The Israeli parliament has approved the “Youth Bill,” allowing law enforcement to arrest child "terrorists," as young as 12-years-old, for crimes such as murder, attempted murder and manslaughter.
“This law was borne of necessity,” said Anat Berko, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party who proposed the bill. “We have been experiencing a wave of terror for quite some time. A society is allowed to protect itself. To those who are murdered with a knife in the heart it does not matter if the child is 12 or 15.”
“Perhaps this law will also do something to protect these children from being used to slaughter people,” he added.
An Israeli committee has approved a law that would allow the imprisonment Palestinian children as young as 12 lowering the incarceration age from 14.
The bill authorized by Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation comes after a series of stabbings of Israeli soldiers and citizens by Palestinian preteens and teenagers. It would enable Israeli authorities to impose jail terms on children aged 12 for "nationalistic-motivated" violent offences.
Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked supports the new law, saying it would show "youths who engage in terror will not be shown mercy."
"We have been witness to many cases where serious crimes, including murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter were carried out by minors under 14," Shaked said. "This must end."
Although the bill needs a go-ahead from the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in order to become a law, human rights activists have condemned the decision, arguing the punishment is too harsh for children.
However, detaining Palestinian minors in Israeli jails is nothing new. It has been happening for years.
According to a 2014 report by non-profit Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCI-P), children between the ages of 12 and 17 were put in solitary confinement for interrogation in nearly 22 percent of recorded cases. The average length of solitary confinement could range from 10 days to even 65 in some cases.
The DCI-P investigation also found that more than 76.5 percent of minor detainees in Israeli prisons were subjected to some kind of physical violence while 74.5 experienced verbal abuse. Approximately 98 percent were not even informed of the reason for their arrest.
Despite the fact that this method of interrogation violates the international convention on the rights of the child, to which Israel is a signatory, as well as the fourth Geneva convention, the abuse has continued.
Prison support group Addameer says nearly thousand Palestinians have been arrested since October 1, including 300 children. More killings and arrests are expected as violence continues to grow in the region.
When it comes to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, neither side is innocent. While one is using young people to fight a war that isn’t theirs to fight, the other is recklessly using machine guns as protection against stones.
The stabbings, of course, cannot be justified, however, authorities need to understand there’s a deeper underlying problem that’s causing 12-year-olds – who should be in school – to throw rocks at or stab soldiers physically much stronger than them and carrying military-grade weapons.
By putting children into jails Israel is only aggravating the problem which is consequently adding to the unrest that has engulfed the region for decades.