Beth Miller, a U.S. advocacy officer for the Defense for Children International Palestine, spoke at a Students for Justice in Palestine event on Monday, Oct. 10 at San Diego State.
DCIP is a non-governmental organization that advocates against human rights violations towards Palestinian children and provides free legal services for children who need it, as reported on their website.
Miller, 28, completed her undergraduate degree in political science with a concentration in human rights and has a masters degree in human rights law. She said her faith in Judaism was a driving force in her interest in Israel and Palestine.
“It was always being discussed in my family and community so it was something I was always curious about,” she said. “It became very clear to me that this was something I felt I needed to take action on.”
To begin the discussion, Miller showed the documentary “Detaining Dreams,” which is about four Palestinian teenagers who were arrested in the past several years during the ongoing military occupation of territories in the West Bank.
The documentary goes into details of how the boys were arrested. It showed that each boy was arrested for throwing rocks, something most Palestinian children are taken into custody for.
After the arrest, each boy is interrogated. During these interrogations, they were beaten by the Israeli soldiers while handcuffed and blindfolded. One boy had rocks thrown at him, another was forced to walk long distances in the cold and another was sent what is believed to be a fake lawyer all to get the boys to confess to the charges.
“It’s painful to hear any child speak about these kinds of experiences, and then you look to the child’s sister who is sitting next to him, the mother, the father, and how it pains them as well,” Miller said. “It’s not just the child who is experiencing this trauma. It’s the family and the community who experiences it as well.”
Afterwards, she presented about the Israeli military detention system in the occupied territories and how it affects the children. These areas have been under occupation since 1967 and are under martial law.
She focused on the Israeli military order 1651 and the charges for throwing stones and insulting the honor of an Israeli soldier. Miller said these charges are specifically targeted towards the Palestinian children.
Of the 429 affidavits collected from them, three out of four Palestinian children who were detained between 2012 and 2015 experienced physical violence during their arrest, Miller said. In 97 percent of these cases, a parent was not present with the child, and in 84 percent of them the children were not informed of their rights.
It is also very rare for a child to be given medical attention during these interrogations. Most children eventually confess because by doing so they normally spend less time in custody.
Miller also spoke about the correlation between protests and political activity and a rise of arrests in those communities.
The event focused on the violation of the children’s rights versus the underlying political and ideological factors that are contributing to the violence in Palestine.
“[DCIP is] a human rights organization,” Miller said. “We’re not depoliticizing this issue because the issue is inherently political, but we focus in on child rights.
“We’re talking about things that are very clearly violations of international law and so I’ve found that it is a great way to discuss it with people who maybe don’t agree with you.”
Maysam Ardestani, a senior finance major who attended the event, said he appreciated the unbiased approach of the presentation.
“It wasn’t about ‘The Palestinians are right about this,’” he said. “It’s just at the end of the day, no matter where you’re from, children should be treated with respect.”
Mustafa Alemi, the president of SJP, ended the event with an announcement about the Divestment platform and its return this year.