Five Palestinan boys imprisoned and tortured in an Israeli prison
March 15 was the one-year anniversary of the arrest and detention of five Palestinian boys from Hares accused of attempted murder by way of stone throwing. The Hares Boys are a symbol of oppressed youth under occupation rule. The events surrounding the arrests and subsequent trials held in Israel instead of the West Bank are causing new waves of concern about the injustices the occupied peoples face.
Reports on the details of the alleged crime vary, but a few factors remain constant from different news accounts of events:
• On March 14, 2013, Adva Biton and her young daughter Adele, Israeli settlers from Yakir, had an accident on road 5 near the Palestinian village of Hares. The vehicle crashed into a stationary truck. Adele suffered serious injuries.
• Days after the accident, rumors started that the crash was caused by Palestinian youths that were throwing stones. The cause of the accident was labeled as a terror attack.
• The Israeli army and secret service conducted a series of night raids on Hares and Kifl Hares, arresting 19 boys ranging from 16 to 17 years old. After being tortured, five boys confessed to the crimes in military custody. Ammar Souf, Mohammed Suleman, Ali Shamlawi, Tamer Souf and Mohammed Kleib were each charged with 20 counts of attempted murder and five counts of stone throwing.
• "The Hares Boys," as they are known, are incarcerated at the notorious adult Meggido prison in Israel without due process. The boys are being charged as adults.
Activists continue to be concerned about the case of the Hares boys for a few reasons, not limited to:
• The arrest and detention of the Hares boys were inhumane. Palestinian youth were harangued, abused and railroaded on the presumption of guilt from the start.
• Israel breached article 76 of the 4th Geneva Convention by allowing the torture of the youth and their detention in an adult prison on Israeli soil.
• The use of terms by the Israeli military are misleading to some within the international community that interprets them in fair, democratic ways.
• The lack of due process in the case is especially egregious given the nature of the charges and the ages of the accused.
• There seems to be a major lack of evidence that there was a crime that took place and even less evidence that the Hares boys committed them. Al Jazeera reported that 20 drivers had submitted claims to their insurance that rocks had caused their accidents, however, there were no eyewitness reports of the boys throwing stones at the location and time of the accident.
• Original accounts by both drivers effected by the accident did not mention stones thrown. Subsequent methods of investigation by Israeli police found a stone in the car days after their initial investigation that yielded no stones. In an Australian TV interview, Biton stated that she had a building block thrown at her vehicle which hit her daughter in the head and caused her to hit the back of the truck. Road 5 is full of stones, so the presence of stones at or near the accident is not significant. Building blocks are quite large and hard to throw. The absence of a building block on the scene of the accident is significant.
• For the first time, there is a push to treat stone throwing as serious as attempted murder by gun fire. Such a conviction would be dire for the Hares boys.
• The accident is being used as a political football to further justify Israel's occupation.
The likelihood that the Hares boys will be convicted is comparable to an estimated rate of 99.7 percent and court hearings as short as 60 seconds for youth in the occupied territories. The rounding up of individuals in night raids are a common occurrence, along with other human rights abuses reported by activists on the ground.
The treatment of the Hares boys is symbolic of the iron crush that Israel has over the occupied territories. Fully addressing Israeli oppression would encompass a range of human rights issues including but not limited to Israeli illegal land rights, inadequate water supply, easing travel restrictions, providing equal opportunity development and the liberation of the occupied peoples. Moreover, decades of a culture of violence and racism between Arabs and Jews will need to be a focal point of reconciliation throughout society as a concerted effort of the international community to ensure peace.
As the boys await their fate, the international community of activists continue to ban together to show solidarity. A campaign was successful in raising funds to help the families cover expenses while their children are incarcerated, bloggers maintain a faithful watch and protests continue to place pressure and accountability on the Israeli military court system.