Harriet Sherwood’s shocking report! Israel detains Palestinians who, umm, riot and commit acts of violence

My first instinct upon reading Harriet Sherwood’s latest dispatch in the Guardian “Hundreds of Palestinian minors jailed for throwing stones, says report, July 18, was to fisk it, as it was based on a report by B’Tselem – the highly politicized anti-Israel NGO (generously funded by the EU) whose CEO, Jessica Montell, has characterized Israeli policy in the West Bank as “worse than Apartheid”, and who employed a staffer who blogged that Israel was upholding “Nazi values.”

However, after reading it carefully it occurred to me that such an analysis almost wasn’t necessary, and that the only news was that, to Harriet Sherwood and the Guardian, it’s news, and evidently some sort of scandal, that Israel detains Palestinian teenagers who riot and attack soldiers.

Among the most incriminating passages in the report by Sherwood:

“800 Palestinian children [under 18] charged with throwing stones in the West Bank over a six-year period.”

So, that would be an average of about 133 Palestinian teens incarcerated a year, out of the thousands of such incidents documented by the IDF – many exploited by terror organizations who cynically “recruit” them.  The IDF report issued in response to the B’Tselem accusations noted that the NGO “was made aware of 160 cases of terrorist activity, including those involving minors that resulted in the death and maiming of Israeli civilians and security forces” – yet, for some reason, that information never found its way to the B’Tselem report or Sherwood’s post.

More broadly, however, in comparison to the 133 or so Palestinian youths detained by Israel per year, each year in the United States police make 2.1 million juvenile arrests and over 200,000 are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system.  And, on any given night, 81,000 juveniles are incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities and 10,000 are held in adult prisons. 

Among Sherwood’s other shocking revelations:

” Many described being arrested in the middle of the night”

Right, because, as we know, daytime arrests are so much more humane.

Of course, also, strangely absent from the report was any attempt to determine why teenage Palestinians decided to attack Israelis in the fist place or how their parents feel about the fact that terror groups are exploiting their children.

Sherwood also cited the B’Tselem report as indicating that “The sentences ranged from a few days to 20 months” – hardly a length of time that can be described as draconian.

During the height of the often racially charged culture wars in the U.S. during the 80s and 90s, the incarceration of minority youths was a big issue – with critics often charging that U.S. justice system was institutionally biased and that other more humane ways of dealing with the explosion of youth crime, rather than incarceration, should be explored.

Since then, however, the issue has pretty much dropped off the political radar, as, for whatever the problems with incarcerating youth, many came to the sober conclusion that the problems caused by not incarcerating them – the injurious effects to largely minority communities of the violent crimes such teenagers were committing – was far, far worse.

So, to B’Tselem, Harriet Sherwood, and Israel’s other professional critics, here’s a question.  Other than detaining and temporary incarcerating (for modest lengths of time) Palestinian teens who riot and throw rocks at security personnel, what else is to be done?  What is your alternative to dealing with such anti-social behavior.

Yes, the life of the critic: Always demanding answers, and never able to offer solutions.  

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