place in the middle of the night, and physically abuse them in custody,” HRW reported. For the families of the victims, charts, figures and statistics can never achieve long-denied justice.
“He can’t speak and no changes [to his condition] occurred since he was shot,” Abdul Rahman’s family told the International Solidarity Movement.
While millions of Palestinians wait and pray for some good news on Abdul Rahman and many like him, the international community should not assign itself the role of the bystander. Israel should be held accountable for these crimes, for its dismal human rights record and for the 100 bullet fragments in Abdul Rahman’s innocent little head.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta).