In the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), a collaborator is understood as any Palestinian who cooperates with the Israeli security forces in the OPT or in Israel. Recruiting Palestinians as collaborators is perceived in the OPT as part of Israel’s policy to maintain control over the territory and the Palestinian people. Most cases of collaboration are found in interrogation centers and prisons where detainees are put under extreme physical and mental pressure to collaborate. Palestinian children often find themselves under such pressure.1
The Israeli intelligence services (Shabak) continually seek to recruit children as informants. A field survey with former child detainees conducted in 2003 by DCI-PS, estimated that 60 per cent of the children interviewed, some of them are as young as 12, were reported to have been tortured or subjected to other forms of coercion or inducement in an attempt to make them cooperate. By late 2003 in Gaza alone there were on average 40 attempts to recruit minors every month.2
Children accused of being recruited as informants by the Israeli authorities are at risk of stigmatization, exclusion, and on occasion, retaliation. On 5 February 2002, shortly after death sentences were passed on two 17 year olds, Khaled Kamiel and Jihad Kamiel, by the Palestinian State Security Court in Jenin for the killing of a member of the Palestinian Authority security services, armed men entered the court and shot dead both boys. They had been accused of collaborating with the Israeli authorities.3
There is a growing need to prevent the use of Palestinian children as collaborators and to protect children who have allegedly been used as collaborators by the Israeli forces. Palestinian Authorities and community and religious leaders, schools, families and Palestinian and international non governmental organizations (NGOs) all have a key role to play in this prevention and protection task.
Approximately 2,800 children were arrested by the Israeli authorities between September 2000 and July 2004. At various moments, Palestinian children constituted 10 per cent of all Palestinian detainees. In 2002, one-fifth of child prisoner cases handled by DCI-PS involved children aged 13 and 14; the rest were between 15 and 17 years old.
In an interview with DCI-PS, a legal counselor of the PSF said: “The Israeli Shabak is targeting young children because they are easy preys. This month we arrested six collaborators, three of whom were under the age of 18. It is estimated that out of every ten (alleged) collaborators that we arrest and investigate, four are children. The youngest we encountered was 12.”
The exact number of collaborators, adults and children, is unknown, but in a DCI-PS field survey on 40 former child prisoners, 25 children reported that they were asked or pressured to collaborate with the Israeli occupying force. According to the alleged victims, a variety of methods were used, including beatings, threatening with long sentences, repercussions against the family, sexual assault, and public shaming. Rewards offered for cooperation included early release, money, work- or other permits, and sexual services. Most of the children interviewed by DCI-PS were “approached” by the Shabak. The Israeli police attempted to recruit two children, two other children were pressured by Palestinian collaborators inside the prison, and, in an isolated case, an Israeli soldier attempted to recruit a child.
DCI-PS has collected testimonies of children who regretted that they gave in to the pressure to become informers. It is extremely difficult for Palestinian children to denounce attempts to make them collaborate since they are expected to report to their Israeli “superiors” or otherwise face serious consequences. The Palestinian society also has little mercy with collaborators, especially when they are connected to serious incidents leading to the death of other Palestinians or damage to the national cause.
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