With Abuse of Palestinian Children, IDF Hits New Low

“A CNN investigative report [that] aired Thursday slammed the treatment of Palestinian children by IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers [including] uncorroborated charges of sexual abuse against Palestinian youngsters while in IDF custody,” reported Israel’s YNet.

That a major network like CNN would run a piece accusing it of wrongdoing is a mark of how far Israel has fallen in favor with the American media and public, especially considering how sensitive the issue is. But wait — children in custody? The stone throwers, for the most part. According to Palestine’s Ma’an News (follow link for graphic details), Save the Children and UK-based based children’s rights group Defence for Children International (DCI). . .

. . . confirm Israel routinely prosecutes Palestinian children as young as 12, describing the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children as “widespread, systematic and institutionalised.” . . . In 2009, DCI collected 100 sworn affidavits from Palestinian children and teenagers who said they were abused in Israeli military and police custody. Almost 70 percent complained of being beaten, four percent reported being sexually assaulted, and 12 percent said they were threatened with sexual assault. . . . all were dismissed without a single criminal investigation. . . . A 2009 report by Save the Children says [that the] psycho-social consequences of detention affect the immediate behavior of children, the way they think including their analysis of the outside world.

Speaking of which, what “psycho-social” circumstances affect how members of the IDF “think including their analysis of the outside world”? Those most often cited include the Holocaust, Israel’s sense of being surrounded by hostile states, suicide attacks and shelling by Palestinians, and Iran’s role in funding Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.

The legitimacy of those concerns is unquestionable. But, an inability or unwillingness on the part of recent Israeli governments to behave like a citizen of the world or at least of its region instead of acting as if it exists in a vacuum can’t help but make one wonder if deeper issues influence the psyches of Israelis, especially members of the IDF. The treatment of detained Palestinian youths might shed some light.

In fact, it can be safely surmised that the abuse in question is a symptom of a hyper-militarized state. According to the school of psychohistory, hyper-militarized states are often a reflection of authoritarian child-raising. The obvious examples are Germany and Austria in the late nineteenth century. (No comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany implied!)

In his landmark 2002 book The Emotional Life of Nations, the founder of psychohistory, Lloyd DeMause (who celebrated his 79th birthday yesterday), wrote: “Polls of Germans of the time show the majority were . . . routinely beaten by their fathers, and considered him ‘absolute law in the family . . . we feared him more than we loved him.’”

Unwanted babies were often killed, but, “If a German newborn was allowed to live, it was then subjected to the most horrifying traumatic tortures that can be inflicted upon children, every detail of which became indelibly imprinted on their early amygdalan fear system and then re-inflicted upon ‘enemies’ during the war and the Holocaust.”

As for the sex abuse, “When infants were removed from their cribs, they usually slept in the family bed and either were made part of the sexual act or regularly witnessed it close up. [Also] German doctors reported ‘nursemaids and other servants carry out all sorts of sexual acts on the children entrusted to their care.’”

Needless to say, abuse and murder of children is nowhere near this widespread in either Israel or any Western state today. But neither is Israel immune to the same troubling degree of child abuse as any Western state. Back in 2008, Israeli child and spousal abuse expert Daniel Eidensohn told this story:

The holiday of Succot had arrived, and, when their father was out praying at the synagogue, the children were growing hungry. One of them, a girl, took the initiative and prepared nine pizzas for herself and her siblings. As they sat down to eat, their father arrived home, and gazed with rage upon his daughter’s efforts. “Eat every single one by yourself,” he ordered his terrified daughter, forcing her to obey until she vomited. The father . . . admitted to carrying out the actions described [as well as] sexually abusing one of his daughters, and to routinely verbally and physically abusing all of them. . . . Last month, it was the Rose Pizem case. The country listened in horror as details of the murder of the four-year-old at the hand of her grandfather, who stuffed her body into a suitcase and tossed it into the Yarkon river, emerged. Soon after that, three mothers murdered their young children in the space of a single week.

When it comes to the Orthodox Jewish community in general, in May of this year the Guardian reported:

The uncovering of sexual abuse perpetrated by religious leaders in the Catholic church is mirrored within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community [and] starting to be prosecuted in New York. And as with the Catholic church . . . ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are beginning to permit the reporting to police of these crimes. . . . A little known Jewish law called mesira . . . forbids a Jew from reporting another Jew to the gentile authorities. The law was in response to non-Jewish governments whose courts were staffed by antisemites. [Today most] Jewish communities recognise the legal system of the countries where they live [but] . . . . Perpetrators of, for example, domestic violence, child abuse, or sexual crimes, are often protected by the ultra-Orthodox communities and dealt with “in-house”. They are sometimes beaten up by the self-appointed Jewish “police”, and often moved to areas where there is no knowledge of their crimes

Whatever the rate of child abuse in Israel, though, how did its citizenry evince the passivity it displays in the face of its government’s policies toward Palestine? The same, of course, can be said for the acquiescence of most Americans to the illegal wars that the United States is conducting. Bottom line, as Lloyd DeMause says, the “way to stop wars and terrorism is by giving more help to mothers toward improving child care, not by increasing military power.”