Indy’s wild claim that Israel ‘tortures’ Palestinian kids continues to unravel

h/t Gidon Shaviv

We posted on Jan 2nd about a wild accusation at The Independent with the following headline:

The charge that Palestinian kids were tortured by Israel – by being “caged” for “months” during winter – was repeated in the text of the story which was written by Adam Withnall:

An Israeli human rights organisation has accused the government of torturing Palestinian children after it emerged some were kept for months in outdoor cages during winter.

To back up this claim, Withnall cited a report from the NGO PCATI (Public Committee Against Torture in Israel).

Withnall wrote the following:

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) published a report which said children suspected of minor crimes were subjected to “public caging”,

However, as we observed in our original post, when you go to the actual report (open the Word document at the bottom) at PCATI’s site, you learn that the NGO does NOT actually level specific charges that Palestinian children were kept in “cages” or “tortured.  We noted further that the statement by PCATI in question links to a report (in Hebrew) at the Israel Public Defender’s Office (PDO).  Indeed, Withnall actually cited the PDO report, which similarly did not mention anything about Palestinians children.

Withnall wrote:

“During our visit, held during a fierce storm that hit the state, attorneys met detainees who described to them a shocking picture: in the middle of the night dozens of detainees were transferred to the external iron cages built outside the IPS transition facility in Ramla,” the PDO wrote on its website.

Upon looking more thoroughly through the PDO website, and reading the entire letter their office sent to the Israel Justice Ministry about such detention methods, we learned that they were only charging that some Israelis arrested in the middle of the night spent a number of hours in outdoor (open-air) jails until they were taken to the court early in the morning.  The PDO statement further clarifies that this practice (which was recently ended) in general – under which detainees sometimes waited in outdoor holding cells for several hours – had existed for a number of months.

Again, there is no mention of Palestinian children.

Following our communication with Indy editors, they minimally revised the passage which falsely claimed that prisoners were kept “for months” in “outdoor cages”, as they evidently realized that the word months only signified the length of time the practice had been going on.

However, upon further investigation by Presspecitva and CiF Watch, it increasingly appears likely that the entire Indy story is untrue. We weren’t able to find any evidence that anyone even alleged that Palestinian children were kept in these outdoor facilities (“caged”), or “tortured”, during transit to court.

In addition to the fact that the Israel Public Defender’s Office doesn’t mention Palestinian children in any context, we checked with the Israel Prison Service, whose spokesperson (Sivan Weizman) told us quite clearly that the entire PDO complaint submitted to the Justice Ministry only refers to Israeli prisoners (some of whom were evidently teens) and NOT Palestinians, yet alone Palestinian kids. Weizman stated emphatically that this had nothing to do whatsoever with Palestinian children, and that the prisoners in question were common criminals, not suspects being held for security (terrorist) offenses.

Finally, it’s quite telling that neither the Guardian nor other British and U.S. news outlets – which typically are not shy about smearing Israel with unsubstantiated allegations – have jumped on the story.  If there was any credible evidence that Israel was “torturing” kids, you’d think the usual media suspects would be all over it.

The Indy hatchet job should never have seen the light of day in the first place, and – barring any new evidence which would justify the original charge – it seems clear that further corrections are no longer sufficient. Indy editors should retract the entire story.

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