Listen: Resisting youth incarceration from US to Palestine

Thirty-five Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces and armed civilians in 2016, 32 of them in the occupied West Bank, making it the deadliest year for Palestinian children there in the past decade.

Alongside the lethal violence, Israel continued to detain, interrogate, torture and hold Palestinian children in solitary confinement, according to Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP).

From 158 affidavits the group collected from West Bank children detained and prosecuted in Israeli military courts in 2016, 62 percent reported they endured physical violence following arrest. More than half were verbally abused, intimidated or threatened, DCIP says.

Twenty-five of the 158 children were held in solitary confinement for an average of 16 days, which the group says was “an alarming increase” over the previous year.

One corporation that has been targeted by boycott activists for its role in providing services to Israeli detention centers where Palestinian children are routinely tortured and abused is G4S, the largest private security firm in the world.

In December, the British-Danish corporation announced it was pulling out of most of its businesses in Israel after years of grassroots boycott pressure.

“For G4S to make any sort of move to terminate their contracts in Israel, that is a huge success,” said writer and activist Nadya Tannous in an interview for The Electronic Intifada podcast.

Tannous is on tour across the US with Black liberation activist and Unitarian minister Amanda Weatherspoon. Together, they are speaking about the strengthening solidarity between Palestinian and Black struggles for liberation.

Organized by Friends of Sabeel North America, Tannous and Weatherspoon directly link US policies of mass incarceration to Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights, specifically highlighting the violations of the rights of children in Israeli military detention.

Teenager won’t be silenced

A third member of the speaking tour was unable to leave Palestine due to Israeli and US restrictions on her freedom of movement. The visa for 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, an activist from the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, was put into “administrative review” by the US consulate, Tannous said, without an explanation.

Tamimi is part of a family known for their activism work in the village, where residents have long resisted Israeli land confiscation for nearby settlement colonies. Two members of her family were killed by Israeli forces in recent years.

In August 2015, Tamimi, her mother and her aunt intervened to rescue her 12-year-old brother from an attempted abduction by an Israeli soldier. The incident was caught on video.

Since the incident, Israel has butally punished the village, detaining and interrogating scores of young men.

Miri Regev, Israel’s culture minister, even said that the soldier should have shot the boy’s unarmed rescuers.

Tamimi, her family and community have continued to resist Israeli repression. Ahed wanted to participate on this tour “because she sees everyday struggle,” Tannous said.

Instead of pausing the tour “and contributing to her silencing,” Tannous said that the organizers decided to “amplify her voice” by showing a video interview of her speaking about the struggles for Palestinian justice and liberation for people of color in the US.

“Ready to mobilize”

Speaking to audiences across the country, people say they are “really ready to get out there, to get mobilized,” said Weatherspoon.

“While we are focusing on Palestine and the US in terms of state-sponsored violence against youth and children, we do this through an intersectional approach,” she added. “We talk about militarizing of the police. We talk about the fact that the US incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else around the world. We talk about what structural racism is and the role that that plays.”

“It’s not by chance that [tear] gas canisters that are used in the West Bank and in other parts of Palestine showed up in Ferguson … or in Oakland,” Tannous added.

Listen to the entire interview with Tannous and Weatherspoon via the media player above.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this post indicated that Israel had put Ahed Tamimi’s visa application under administrative review, but it was put under review via the US consulate. It has been corrected.

Theme music by Sharif Zakout.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).