From THE AUSTRALIAN Editorial, FEBRUARY 21, 2014:
ISRAEL, the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, has acted wisely
in its decision to replace night-time arrests of Palestinian children suspected
of stone throwing and other crimes on the West Bank with a system of summonses.
The practice of night-time arrests was highlighted in a recent investigation by
The Australian’s Middle East correspondent John Lyons and the ABC’s Four
The reporting drew an angry response from some Israeli supporters in Australia.
But discussion in Israel shows the nation’s leaders, army and commentators
understand the benefits of the change.
Israel’s chief military prosecutor for the West Bank, Lieutenant Colonel Maurice
Hirsch, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday the new program, if successful,
would provide “tremendous gains in saving people from operational dangers and
minimising future claims of abuse”. Every arrest was dangerous, at best. And
avoiding the arrest of Palestinian minors at night would negate “misleading
claims of widespread, systematic and institutionalised mistreatment” [emphasis added - SL]. The
change could also help Israeli officials avoid being brought before the
International Criminal Court as a result of a deliberate campaign of
To the army’s credit, it wants to make the changes work. And it is keeping “an
open mind” about whether Palestinian suspects will turn up for questioning when
summonsed. If they fail to do so it will underline the need for sterner
measures to be resumed.
Night-time arrests of minors have been conducted only among Palestinian
suspects on the occupied West Bank, not among Israel’s 1.7 million Arab and
Palestinian citizens, who share the same rights as Jewish citizens. Night arrests
were preferred because of the likelihood of violent demonstrations during the
Justifiably, Israel has no intention of compromising on security when
stone-throwing and other offences by minors are a significant problem on the
West Bank. As Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel and
Jewish Affairs Council wrote last week, many of the 700 Palestinian minors
arrested annually in Israel are involved in shootings, bomb plots and murder,
as well as stone-throwing, that has killed at least 12 Israelis over recent
decades and injured many more.