Betty Hunter, Honorary President of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, spoke at April’s Big Green Conversation about Palestine and particularly how Palestinian children are treated by the Israeli justice system, police and military.
She said Israel signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, but effectively treats Palestinian children as terrorists.
Children suffer trauma, mental illness, and disrupted education – as a result of interrogation, detention and physical and mental abuse.
Most children who are detained are alleged to have been seen stone-throwing. They are protesting about land grabs and (for example) wanton destruction of olive trees. Their treatment by the Israeli justice system is akin to apartheid – the law enshrines discrimination against Palestinians, eg:
- the maximum period of detention without charge is 40 days for Israelis, but 188 for Palestinians
- the maximum period of detention without access to a lawyer is 48 hours for Israelis, but 90 days for Palestinians
After being arrested, Palestinian children are commonly held in solitary confinement – the average period in recent years is 13 days, the longest on record is 45 days. And nearly all children are interrogated without a parent or lawyer present. Almost all confess, because they know the chances of proving their innocence are so slim.
Betty went on to outline how her organisation works to support the Palestinian cause. PSC started in 2001 with a call to boycott Israeli goods. As well as generally raising awareness, they also now encourage divestment and argue for sanctions. “Companies that support the Israeli State are the targets, not British based ‘Jewish’ companies like Marks and Spencer”. Israeli football is also a target – campaigners argue that it is racist and should not be allowed to play within Europe.
Support among Israelis for their government’s treatment of Palestinians is far from universal. A group of ex Israeli conscript soldiers known as ‘Breaking the Silence‘ bravely report on what they experienced. Palestine support is growing in the USA – a group called Jewish Voice for Peace is promoting divestment.
Betty gave a short interview after the meeting – video here