Point-blank: Stone cold justice

Mohamed Salmawy
Tuesday 12 Dec 2023



ince the Hamas strike on 7 October, the Israeli propaganda machine has been working overtime. Part of its campaign is to accuse Hamas of targeting women and children as hostages, rather than just military personnel. But the recent prisoner exchanges have proven to the world that Israel was the first to seize women and children and use them as hostages. Moreover, video footage and oral testimony have shown that the Israeli women and children who had been held hostage had been well treated. The reverse is the case for the women and children Israel has held. There is abundant evidence that Palestinian women and children suffered many forms of physical and psychological torture and abuse at every stage of arrest and detention. Moreover, the evidence is not new.

A film titled Stone Cold Justice is circulating again on social media. Produced by a team of Australian filmmakers two years ago, it documents how Palestinian children are arrested and detained by Israel, subjected to physical abuse and torture to extract false confessions, and then forced to gather intelligence on Palestinian activists. The disturbing revelations in the 45-minute documentary caused an uproar in some Western circles upon its release. I had the opportunity to see the film recently. Although I, like almost everyone else in the Arab world, was aware that such criminal practices took place in Israeli jails, I was still shocked by what I saw.

The film shows Israeli forces conducting their periodic raids, bursting into Palestinian homes, and snatching children from their beds for allegedly throwing stones at an Israeli armoured vehicle. We hear the desperate cries of the mothers as they and their husbands try to protect the children. The Israeli soldiers beat the parents and throw them to the ground as they carry away the children. In the “investigations,” the children suffer unimaginable horrors: they are beaten, subjected to electric shocks, sexually abused. They are then forced to sign confessions in Hebrew before being dragged before a military court. According to the film, 99 per cent of the cases brought before these courts end with a guilty verdict. When the children are released to act as informers, they are warned that if they do not cooperate with the occupation authorities, not only will they risk arrest and torture again, but members of their family and their neighbours will also suffer the same fate. On occasion, the Israelis try to lure the children into serving them with money or gifts like a mobile phone. Even if children can physically recover from such inhumane treatment, the psychological trauma is lasting.

The evidence speaks for itself. Can we possibly compare the Palestinians’ treatment of the women and children they took hostage with what thousands of Palestinian children have suffered at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces?

* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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