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From the field

Kafr Qadum: Military plasters photos of minors, threatening capture on sight

On Saturday, 1 June 2013, Israeli soldiers arrived at the West Bank village of Kafr Qadum. Between midnight and 1:00 A.M., they put up posters displaying photographs of four minors who live in the village. The following heading, written in poor Arabic, in spoken dialect, was printed above each photo: “We are the army, watch out, we’ll catch you if we see you or come to your house”. The four persons depicted in the posters are minors between the ages of 14 and 17, each from a different family in the village. According to testimony given by residents, several explosions, probably of stun grenades and tear-gas grenades, were heard before the military force left the village.

A poster soldiers put up in Kafr Qadum with photos of minors, threatening capture on sight. Photo: ‘Abd al-Karim Sa’adi, B'Tselem, 3 June 2013
A poster soldiers put up in Kafr Qadum with photos of minors, threatening capture on sight. Photo: ‘Abd al-Karim Sa’adi, B'Tselem, 3 June 2013

The next day, 2 June 2013, B’Tselem wrote to Captain Barak Raz, Spokesperson of the Judea and Samaria Division, asking whether the military was responsible for posting the notices. On 4 June 2013, Captain Raz wrote in response that “the activity was carried out for deterrence purposes, as part of a range of activities taken in view of the phenomenon of stone-throwing and violent disturbances of the peace. This action is intended to deter teenagers from taking part in popular terrorism, which may also endanger them personally. This is a local initiative, taken as part of the military’s response to stone-throwing and disturbances of the peace. We will examine the use of this method.” In an article on the matter published in Hebrew daily Ha’aretz, the IDF Spokesperson stated that “this is another form of activity carried out as part of a range of actions taken against violent disturbances of the peace and stone-throwing”.

These responses indicate that the military views this action as a legitimate way of dealing with stone-throwing. However, neither response explained the basis for this view, perhaps because no such explanation exists: the use of scare tactics and intimidation in this fashion cannot be justified. The military’s action terrified both the youths whose faces appeared in the posters as well as their families. Distributing the photographs of these minors violates their right to privacy and conveys the implied threat that they would be harmed if they attend the weekly demonstration in the village, a threat that can be construed as persecution on an individual basis.

B'Tselem Field Researcher ‘Abd al-Karim Sa’adi, took the testimony of one of the boys, Raed Shteiwi, 14:

Raed Ishteiwi, 14. Photo: 'Abd al-Karim Sa’adi, B'Tselem, 3 June 2013A friend phoned and told me that soldiers had come to our village at night and put up posters with pictures of four boys, including me...In the beginning, I didn’t take him seriously ...But I started getting worried and thinking about it more when my father, who works in Jericho, called me.... It turned out that my parents had known about it from early in the morning, after the army left the village, but they meant to keep it from me so that I could concentrate on studying for my end-of-year exams without worrying...I was worried and scared and it was hard for me to concentrate. I asked myself – why are they putting a picture of me up on a wall? I thought that the soldiers can go into any house in the village, so why didn’t they come to my home, even though I’m always here?... Read full testimony

Not only were the rights of these minors violated, but the military apparently intended to deter the entire population of the village from holding the regular weekly demonstrations against the occupation. Some of the villagers told B’Tselem that they believe that the military is trying to scare them, in order to dissuade them from participating in the weekly demonstrations. Using this form of implied threat, keeps the villagers from realizing their basic right to free protest freely, and violates both the military commander’s obligations under international law, and his explicit declarations about protecting the right to freedom of expression and protest in the Occupied Territories.

According to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “the prohibition of collective penalties is followed formally by the prohibition of all measures of intimidation or terrorism with regard to protected persons”. If any of the youths depicted in the posters is known by the military to be implicated in criminal activity, the military can employ a variety of measures without resorting to scare tactics.

On 13 June 2013, B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) wrote to the Legal Adviser in Judea and Samaria, demanding that he take immediate action to put a stop to the poster method and, if necessary, punish the soldiers responsible. B’Tselem and ACRI also requested that all military forces in the West Bank be apprised of the fact that such “initiatives” are unacceptable, and that the military must operate only within the legal means at its disposal, while protecting the rights of minors in criminal proceedings and safeguarding freedom of speech and protest.