Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Published June 22, 2005 Volume 12 Number 1
This week Palestine Report interview Ayed Abu Eqtaish, researcher for the Defense for Children International-Palestine Section, on the phenomena of Palestinian child collaborators that was the subject of a recent DCI-PS workshop report
PR: How wide is the scope of the problem of children being pressured into collaboration with Israel today?
Abu Eqtaish: We don’t have a clear idea of the scope of the problem today, as we get our information from our case studies of children and our case work with them, rather than through comprehensive research of this problem. But most children are recruited through interrogation [while imprisoned], during which they are exposed to pressure. Sometimes the interrogators are successful in recruiting children through pressure but most of the time they fail.
PR: How do kids become pressured into collaboration?
Abu Eqtaish: Recruiters make use of the needs of Palestinian people [such as travel and work permits, or to prevent harm to their family and friends] in order to put pressure on them to work with Israel. The interrogators use blackmail and [psychological] pressure to try to make the kids feel totally alone in the world, that not even his family cares about him, and as though their fate depends on the decision of the interrogator. They demonstrate this by denying family visits, reinforcing the child’s impression that he is alone. In this atmosphere the interrogator can make the child cooperate with him, through psychological and physical abuse. They also deny the children access to a lawyer, and use various justifications as to why the child can’t be visited by lawyers. For example, they ask the lawyer to wait, and while the lawyer is waiting the child is interrogated. Often the lawyer will leave because he doesn’t know when the interrogation will end. In other cases, the Shabak security forces will deny visitation for a short period to delay the lawyer from initiating court proceedings to get a permit to visit the child.
PR: What can the Palestinian Authority do to protect these children, and how should it handle children suspected of collaboration?
Abu Eqtaish: As to what should be done internally about this issue, I can’t make specific recommendations. However, while these children are imprisoned, the PA can do nothing. After they finish their sentence, the PA should deal with them as victims, not as offenders. Children who are alleged to be collaborators with Israel are victims and should be dealt with on this basis.
PR: Are there any social-economic and psychological patterns of child collaborators?
Abu Eqtaish: We haven’t done comprehensive research on this issue to say either way. In general, the Israeli security forces are trying to recruit any Palestinian, depending on their needs. We don’t know exactly where they succeed and where they don’t in terms of recruitment. We didn’t investigate this issue.
PR: What can be done at the community and international levels to protect these children?
At the community level, they can start to raise awareness amongst families to protect their children [from becoming easy recruits]. It is also important to initiate good practices with children who are alleged collaborators and rehabilitate them, and to not treat them as traitors. This attitude of rehabilitation is what should be employed when dealing with them. This is the main issue at the community level. However, the most important factor [regarding the phenomena of child collaborators] is the Israeli forces who are pressuring children, and this can’t really be dealt with on the community level. At the international level, the use of children in this way is regarded as a war crime, and the international community should intervene and pressure Israel to stop this policy.-Published June 22, 2005©Palestine Report