A Mental-Health Professional Observes the Ofer “Children’s Court”

In 2011, Dr. Judy Roth, clinical psychologist and Psychoanalyst (and Born Equal advisor) from New York sat in on a session of the “children’s court” at Ofer Prison south of Ramallah. The head of Israeli military forces in the West Bank established the court in 2009 to try Palestinian children from the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) for stone-throwing and other suspected security offenses. The Israeli government has argued that the trial of children in their own courtroom, separate from the trials of adults, represents a “privilege” granted by children’s rights laws. In practice, however, the court powerfully demonstrates  Palestinian children’s suffering in Israeli military custody. (The military order that established the separate court is scheduled to expire in September 2012. If the IDF does not renew the order, the “children’s court” will cease to meet and West Bank children will receive military trials alongside adults.)

Roth describes the scene in the courtroom. She discusses the shifting “arc” of her identification as she imagines the emotions of the mothers of the children on trial, her fellow international observers, and the Israeli soldiers and judge who have organized the trial. (She references a videotaped confession of an Israeli soldier, available here.) Roth concludes by speculating about the form of her own emotional engagement with the scene she has witnessed.

The full text of Roth’s reflection is available here, in the March 2012 issue of “The Psychoanalytic Activist”, A newsletter of “Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility”, Section IX of Division 39, the Division of Psychoanalysis of the APA (American Psychological Association).

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