An open letter to B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli and to Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy

From Maurice Ostroff

April 2, 2013

Dear Sarit Michaeli and Gideon Levy

I am writing to seek your advice.

In the March 31 Jerusalem Post article “IDF releases video of Hebron kids throwing stones” you, (Ms. Michaeli) are quoted as saying

“Even if they [minors under 12] are throwing stones, they cannot be arrested.. there are other ways to deal with children that throw stones“.[emphasis added]

And Mr. Levy, there is a serious contradiction in your Haaretz article under the headline “Aged eight, wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, and placed in Israeli custody“. which first states that the arrests were made INDISCRIMINATELY and later states that when handed over to the Palestinian police and asked who had participated in the stone throwing all raised their hands in affirmative, from which  it is obvious that the arrests were NOT INDISCRIMINATE

Similarly, the allegation on B’Tselem’s web site that there was mass detention of youths for unspecified suspicions is highly irresponsible and unsustainable.

More importantly, the Israelis showed due consideration to the ages of the youths. As you point out, most of the young children were released within a few hours and handed over to the Palestinian police who called the parents to come and collect them.

Not only I, but I’m sure the Israel government and the IDF would be very grateful to learn your secret about how to effectively deal with hate-indoctrinated kids who hurl rocks and stones like those thrown last Thursday at a car near Hebron, critically injuring an Israeli mother and her baby who is still fighting for her life as well as the rocks that injured another motorist on the same day near Na’alin.

I was initially alarmed when I saw the headline on B’Tselem web site “Mass arrest of Palestinian children on their way to school..” fearing that “mass” meant huge numbers but I was relieved to learn that 27 were arrested and that of these only seven were actually held for questioning, none of whom were minors and I hope you will agree that in the circumstances the description “mass arrests” by both B’Tselem and Levy is an unjustified inciting exaggeration..

I was also interested to learn that there was a cogent reason for the arrests which followed stone throwing and hurling a Molotov cocktail and that Judea Brigade Commander Avi Bluth said that stone throwing at checkpoint 160 had become a daily occurrence but after these kids were detained the area has been very quiet

Seriously, I ask how differently you would have acted. The kids who were justifiably suspected of stone throwing were, (according to Gideon’s article) detained to enable the “Israeli security forces to examine the video footage they had in their possession, to see which of the youngsters had thrown stones..” Moreover the suspicions were justified by the admissions of the youths to the Palestinian police.

How differently do you suggest we should deal with kids whose violence emanates from indoctrination to hate, not only on official PA TV but in their school textbooks as described by then-Senator Hillary Clinton who said

“These textbooks do not give Palestinian children an education; they give them an indoctrination. When we viewed this  report in combination with other [PA] media that these children are exposed to, we see a larger picture that is disturbing. It is disturbing on a human level, it is disturbing to me as a mother, it is disturbing to me as a United States Senator, because it basically, profoundly poisons the minds of these children.”

If you listen to Senator Clinton’s complete speech, perhaps you will agree that the problem should be tackled at the source namely, the indoctrination and incitement not only in PA schoolbooks but in the mosques and media which guarantee that the conflict, terror and war will continue into the next generation.

And I suggest that in its humanitarian efforts, B’Tselem would do well to address this incitement in conjunction with its vigilance in recording Israeli actions. And you Gideon would be more credible if you admitted, even grudgingly, that the Palestinians  have an obligation to avoid stoking the fires of hatred You would be doing a service to the cause of peace if you produced more balanced reports aimed at influencing the Palestinians to replace their hate education with peace education.

It is not only Israel that would appreciate your advice on dealing with child violence; there is world wide concern about how to deal with this problem without placing them under arrest.

For example on March 3, 2010 the Mail on Line reported that in Britain almost 160 children are convicted of crime every day including ten-year-olds.

In September 2012 Euronews reported that in Turkey, new legislation was being considered to deal with the “stone throwing problem” that especially affects Turkey’s Kurdish youth. Hundreds of minors, some as young as 12, have been prosecuted and jailed following clashes with police.

“ An entire generation is growing up in the prisons in the southeast,” said a lawyer. “ They are just kids, children, whose rights are recognised by international conventions, but are being punished as if they were members of terrorist organisations under anti-terror law.”

One of the most carefully considered laws for dealing with children accused of crimes is the South African Child Justice Bill that was passed in September 2008 to deal with a situation in which  between 9,000 and 13,000 children were arrested each month in the year prior to the promulgation of the Act.

According to a paper published in May 2010 by the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development the act does not do away with arresting children but it introduces a preliminary inquiry aiming to

 “ensure that a collective, determined effort is made to consider what should be done in the case of each child, and that the inquiry occurs within 48 hours of arrest if the child is detained. The preliminary inquiry is designed to avoid children slipping through the intended safeguards and to change negative practices from the past where insufficient attention was paid to children in the early stages of their case being processed, sometimes causing them to languish in detention for several weeks or even months“.

However there is a more serious aspect to child stone throwers and that is their close similarity to the scourge of child soldiers. See also

The book “The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation” edited by Zachery Lockman and  Joel Benin describes communiqués issued during the first intifada by the United Leadership of the Uprising, consisting of PLO factions: Fatah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other factions. Communiqué No.2 says,

“O youth of Palestine, O throwers of incendiary stones, clearly the new fascists will be forced to admit the facts entrenched by your ferocious rebellion..Intensify the use of popular means against all enemies beginning with the holy stones and ending with the incendiary Molotov cocktails”

How different, I ask, is this from recruiting child soldiers; a war crime in terms of  Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which states

“Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime”.

I suggest too, that in your laudable humanitarian efforts it would be productive to set an order of priority. For example it is difficult to understand why your very impressive access and your investigative activities fail to even mention the widespread torture of Palestinians by Palestinian as reported for example in the Mail on Line on March 30, 2013 under the headline

Hooded, hanged and left in agony for hours on end: Palestinian security chief tells how he has tormented suspectsand which reports further “But perhaps the most shocking revelation is that torture sessions still being perpetrated by his former colleagues are financed with Britain’s help“.–reveals-Britain-helps-pay-33m-foreign-aid.html

This letter is being publicized as will the considered replies that I hope to receive from both of you.


Maurice Ostroff

About the Author
Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel His web site is at