The following correspondence follows my open letter to Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli, published in Times of Israel on April 2, 2013

Ms. Michaeli has not responded but Gideon Levy sent the following email.

 On  08/04/2013  Gideon Levy wrote

Dear Mr. Ostroff, Thank you for your letter and all your remarks. It is illegal in Israel to arrest any child under the age of 12 and still the IDF does it. Please read carefully the last Uniceff report about Israel .If you can live with, I envy you. All the rest is minor.

 Gideon Levy


Below is my response

April 10, 2013

Dear Gideon Levy,

Thank you for your email. As recommended by you, I read the UNICEF report and I am distressed by some of the allegations.

 However  I’m heartened by remarks in the report expressing approval of a number of improvements that have been made in the treatment of juveniles and I’m encouraged to learn that representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the IDF had collaborated with UNICEF in their investigations and in producing the report. Moreover, according to the MFA web site, Israel has undertaken to collaborate with UNICEF to implement the report’s recommendations through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work, the MFA states, it values and respects..

 You say correctly that it is illegal in Israel to arrest children under 12, but your allegation that the IDF does so is contradicted by the UNICEF report which does not allege any under 12 arrests. It states clearly that the ages of the 700 Palestinian children arrested each year are between 12 and 17.

This 700 figure should be seen in perspective. Dealing with juvenile crime is not confined to Israel. It is a world-wide problem. For example, hundreds of kids some as young as 12 are jailed in Turkey many for stone throwing and it has been reported that an entire generation is growing up in prison there.

 In South Africa between 9,000 and 13,000 children were arrested in 2007 and in Britain almost 160 children are convicted of crime EVERY DAY including ten-year-olds. In the USA, according to Equal justice Initiative thousands of children have been sentenced as adults and sent to adult prisons. Nearly 3,000 have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Children as young as 13 have been tried as adults and sentenced to die in prison.

 In Sweden, according to The Local of March 19, 2013, children suspected of serious crimes are rarely afforded any human contact and are subject to isolation akin to torture. Children were arrested on at least 3,118 occasions in 2011.

 I don’t quote the above statistics to claim that two wrongs make a right. I refer to them to indicate that in common with other democratic countries we have been unable to figure out how best to deal with juvenile crime.

 In the circumstances, I ask how you suggest juvenile throwers of lethal stones, rocks and firebombs be dealt with.

I believe that you and I share an ambition to achieve a peaceful resolution with our neighbors and I hope you agree that throwing stones hinders rather than advances this objective. I hope you agree that it is unconscionable (in fact it is a war crime) to enlist children to commit violent acts and that children who throw rocks and firebombs or vandalize mosques or uproot olive trees must be dealt with equally, be they Jews or Arabs.

 In my letter I referred at length to incitement which encourages the kids to perform acts which lead to the arrests and in all sincerity I ask you to please address this core issue.