In February, Muhammad was snatched by a four-man squad of Israeli special forces while playing with friends near the security wall, a mile away from his home. He was subjected to a vicious beating by the men, who punched him repeatedly and smashed him across the face with the butt of a gun in broad daylight. "No one said a word to me during [the attack]", recalled Muhammad, whose description of the assault bore marked similarities to Rodney King's ordeal.And the reaction of advocates for people like Muhammad remind us again that all lawful avenues of recourse have been blocked.
The difference, however, is that Muhammad is just 14 years old, yet was deemed a sufficient enough threat by the soldiers that he needed to be beaten to the point of almost losing consciousness. His crime? Allegedly throwing stones at the separation wall; something Muhammad strenuously denies.
Whereas Israeli youths are treated as children in the eyes of the law until they turn 18, Palestinians are not accorded such humane treatment, and can be imprisoned from the tender age of just 12. Since September 2000 Israel has arrested and detained almost 6000 children, with 700 under-18s arrested in 2007 alone.
Gerard Horton of DCI, an NGO which has taken up Muhammad's case, pointed to the IDF's flagrant violations of children's rights as yet another example of Israel thumbing its nose at international law. "These abuses have been well documented for many years, yet our pleas for intervention have fallen on deaf ears", he said. "The lack of will by the international community to uphold the rule of law when it comes to the Occupied Territories is deeply disturbing."These point to the sentiments I have heard again and again since dipping my hand into this conflict: the violent reaction of Palestinian militants might not be advisable, but it is understandable.
Muhammad's mother says:
The Israelis do all of this to put pressure on us, in order to show that the army controls the Palestinians, and also to try to force us to leave – but whatever they do to us, we will remain here.