Latest of Israeli violations of Palestinians’ rights: Strip-searching children

3/17/2007 1:23:00 PM GMT
By: Sajida Fadlullah

Although the practice has been used by Israeli officials against Palestinian children, even girls, for decades, If Americans Knew was the only rights group among all those who are concerned about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to uncover the brutality and the extent of humiliation Palestinian children suffer as a result of being strip-searched almost daily at Israeli checkpoints.

The rights group If Americans Knew interviewed women in the United States, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and learned that Israeli border officials systematically force females of all ages, whether Christian or Muslim, take off their clothes as part of their searches. And in many cases, If Americans Knew said, Palestinian girls as young as seven and below are also strip-searched by Israeli officials, without regard to the negative psychological impact that would have on them.

According to an article published recently on Counterpunch written by Alison Weir, executive director of If Americans Knew, Israeli officials in many cases strip search mothers and children together, while in some other cases girls are taken from their parents and strip-searched alone.

“Remove sanitary napkins”

Israelis order women to remove sanitary napkins, while their small daughters are standing near, and in some cases in the presence of their sons.

The report comes to only add a new episode to a long series of Israeli violations of human rights, international law that requires it protect civilians of the nation it occupies, as well as Geneva Conventions.

It’s been recently discovered that Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians, particularly in a recent raid on the Old City of Nablus, as human shields to help them “safely” search apartments for Palestinian fighters.

Testimonies gathered by the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, on February 25, on the first day of Israel’s military operation in the Old City of Nablus, showed that Israeli soldiers forced two Palestinians, ‘Amid and Samah Amirah, ages 15 and 24, to walk at gun point and enter “suspects’” houses ahead of them to make sure that there’re no bombs threatening their lives, or that suspects are carrying guns.

“Amid described how the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) used him at his own house at a time when the IOF apparently believed one or more suspects might be inside, as suggested by the fact that soldiers fired shots during the search: “They aimed their weapons at me. One of them pushed me so that I would go into the house first. I went in first, and then the soldiers entered. One of them pushed me to a corner of the room, and then fired into the house. They fired 5-6 shots inside the house. They told me to go into the rooms and then they came in behind me.”

According to International humanitarian law, a party to a conflict is prohibited from using the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military operations.

Joe Saunders, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch said that “the soldiers’ actions fly in the face of the Geneva Conventions, an Israeli high court decision, and the IOF’s own prior commitments,”

“Israel should put an immediate end to this wholly illegal practice which deliberately abuses the immunity to which civilians are guaranteed under international law.”

Deep feelings of humiliation

If Americans Knew added that people it interviewed spoke about the deep feelings of humiliation as a result of being strip searched by Israeli soldiers, with many describing incidents where they wept at the degradation they felt.

Even parents can’t protect their children from being strip-searched by the Israelis.

“I remember crying and pleading with my mother,” Gaza journalist Laila El-Haddad said describing an incident when she was 12-years-old, and Israeli officials asked her to take off her undershirt.

“They had machine guns,” she added.

“We just had to submit.” El-Haddad, who holds a Masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, added.

Strip searching is being applied on Palestinian children, Christians and Muslims. It also targets those who carry foreign citizenship, including native-born Americans.

Maysoon Zayid also strip searched

Maysoon Zayid, a Palestinian American actress and professional stand-up comedian of a Muslim family, detailed an incident where she faced strip-searching at Ben Gurion Airport when she was “seven, eight, nine years old” during family trips to visit her parents’ home in Palestine.

Maysoon said that on her most recent trip in July 2006, she was forced by the Israelis in Ben Gurion Airport to remove her sanitary pad, and later on officials refused to return back her pad or even give her another one.

Zayid, who launched a program for newly disabled Palestinian youths, many of them permanently disabled as a result of attacks by the Israeli occupation army, described sobbing uncontrollably, while sitting in a wheelchair, bleeding publicly for hours as she waited for her flight,
“No one spoke up,” she said. “There were several women, including the woman who was pushing my wheelchair, none of whom said a word.”

“The flight attendants looked at me in disgust.”

“They want us to get to the point where we don’t go back.” Zayid said.

Israel is guilty of committing severe human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, including “wanton destruction” of houses and infrastructure, land grab, as well endangering the lives of and massacring Palestinian civilians, however, no action had ever been taken against Israel to stop it from carrying on with such barbaric practices.

Also the United Nations, although aware of all these violations, failed to issue a resolution punishing or even denouncing the Israeli crimes against Palestinians that had been going for decades.



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