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Immoral and inhuman

Cesar Chelala, MD, PhD, is an international public health consultant and an award-winning writer on human rights and foreign policy issues.

Writing in "Palestinian Children Vs. the IDF" on CommonDreams Chelala tackles head-on the often-repeated and now almost a mantra of the Israeli Defence Force how it is the most moral army in the world.

"The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is among the strongest armies in the world. According to Israeli Defense Minister Ehuda Barak, it is also one the most moral ones. One wouldn't know that for its treatment of Palestinian children. On December 13, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) stated that the Israeli military and police were violating Israeli law by detaining Palestinian children, some as young as seven years old, and interrogating them. This last denunciation follows an equally serious one of Palestinian children being sexually abused by Israeli police officers.

"They [the police] hit me and dragged along the floor. They handcuffed me with these plastic handcuffs which are very tight. I was very scared. Only when my father came they stopped," Muslim Odeh, an 11-year-old Palestinian, told the BBC. His charges were strongly denied by the Israeli police.

According to the Geneva-based Defence for Children International (DCI) they have 100 sworn affidavits from Palestinian children who said that they were mistreated by their Israeli captors. Fourteen among them say that they were sexually abused or threatened with sexual assault to pressure them into confession.

In 2009 alone, Defence of Children International (DCI) reviewed 100 sworn affidavits which showed 81% of them were coerced into confessions, 14% were kept in solitary confinement and 4% were sexually assaulted. DCI believes that these figures may understate the extent of the problem. Many parents don't complain to the authorities, since they feel that they cannot rely on the same system that abuses their children.

There are currently 340 children in Israeli jails, most of them convicted of throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers and police. Children's complaints of violence are disregarded, and no proceedings are taken against those responsible."

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