The State Department denies knowledge of 300 Palestinian children being detained by Israel, though that fact is well-established.
At a briefing on January 2, State’s spokesperson was asked about the arrest of Ahed Tamimi, 16, in the middle of the night from her home in occupied Nabi Saleh.
QUESTION: I am talking about a very young teenage Palestinian, Ahed Tamimi, who was taken in the middle of the night. She stand – she stood before a military court yesterday with 12 charges and so on. Do you urge the Israelis to release the young teenager?
[Heather] NAUERT: Yeah. Said, I’m not going to have as much for you as you want on this particular situation. I’m a mom, you know, of small children. I think any parent watching could relate to concerns about the treatment of children. We believe that all individuals, especially children, should be treated humanely. They should be treated with respect for their human rights, their individual rights. I’m not going to have anything more for you on that. I’d have to refer you to the government.
QUESTION: But you support in principle that the Israelis ought to release 300 kids who are under the age of 16?
MS NAUERT: Said, I don’t have any information on that, so I just can’t confirm that that is the actual case.
But the data is clear. Indeed, 20 Congresspeople have sponsored legislation to cut off the use of U.S. funds by Israel to detain Palestinian children: and one sponsor has cited figures of 500-700 Palestinian children being detained every year, including 12-year-old Abdullah Dwaik, and the famous case of Fawzi al-Junaidi, 16.
The figure 300 understates the truth. According to Military Court Watch, which monitorsthe treatment of children, the most recent data from the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) re number of Palestinian children held as “security prisoners” is from November 2017: there were 313 children in detention (12-17 years old). The breakdown is:
- 12-13 yrs – 0
- 14-15 yrs – 61
- 16-17 yrs – 252
“Typically the overwhelming majority of children in detention are in the 16-17 yrs age category,” says Gerard Horton of Military Court Watch. “The figures above are likely to have increased in December following increased unrest.”
NGOs get that information from the Israeli government via freedom-of-information requests, Horton says; and the U.S. government then gets the information from NGOs. (Here is a link to Military Court Watch’s statistic page using data supplied by the IPS. Plus a link to a recent Briefing Note.)
In fairness to the State Department, the 313 figure is from late December. In November, the number was 61. But again, this information is highly accessible.
The matter of the 300 Palestinian children arose at the State Department briefing because Said Arikat of Al Quds Daily was pointing out the double standard of the American government for free speech in Iran and Palestine.
Said Arikat: You get appalled when 15 and 16-year-old girls [in Iran] are taken in the middle of the night and punched and kicked and stand before a military court – do you condemn that?
Nauert: Teenagers, young people, yes, absolutely.
Nauert went on at great length about the rights of Iranians to free speech and to demonstrate without disruption by security forces. As CJ Werleman put it: “US State Dept spokesperson spends 15 minutes explaining how Iranians have a right to free speech. BUT watch her choke on her words when my friend @SMArikat asks her if Palestinians also have that same right.”
More from that exchange:
Arikat: Are you calling for the Iranian security forces to exercise restraint in their treatment of protesters?
Nauert: Yes, absolutely. I mean, anytime you have people out there who are protesting peacefully – and that’s what we’ve seen. We’ve seen people holding up signs. We’ve seen people walking through the streets. That has been the primary kind of protests that we have seen. Security forces – we would always urge them to use restraint, use restraint, to not overstep the bounds and harm protesters unnecessarily….
Arikat: Do you support free speech for the Palestinians?
Nauert: We support free speech. You know that.
Arikat: And their right to protest?
Nauert: And a right to protest.
But Nauert then went on to say she didn’t have “much” to say on the question (the dialogue at the top of this post).
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