Amid shocking revelations that Israeli soldiers employed Palestinian children as human shields during the war on Gaza, a former Israeli military commander explains how Palestinian minors are treated on an ongoing basis.
Palestinian youth are arrested on a regular basis, usually for hurling stones at Israeli soldiers — something many of them consider the only means of venting their frustration over the military occupation of their homeland.
In a new interview with the BBC, Eran Efrati explained how the routine ill-treatment of Palestinian children in custody takes place.
"You take the kid, you blindfold him, you handcuff him, he’s really shaking… Sometimes you cuff his legs too. Sometimes it cuts off the circulation. He doesn’t understand a word of what’s going on around him," he said.
"He doesn’t know what you’re going to do with him. He just knows we are soldiers with guns. That we kill people. Maybe they think we’re going to kill him."
Efrati, who previously served in the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, quit the army five months ago. He confirmed that he himself was among the soldiers
"The first months after I left the army I dreamed about kids all the time. Jewish kids. Arab kids. Screaming," he said, confirming that he himself was among the soldiers who practiced the ill-treatment.
"I never arrested anyone younger than nine or 10, but 14, 13, 11 for me, they’re still kids. But they’re arrested like adults," he continued. "A lot of the time they’re peeing their pants, just sit there peeing their pants, crying. But usually they’re very quiet."
The account provided by Efrati comes after revelations that the Israeli army used Palestinian children as human shields during Operation Cast Lead in the blockaded Gaza Strip, forcing kids to enter homes ahead of the soldiers to shield them from being killed or injured in case of incoming gunfire.
According to Efrati, the practice of blindfolding children is directed at freeing soldiers from the burden of being faced with children who "beg us to stop, or cry in front of us".
"When the kid is sitting there in the base nobody is thinking of him as a kid, you know – if there is someone blindfolded and handcuffed, he’s probably done something really bad. It’s OK to slap him; it’s OK to spit on him. It’s OK to kick him sometimes."