No Way to Treat a Child

Guest Post by JVP member Benay Blend based in Albuquerque, NM

During the protests in Bil’in against the separation wall on July 31, 2014, the sixteen-year old son of Iyad Burnat was shot in the leg. Iyad has organized protests against the wall every Friday for years, but the violence against protestors intensified after the attack on Gaza the year before.

Iyad recalled that Majd was just standing still when he was injured, and the attack most likely was because his father was a prominent peace activist. At that time Iyad asked for donations to help cover the hospital expenses, and that is how we met, on facebook. Since then two of his other sons have been injured with rubber bullets. Since 2014 I’ve followed Iyad on facebook, discussed strategy with him, and when I learned that he would be in Denver last March, I invited him to come here to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A few weeks ago Iyad returned to speak in Albuquerque and Santa Fe about what it is like to live under occupation. On Saturday night when he returned to Albuquerque after a successful fund-raiser in Santa Fe, he received a message from his wife that the Israelis had invaded his home (not an uncommon occurrence), and this time threatened to murder his second son Abd al-Khaliq then bring the body back to the family. Yesterday I learned that they partly followed through with their threat by kidnapping his son along with other children and transporting them to Ofer prison.

Their trial will be on Thursday in a military court. I do not believe that I have every met anyone with as much courage, resilience and integrity as Iyad Burnat. When I asked what we could do for his son, he said that he did not want us to do anything special for him because many children are in prison.

Nevertheless I am writing from my heart because he is my friend, and I would hope that many people take to tweeting, writing to congress, and any other means possible to end the torture and detention of children. I’ve seen his three year old stand up to Israeli soldiers. While he is every bit as brave as his father, children should spend their days playing, not living under the daily threat of tear gas and threats.

For the sake of Abd al-Khaliq and all the other children sitting in an Israeli prison, and their families who live with this uncertainty on a daily basis, please do what you can to end child detention.

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