Israeli Judge: Some Palestinian Minors See Jail Sentence as Way of Escaping Home

Jurist and attorneys call for more sympathetic handling of cases in which youngsters deliberately seek arrest to flee domestic unhappiness.

Reuters

Military courts in the West Bank see several cases a year of Palestinian minors who clash with the army in order to be arrested and escape conditions at home, according to an Israeli judge.

Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court Judge Amir Dahan, a former Israel Defense Forces military court judge who frequently cites this information in lectures, told students recently of the case of a Hebron girl who suffered beatings at home. She was apprehended with a knife at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in that city.

“I decided to release her, because jail is not a solution,” related Dahan during the lecture. “She needed help. A few days later, she took a knife and again went to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. I was in a real dilemma. If I let her go again and again, she could end up trying to stab a soldier. Military courts do not have rehabilitation means,” he added.

Attorney Nery Ramati, of the Gabi Lasky law firm, has represented many Palestinian minors. He is leading efforts to find alternatives to detention for Palestinian minors.

“I once represented a girl who lived at home and her parents were angry because her matriculation scores were not good. There was great pressure at home about it and they may have beaten her a little, so she decided to go to a checkpoint with fire crackers in her bag,” Ramati told Haaretz.

When she set one of the firecrackers off at the fence, IDF soldiers arrested her, Ramati said, adding that the girl then told the soldiers, “I came for you to arrest me.”

Ramati said the prosecution “went crazy over the idea that she could be released. From their point of view, she has to sit in jail because she’s dangerous,” he said.

The military court at the IDF’s Ofer base in the northern West Bank is currently hearing the case of a 16-year-old girl from Qalandiyah, who was in conflict with her parents because of her low grades at school. She came to the Qalandiyah checkpoint and called the military police over to her, at which point she was placed under arrest.

Her attorney, Tareq Barghout, asked the military court to send the teenager to a rehabilitation home for girls, in Beit Jala. The prosecution opposed the move and the IDF’s chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, Lt. Col. Morris Hirsch, even appeared in court himself to persuade the judges not to send the girl to a rehabilitation center but instead to jail, Barghout told Haaretz.

“They are still stuck in the primitive thinking of deterring minors,” Barghout said. “They don’t take into account at all the key consideration of rehabilitation. They don’t care whether this girl is rehabilitated, as long as she belongs to the Palestinian population.”