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Fawzi al-Junaidi has been accused of throwing stones and will face formal charges in front of an Israeli military court on Wednesday [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

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A 16-year-old Palestinian boy, shown in a photo that has been roundly condemned as symbolising the Israeli army’s use of excessive force, has been charged with throwing stones at a group of armed Israeli soldiers.
An image of Fawzi al-Junaidi, blindfolded and surrounded by more than 20 Israeli occupation forces, was widely denounced as it was shared on social media earlier this week.
The scene pictures al-Junaidi looking disoriented, wearing a grey shirt and ripped jeans as dozens of soldiers crowd around him carrying guns and wearing protective gear, including helmets and knee pads.
The teenager, who denies throwing stones, was arrested on Thursday amid ongoing protests across the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip over a US decision on December 6 to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In the six day after the US announcement, at least 16 other Palestinians were arrested for protesting. At least four have been killed in the violence since the US declaration, and more than 700 injured.
‘He was beaten with a rifle’
Al-Junaidi also denies accusations of “participating in protests”.
Witnesses have claimed they saw al-Junaidi throwing stones.
“He said he was fearful and was running away when tear gas canisters were being thrown,” his lawyer, Farah Bayadsi, told Al Jazeera. “Fawzi said he was beaten with a rifle and he showed up with bruises all over his neck, chest and back.”
The child faced an Israeli military court on Wednesday, following an initial hearing on Monday. He was charged with throwing stones, but the decision on his sentencing or release was adjourned until December 18.
“The police had called for an extension on Fawzi’s arrest during the initial hearing,” said Bayadsi, who works under the Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP).
“The prosecutor demanded a seven-day extension to the arrest so that they can prepare a list of indictments, but we refused,” she said.
According to Bayadsi, the judge was stunned at the excessive force that al-Junaidi was subjected to – most apparent in the manner in which he was transferred to prison.

WATCH: ‘Dangerous and unacceptable’: Arab League condemns US move (2:54)
“He showed up with large slippers from the prison. He had lost his shoes and spoke about the way he was abused while being transferred to prison,” she said.
“The prosecutors didn’t even say whether the soldiers would be investigated for using excessive force. The whole case so far has been handled with neglect.”
Though unlikely, Bayadsi said the defence team would try to secure al-Junaidi’s release while his case is ongoing.
“It would be easier to speak with him [and] other witnesses, and to gather more evidence,” she said.
‘He was not protesting’
Due to his father’s leg injury and his mother’s terminal illness, al-Junaidi had been the main provider for his family of nine.
His uncle Rashad said that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“He left his house to buy some groceries. Unfortunately, as he was looking for the store, he bumped into a military ambush and was confronted with Israeli forces.
“They beat him, blindfolded him, arrested him, and first took him to the detention centre in a nearby settlement. That night, at 2am, he was transferred another detention centre,” he told Al Jazeera.
“The day after, they took him to Ofer prison.”

Ofer is in Israel and mostly holds administrative detainees. The prison rarely grants prisoners with visitation rights, and families are often denied permits to cross over to Israel altogether.
“He was not protesting or anything”, Rashad said. “Unfortunately, there has been absolutely no form of communication – we haven’t spoken to him since his arrest.”
Administrative detention is a practice in which Israel imprisons Palestinians without charge or trial, often based on “secret evidence”.
More than 300 children detained in Israeli prisons
Ayed Abu Qtaish, DCIP’s accountability programme director, said about 320 children are currently held in Israeli prisons and detention centres.
“In October 2015, there was a spike in the number of children being interrogated and arrested … A lot of them end up being tried in military courts,” he said.
“These children are usually picked up at protests, arrested for throwing stones, for allegedly possessing a weapon, things like that,” he explained.
Arrests of children usually happen at friction points – either near settlements, bypass roads, or at a construction site neat the separation barrier, he said.
“During these arrests, the children undergo various types of mistreatment, including torture,” he said.
The southern West Bank city of Hebron has become the site of several Israeli settlements in the middle of the local Palestinian population.
According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Palestinians in Hebron have been subject to restrictions on movement, the closure of main streets, and the shutting down of a major commercial hub.
B’Tselem has documented Palestinians’ experiences of lengthy, humiliating inspections at 20 permanent checkpoints across Hebron.
The presence of Israeli soldiers has led to a cycle of confrontation, often resulting in nightly military raids and arrests.
‘The infamous breaking the bones policy is back’
Amjad Al-Najjar, spokesperson for the Hebron-based Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Al Jazeera that since the last wave of protests, Israeli forces have used excessive force when beating and arresting Palestinians.
“The infamous breaking the bones policy is back,” he said, referencing policy by Israel’s former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
When he was defence minister during the first Intifada – or mass uprising, Rabin ordered Israeli army commanders to break the bones of Palestinian protesters.
Today, this policy has evolved to specifically target the knees and legs of Palestinian youth to disable them and as a means to prevent them from protesting altogether.
“In the last few days, after the protests over the US embassy move, a lot of the youth who return home after being detained were in miserable shape,” said Al-Najjar.
“They’re often covered in blood and with stitches on their heads as a result of being severely abused and beaten up by Israeli forces,” he added.
“They’re often in so much pain, that they are unable to consume water and food.”


 

Israel, a state of mind

How many states will it take to resolve the conflict over Palestine?

by Marwan Bishara

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a question and answer event on Israel's foreign policy at Chatham House in London on November 3 [Reuters/Toby Melville]
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a question and answer event on Israel’s foreign policy at Chatham House in London on November 3 [Reuters/Toby Melville]

Deceit and conceit were on full display at the Chatham House earlier this month, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped in for a chat. He was visiting London to celebrate 100 years of the Balfour Declaration, in which colonial Britain promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine at a time when Jews made up less than 10 percent of its inhabitants.

Before bombarding his audience with a barrage of the usual political spin and tired cliches about peace and security, Netanyahu’s British host readily provided the launching pad: Israel exists in a “very dangerous” region, a “conflict-prone” region of the world.

I listened carefully for any hint of irony as a Brit and an Israeli complained about the Middle East mess, but could only see a childish grin of satisfaction on Binji’s face. It’s as if, from Balfour to Blair and from Ben Gurion to Barak, countless British and Israeli leaders have tried in earnest to help these ungrateful Arabs, but to no avail.

And so today, despite the sincerity of their colonial efforts to bring reason and stability to these troubled lands, the poor Israeli and Chatham House lads are lamenting the mess. Preoccupied with so many conflicts in the Middle East, there’s no time for anything else to do or discuss.

Especially not when it comes to peace.

Israel’s preoccupations

Netanyahu’s theatrics vary depending on the audience. These days, his roles include strategic analyst, marketing executive, chief moralist, Sunni leader and modern Israelite prophet. He’s anything but a peace-seeker, let alone peacemaker.

So, Netanyahu, the strategist, warns of Tehran’s non-existing nuclear weapons programme and rails against the Iran nuclear deal using charts and maps, but says nothing of Israel’s own decades-old nuclear arsenal and its contribution to nuclear proliferation.

Perhaps that’s because he wasn’t asked. Ever?

Today, Chief Moralist Netanyahu looks at dictators and he sees ‘moderate Sunni’ leaders.

Before the Arab spring, Netanyahu argued that democracy was indispensable for peace since dictators couldn’t be trusted to maintain it. He preached democracy, when democracy was a useful pretext to justify the invasion of Iraq. But today, Netanyahu, the marketing executive, is re-branding democracy as a dangerous gamble.

Back when Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy was in fashion, Netanyahu stressed that the more democratic Arab states became, the less dangerous they would be for Israel. But I could only shake my head listening to Netanyahu at Chatham House cite Israeli-American sociologist Amitai Etzioni’s book, Security First, to show why democracy is bad for stability and peace. What a farce!

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Marwan Bishara
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So today, Chief Moralist Netanyahu looks at dictators and he sees “moderate Sunni” leaders. With a nudge from his pal, US President Donald Trump, he volunteers to champion the Saudi “Sunni crescent” against Iran’s “Shia Crescent” in return for the Sunni world looking the other way as Israel devours Palestine.

All in all, Netanyahu is optimistic. The Middle East has turned against itself, and its leaders are slowly but surely turning to Israel unconditionally, despite their self-interested coyness on the matter. And the world, especially the United States, has never been as receptive to Israeli demands.

But what about peace with the Palestinians? Well, Israel, is in no hurry.

The idea that a fully secure Israel would be conciliatory and “generous” with the Palestinians, which guided the peace process from the start, has proven false once again, but Arabs and others continue to make gestures towards Israel in the hope of a compromise.

Wishful thinking.

Half a state on half of the West Bank

After Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009, a TIME cover story explained that, “Israel doesn’t care about peace” because “Israelis feel prosperous, secure and disengaged from the peace process with the Palestinians.”

The same goes for their leaders. The ruling coalition is actually opposed to the “peace process” and is sure to implode at the mere consideration of a withdrawal from any part of the occupied West Bank, let alone from Jerusalem. So would the Likud Party. Netanyahu has no interest whatsoever in changing the status quo.

He rather insists on Israel’s historical right to a fully-fledged, sovereign and secure “Jewish state”, rooted in both biblical mythology and modern realpolitik. This means, among other things, extending Israel’s authority to all of Palestine.

While peacemakers ponder possibilities outside Netanyahu’s box, his government continues to box in the Palestinians.

But when it comes to the Palestinians, Netanyahu, the spinner, questions their demand for sovereignty, security and statehood, and suggests that peacemakers must think out of the box.

In other words, if they must stay, the Palestinians will have to do so as guests in the Jewish homeland or in “Greater Israel”. And if they behave, they may get half a state.

Just maybe.

While peacemakers ponder possibilities outside Netanyahu’s box, his government continues to box in the Palestinians.

It expands illegal settlements in occupied Palestine, tightens its security grip on the West Bank, and issues new humiliating preconditions for any progress in the peace process: Palestinian recognition of Israel’s historical right to exist as a “Jewish state” and abandonment of the “right of return”.

All of this diminishes the once-envisioned sovereign, independent and contiguous Palestinian state into a fragile, half-state on parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, undercutting a fair resolution of the refugee question.

It clearly doesn’t matter to Israel that the Palestinian leaders have committed to a two-state solution or that more than two-thirds of the UN member states have recognised Palestinian independence. As long as Israel can help it, Palestine will remain a distant dream. As former Secretary of State John Kerry concluded after his exhaustive experience with the Netanyahu government, Israel doesn’t want peace with the Palestinians.

It’s more interested in US bombing Iran than in advancing peace in Palestine.

The endgame

Then came President Trump promising to confront Iran and propose an “ultimate deal” to resolve the conflict once and for all.

When asked about the substance of his proposal, the US president was terribly blase and uncommitted: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like”. Trump left it to his religious Zionist son-in-law to articulate the “ultimate deal”, but he won’t propose anything serious before checking with Israel first.

Pressured to choose between a two-state solution and an emerging one-state reality, Netanyahu has come up with his own formula: a state and a half. And now he’s got the US to sponsor it and the Saudis to pay for it. No wonder he can’t stop smiling.

What the proposed deal may lack in fairness, the Saudis are expected to make up in funding. With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s authority facing bankruptcy and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in shambles, the Palestinian leadership may bite – not because it wants to, but because the “ultimate deal” is, in fact, an ultimatum: get with the programme or get lost.

This may work for a short while, but it won’t bring peace or security in the long term. And it will undermine, perhaps for good, the idea of a two-state solution, while at the same time prevent a de facto one-state reality from emerging.

But regional and international support won’t change the stubborn fact; it will merely formalise apartheid, Israeli-style.

This is a deadlock. It’s injustice. And it will only fester, Netanyahu’s false prophecy notwithstanding.

The real solution lies not in the number of states required to resolve the conflict, but in the state of mind that maintains it.

This article is part one of a series. Part two, “The peace criminal: Netanyahu’s Israel and Israel without Netanyahu”, coming soon…


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