These human rights violations have been documented in numerous reports over the years, but the system remains mostly unchanged. Palestinian minors are trailed in the military court system, which is completely different than the system for Jewish minors.
The most common offence is stone throwing; but behind the official reasoning, there's an underlying systemic motive to these mass arrests of children: it's the most efficient mechanism to deter the population and preserve Israel's 50 years long occupation of the West Bank.
The security forces exploit this fragile point of Palestinian resistance to curb any uprising, mostly in the villages closest to Jewish settlements. Most children, aged 11 to 17, break under pressure and forgo their right to remain silent. They are pushed to confess and turn in their friends. They agree to plea bargains, and most serve a prison term without having their day in court.
From the perspective of Israel's security system, mass juvenile arrest is an extremely effective and relatively non-violent measure. For Palestinian society, the damage is permanent. 75% of jailed minors are bound to return to prison. There is no rehabilitation system, and their opportunities for a better life are extremely limited. Some grow into armed fighters, willing to die for their cause.
The dramatic core of the film is video recorded interrogations, which are as chilling as they are monotonous and dry. Scared boys confronted with rough questioning, meant to break them down. Years later, as young men, they reflect on the ways this experience had shaped them. These heart wrenching stories will be framed with poignant interviews with the people who run the system: a soldier who detained children, the judge who ruled on their case, Israeli and Palestinians lawyers who represent them and the West Bank's chief prosecutor. Along with the interviews and archive materials will show juvenile arrests in real time.
"Lost Childhood" shows the inner workings of the system: a demonstration or stone throwing in a nearby road is the pretext for a wave of nightly arrests of children, terrorizing the whole village. The threat of arrest also serves to recruit new informants. Thus, the youth is coerced into collaborating with security forces, further tearing the social fabric of the village and crushing solidarity.
The film will depict the widening circles of trauma, touching not only the detained children themselves, but their family and village, the soldiers who arrest them, the settlers who live nearby, the Israeli justice system, and finally, the entire Israeli society. Through the stories of young men looking back at their filmed interrogations, the film will pose difficult questions: Do mass arrests really contribute to security? And is this course of action legitimate, from a legal and moral standpoint?