Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Children choose prison over misery by Sonia Verma in Nablus from the Times of London

This article was forwarded to me. Considering the terrible reputation of the British press for bias against Israel, the candour of this report is remarkable. It details how resourceful and desperate Arabs have found a creative way to shelter their children from the stupidity of the Hamas leadership that they elected.
The article details how some Arab families are actually encouraging their children to get arrested to shelter them from poverty, violence and unemployment. The prospect of a stipend from the Palestine Authority is an added incentive. One can be fairly certain that an Arab enemy would not be nearly so kind to an adversary that was sending them suicide bombers. I have included the link. If you are interested in the tone of the British press, you should click on the link above this article. After reading the article, explore other stories in the paper. There is also a link for sending a letter to the editor.


As families struggle with spiralling violence and crippling poverty in the West Bank and Gaza, a growing number are using a new tactic to feed and shelter their children: sending them to an Israeli jail. Hundreds of parents are encouraging their offspring to get arrested for petty crimes, such as carrying a knife or verbal harassment, because life in jail is seen as better than life at home.

Children go willingly into Israeli custody because prison provides them a temporary escape from the endless boredom and harsh violence of life in the occupied territories.

Their parents, in turn, receive financial compensation for their hardship from the Palestinian Authority, money that often amounts to their only income. “They come to the checkpoints with weapons that aren’t really dangerous, just to get arrested,” said Fouad Halhal, the head of Israel’s civil administration office in Nablus.

He estimates that more than two hundred Palestinian children have got themselves arrested in the past two years. “It’s a known phenomenon among the Palestinian youth. It’s something they want to do.”

Last spring Muhammad Kharaz, a scruffy 17-year-old student, was looking to escape the inertia of life in Nablus, a city surrounded by military checkpoints and cut off from the rest of the West Bank.

He had heard about jail from friends at school who had already done time. There was digital television, organised sports, access to books and regular meals, they told him.

It sounded like a dream compared with his cramped existence at home, where he slept on the floor with three siblings in a two-roomed house and his mother struggled to feed them on a teacher’s salary.

So last spring he slipped a kitchen knife under his shirt and made his way to Hawara, an Israeli military checkpoint on the city’s south side. “I was feeling desperate, so I thought I will try my luck getting into jail. I thought prison would be comfortable,” he said.

At the checkpoint he flashed his knife and was taken into custody. After several days of interrogation he landed in al-Naqab, an Israeli military jail in the Negev. Life in prison exceeded his expectations. “I played table tennis and basketball every day. Three of my best friends were there from Nablus. We ate eggs for breakfast. At night we would stay up late and read. I miss it,” he said.

He was delighted at his trial when a judge handed him a seven-month sentence. His parents were less than pleased. They borrowed £100 to post bail, freeing him after a dozen days behind bars. “I still dream of going back,” he said.

Other parents admit to complicity in orchestrating the arrest of their children. Their motivation is mostly financial. The Palestinian Authority pays a monthly benefit of about £85 to any family whose son is held in an Israeli jail.

After a year of debilitating sanctions against the Hamas-led Government, unemployment in the occupied territories has reached an all-time high. A prisoner’s stipend exceeds the salary of many Palestinians.

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