Jerusalem police detain 7-year-old Palestinian child

The Jerusalem detained a seven-year-old Palestinian child for alleged stone-throwing, and interrogated him for hours, separate from his father, in direct contravention of the law.

A long time ago, during the First Intifada, I was manning a shift in the Dir Al Balah Civil Administration ops desk, when a stupid army officer radioed me that he detained a “riot ring leader.” I asked for the detainee’s ID number, so as to match it against the list of wanted people. The army officer said he didn’t have an ID. I told him to go to the guy’s house, because they usually left the ID there, and he replied, “No, no, you don’t understand – he doesn’t have an ID. He’s five years old.” Silence. “Repeat that. Did you say ‘five years old’?” “Yes.” I went to wake up my officer, who proceeded to shout at the army officer. The child was released.

Turns out we can do worse. Nir Barkat, the de jure mayor of Jerusalem and de facto military governor of Jerusalem, toured Issawiya yesterday, and the locals, taking a dim view, stoned his entourage (this is an old tradition in Jerusalem: Old King Alexander Yanai, while serving as High Priest on Sukkot, once upset the religious sensitivities of his subjects, so they stoned him with their citrons). Soon afterwards, reported the Palestinian news service Ma’an, policemen detained Muhammad Ali Dirbas, aged seven, carried him off to a nearby police station, interrogated him for three or four hours, and then released him. Further information, obtained by B’Tselem, shows that Dirbas was was detained by YASAM (riot police) at about 4 P.M., and was then moved to a police station at about 5 P.M. His father came to the police station circa 6 P.M., was kept apart from his child until about 9 P.M., and then Muhammad was interrogated in the presence of his father until around 11 P.M., when they were released.

Where to begin? Well, with the fact the police has no authority over children. The age of criminal liability is 12. I find it very hard to believe the police would have detained a seven-year-old Jewish child – the public outcry would reach the heavens, and justly so. But Dirbas is just a Palestinian child, so it’s hard to believe the Israeli media will pay too much attention to the story.

The practice of holding minor detainees without access to their parents or a trusted adult is very common: As B’Tselem reported back in July, the vast majority of detained minors in the West Bank were interrogated in this way – which is contrary to law. An incident in which cops “pick up” a seven-year-old, take him to a police station and then hold him there for hours without the presence of a family member is much more similar to a kidnapping for purposes of terrorizing the neighbourhood than to anything resembling a proper police action.

Officially, Issawiya has been annexed to Israel. However, as this incident shows, the claims that Jerusalem is a “unified city” are a hollow fiction. The police would never have dared to act this way in a “normal” part of Israel. East Jerusalem is an occupied territory and the authorities behave accordingly. It is also worth noting here that the notorious brute Doron Zehavi (AKA “Captain George”), who was dismissed from the security services for conduct unbecoming a torturer, is employed by the Jerusalem police as an “Arab Affairs Advisor.”