|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
26 July - 1 August 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Children under siegeLast week two human rights groups, one Palestinian and one Israeli, issued horrifying reports on the treatment of Palestinian children arbitrarily detained by Israel's occupation army since the Al-Aqsa Intifada started 10 months ago.
Scores of children testified to the various forms of torture practised on them by Israeli army and police officers. The children, all under 16 (Palestinians older than that are treated as adults), were beaten systematically all over their bodies, stripped of their clothes, electrocuted, kept in solitary confinement for periods as long as two weeks and constantly threatened that they would be tortured to death. If this is the treatment which young Palestinian children get in punishment for throwing stones at the soldiers of an occupation army, one need not speculate as to what kind of treatment other detainees receive in Israel's hi-tech prisons.
Since the state was carved out of Palestine in 1948, Israel's propaganda machine has been very effective in convincing the outside world that it was an "oasis of democracy" and respect for human rights, besieged by undemocratic and tyrannical regimes. Israeli officials who reiterate day and night that "terror is the greatest crime" ignore the fact that there are few crimes worse than occupying another people's land and subjecting millions to the racist practices of a colonial regime.
Until recently, only Arab governments defended Palestinian and Arab rights in the conflict against Israel on the international level. With the growth of an Arab human rights movement over the past decade, another important force is now able to counter Israel's false claims and misrepresentation of reality.
In several countries outside the Arab world, too, NGOs have been compiling evidence about Israel's inhuman treatment of the Palestinians, and its violations of international human rights conventions. Perhaps their revelations will put paid to the fallacy that it respects human rights. The most widely publicised example of current mobilisation efforts is the attempt to put Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on trial in Belgium for his role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres. Such initiatives must receive strong support from the Arab regimes, because they represent serious attempts to address international public opinion, deceived for decades by Israeli propaganda, and expose the reality of the Arab- Israeli conflict.
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