Thursday, April 11, 2013

14-Year-Old New Orleans Youth Held in Israeli Jail - Call for Action and Support

According to an article in today's Haaretz newspaper, a 14-year-old youth from New Orleans named Mohammed Khalek is currently being held by the Israeli military. The paper says the child was accused of "throwing rocks."
The case highlights Israel's system of military detention for Palestinian minors, which has been frequently criticized, most recently by the UN which said in March that an in-depth study showed it systematically and gravely violated their rights. The boy's father, Abdelwahab Khalek, said his 14-year-old son Mohammad was taken into custody early last Friday morning by eight assault-rifle wielding soldiers. They shackled and blindfolded his son as his five siblings watched, he said.
The boy's father, Abdelwahab Khalek, is a car dealer who splits his time between Palestine and New Orleans, according to the report.
"He appears okay, he's a strong kid," said his 46-year-old father. "But there is no law in the world that justifies the way (Israeli forces) acted."
American consular officials declined comment.
"Unfortunately this case is symptomatic of the Israeli military's abusive treatment of Palestinian children in detention," said Bill Van Esveld of the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch. Rights group Defense of Children International says there were 236 minors in Israel military detention in February, 39 of them between the ages of 12 to 15. The group said it receives its numbers from Israel's prison authority.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has also issued a call to action:
Human Rights Watch told the press that "there's no justification for shackling him for 12 hours and interrogating him while refusing to let him see his father or a lawyer." Defense of Children International and Addameer are asking the Israeli authorities to have a parent present at all times during interrogation, as well as grant Mohammaed access to a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogation, and preferably throughout the interrogation process. 

Despite outrage by human rights organizations, our government has not said a word. When asked to comment, the US consulate in Jerusalem declined. The US State Department, when asked, was not even aware of the case! Mohammad's father criticized the US government’s response to his son’s arrest in an interview with Reuters. “The U.S. government is obligated to do something for us, but it doesn’t even care." Let Mohammed know that we care! Contact the State Department and ask them to fullfil their obligations in protecting US Citizens. You can either call the State Department at 202-647-4000 or click on the link below to send them a message:

When composing your message, be sure to use the email topic: U.S. Foreign Policy Middle East 

Suggested language to include in your message: 

I am writing you regarding the case of Mohammed Khalek. Mohammed is a 14-year-old US citizen from New Orleans who is currently under arrest in Israel. I demand that the State Department fulfill its constitutional and professional obligations and protect US citizens. We want the State Department to immediately contact Mohammed and his family to ensure his rights are being protected. In addition, we urge the State Department to open an investigation into allegations of abuse while detained. 

Thank you for taking action!
Activists are also encouraging New Orleans residents to contact their representatives and ask them to tell the state department to get involved:

Honorable Cedric Richmond
Phone: (202) 225-6636
Phone: (504) 288-3777
Web Form:

Honorable Mary Landrieu
Phone: 225-389-0395
(202) 224-5824
Web Form:

Honorable David Vitter
(504) 589-2753
(202) 224-4623
Web Form:

You can also find this call to action on facebook:

More on the story - and the lack of support from the US government - can also be found at the Mondoweiss website.

New Orleans has a relatively large Palestinian community, and a robust history of actions in support of peace and justice in the region.

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