A Silwan Story: Palestinian Child Arrested, Abused by Israeli Authorities and Barred From Finishing 9th Grade

[This piece was originally published on the Huffington Post]

{מאמר זה מתורגם לעברית על האתר של תנועת סולדריות}

Someone is pounding on the door. It is 3:45 a.m. The pounding gets louder. The father goes to open the door, and immediately they enter: two men dressed in civilian clothes, flanked by police officers bearing heavy guns. They go straight towards the boy, who has pulled on a baggy sweatshirt and stepped out of his room, snake their hands under his arms, and take him. “He will only be gone for a few hours,” they say. “Don’t worry.” Outside the house, the boy’s hands are tied with plastic packaging bands and he is pushed into the police car. He does not understand much Hebrew, but he knows enough to understand the officer who leans close to him and whispers:

“Fuck your mother.”

30 days later, after being beaten with a chair, held in solitary confinement, taunted with a knife, forced to stay awake, and otherwise abused, the boy is released from prison. He now has trouble falling asleep at night, and when he does he often has nightmares which feature his interrogators. And his punishment continues: He is under house arrest, indefinitely, and is not allowed to go to school. He is afraid that he will miss the end of his 9th grade year.

Suhaib Alawar, 14 and a half years old, is from Silwan, an East Jerusalem village directly South of the Old City. Silwan is home to a large and largely poor Palestinian population that is gravely underserved by state and municipal bodies (There are about 50,000 people living in Silwan. There are a total of eight elementary schools. There are zero public playgrounds). It is also inhabited by a small-but-visible Jewish settler population supported by Israeli governmental funds and services. Houses and other structures in Silwan are built without permits, because Palestinians are virtually never granted building permits (for example, in the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, pop. 5,000, there are under 20 recorded cases of permits being granted to Palestinians since 1967). There is sporadic violence from the Palestinians towards the settlers and police, mostly in the form of rock throwing youth, and heavy-handed responses from the police and army.

In all of these ways, Silwan is a microcosm of the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories writ large. There is one phenomenon, however, whose ubiquity sets Silwan apart from most places in the West Bank and East Jerusalem: child arrests…

Read the rest of the piece on the Huffington Post.