Israel criminalized group following report of raped Palestinian child

Black and white still of armed soldiers in an office aBlack and white still of armed soldiers in an office

A still from CCTV footage of one of the Israeli army raids of the Defense for Children International - Palestine’s headquarters in the central occupied West Bank on 18 August 2022.

Defense for Children International-Palestine

Israel designated a human rights group as a terrorist organization shortly after the US State Department inquired about a report detailing the rape of a Palestinian child by Israeli prison authorities.

The revelation came from Josh Paul, a director at the US State Department until he resigned in October, during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

Amanpour brought up the events of 7 October, which she described as “barbaric” and “savage,” citing “the stories of rape and gange rape.”

Paul called the events of that day “a thousand atrocities” but returned to Amanpour’s invocation that Palestinian fighters had raped Israelis that day.

Israel and its allies have been pushing a new media campaign, reviving unverified claims that Hamas fighters committed mass rapes of Israelis during its 7 October military operation.

Despite blanket coverage featuring the likes of Hillary Clinton, Israel hasn’t provided information on specific victims of sexual violence, nor produced any videos or forensic evidence to corroborate that mass-scale rape it claims took place.

“You mentioned sexual violence,” Paul said during the CNN interview.

“I was part of the human rights vetting process for arms going to Israel, and a charity called Defense for Children International - Palestine drew our attention at the State Department to the sexual assault, actually the rape, of a 13-year-old boy that occurred in an Israeli prison in the Moskobiyyeh.”

The Moskobiyyeh, also known as the Russian Compound, is an interrogation and torture facility in Jerusalem.

“We examined these allegations, we believe they were credible, we put them to Israel, to the government of Israel. And you know what happened the next day? The IDF [Israel’s military] went into the DCIP offices and removed all their computers and declared them a terrorist entity.”

DCIP was one of six prominent Palestinian human rights groups to be declared “terrorist organizations” by Benny Gantz, Israeli defense minister at the time, in October 2021.

The rape of a child

The boy that Paul refers to was 15 years old at the time.

Israeli occupation forces arrested him from his home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyeh in the middle of the night in January 2021 and took him to the Russian Compound, where he was interrogated by a man who identified himself as Captain Kamel.

“He kicked me and punched me while shouting and saying I should tell him what I did,” the boy recalled. He was accused of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

“Whenever I told him I did not do anything, he would beat me harder. He threatened to shock me with electricity, but I told him I did not do anything.”

The boy said that the same individual “knocked him to the floor while blindfolded and raped him with an object,” according to DCIP. Captain Kamel threatened to continue with the sexual violence until the boy confessed.

The boy said that Captain Kamel then pressed him against the wall and inflicted intense pain on his genitals.

“There are no words to describe that moment,” the child told DCIP.

Captain Kamel also threatened that the physical and sexual violence would continue if the boy told his lawyer what had occurred.

Around 15 minutes after the incident the boy was allowed to see his lawyer for five minutes.

He was again interrogated in the hours and days that followed, subject to verbal abuse and forced to sign documents in Hebrew that he did not understand.

Prisoners threatened with sexual violence

As Palestinian women and teens were released from Israeli detention following a historic exchange between Israel and Hamas, the UN Human Rights Office in Palestine received testimonies of “male and female detainees” being “threatened with rape in retaliation for the attacks of 7 October.”

Freed prisoner Ramzi al-Absi vividly recounted the harrowing conditions endured by Palestinians at the Naqab prison in southern Israel, saying prisoners were getting beaten and sexually assaulted by Israeli authorities.

“The detainees are being sexually assaulted, to the extent of rape. I’m not exaggerating. To the extent of rape,” he said.

Lama Khater, a released Palestinian woman, described being threatened with rape by her Israeli interrogators.

“I was treated with great brutality and excessive cruelty at the beginning of my detention,” Khater said, adding that she was tied up, blindfolded and taken to interrogation without knowing “who was talking to me or who was investigating me.”

“They made threats of rape against me.” Khater told a reporter.

When the reporter asked for elaboration, she said, “I was honestly threatened with rape” in retaliation for the events of 7 October.

She said that her Israeli interrogator told her, “I have about 20 soldiers present now,” suggesting they could assault her.

“Of course, it was clear that the goal was intimidation, meaning it was a psychological intimidation session.”

Fatima Amarneh, another Palestinian liberated from Israeli detention, detailed to Al Jazeera how Israeli prison authorities beat her and tried to take off her clothes.

“The interrogator beat me and tried to tear my clothes off me, and when I defended myself he told me that he will destroy my family by arresting them,” she said.

Resigned over arms exports to Israel

Josh Paul said he resigned from the State Department over the continued, expedited and expanded US “provision of lethal arms to Israel.”

Even Paul – with his extensive resume for the US empire – couldn’t convince himself that the harm the US was doing was being outweighed by the good, as he put it.

“We cannot be both against occupation, and for it,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

Paul described Israel’s actions as a form of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and occupation, not just in Gaza but in the occupied West Bank as well.

“Rushing more arms to one side of the conflict, that I believe to be shortsighted, destructive, unjust, and contradictory to the very values that we publicly espouse, and which I wholeheartedly endorse.”

Paul previously served as the US security coordinator in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, where he worked in “advancing security sector governance” within the PA and “liaising” with Israeli occupation forces.

In other words, Paul was acting as the US facilitator of what is known euphemistically as “security coordination.” This is the US-financed PA intelligence and security forces cooperation with Israeli forces and Shin Bet secret police to suppress any Palestinian resistance to occupation.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.