The Child as the AvengerIn its treatment of Palestinian children, the mentality of Zionism is no different from that of the Nazis to Jewish children. In their defence the Zionists will say that they don’t annihilate or exterminate Palestinian children – and that is true. But when it comes to imprisonment, shackling, solitary confinement, beatings and even torture, children suffer the same or worse.
Raul Hilberg, the most eminent of holocaust historians (which was why the Zionist establishment historians of Yad Vashem didn’t publish his magnus opus – the Destruction of the European Jews) writes of how Erwin Schultz, Commander of Einsatzkommando 5 [a sub-unit of the Einsatzgruppen killing squads sent into Russia, the Ukraine and Byelorussia with one purpose – the extermination of Jews and Communists’] ‘stated after the war that in August 1941 Dr. Rasch of Einsatzgruppen C called the Kommando leaders together in Zhitomir to pass on an order given by Himmler to Higher SS and Police Leader South Jeckeln, in accordance with which all Jews … were to be shot,… and if need be Jewish women and children as well, so that there would not be any avengers in the future.’ According to an affidavit by Schulz, of 26.5.47. ‘more than two years later, on October 6, 1943, Himmler said in a speech to high-ranking party officials:
|Israeli soldiers stand guard over Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank city of Hebron. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA|
“The question arose for us: What about the women and children? Here too I decided to find a clear solution. I did not assume to have the right to exterminate the men – in other words kill them or have them killed – and have the avengers personified in the children to become adults for our children and grandchildren." T 175, Roll 85, Hilberg p. 294.We now see this same mentality replicated in Zionist justifications. The means may not be the same but the attitude is the same.
A new report funded and supported by the UK government that accuses Israel of violating international law with its treatment of Palestinian child detainees was launched in London by a high-profile group of human rights lawyers on Tuesday.
The report says Israel is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on at least six counts and of the Fourth Geneva Convention on at least two counts. It lays bare the system of legal apartheid Israel maintains in Palestine.
But there is pessimism in some quarters that the report’s recommendations will be implemented. The document has been criticized as “toothless” by a prominent Palestinian human rights activist.
“Children in Military Custody” was funded and backed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and written by an ad hoc group including a former attorney general, a former court of appeal judge and several prominent attorneys known as QCs. The delegation visited Palestine in September and met with Palestinian, Israeli and international nongovernmental organizations, British diplomats and a wide range of Israeli government and military officials.
The report details the military law Israel applies to all Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including children, and how it differs from the civilian law applied to Israeli settlers who live in the same territory. It states there it was “uncontested [by Israel] that there are major differentials between the law governing the treatment of Palestinian children and the law governing treatment of Israeli children.”
Unequal treatment of childrenAt the heart of the report are three core recommendations to the Israeli government: start applying international law to the West Bank (which Israel refuses to do), the best interests of the child should come first and, crucially, that Israel “should deal with Palestinian children on an equal footing with Israeli children.”
Israel currently applies two separate and unequal systems of laws in the West Bank. Palestinians are subject to a harsh military regime in which Israeli army officers and police, arrest, interrogate, judge and sentence, while Israeli settlers colonizing the West Bank are subject to Israeli civilian law.
These systematic inequalities include: the minimum age for Palestinian children to receive a custodial sentence is 12, but for Israelis it is 14; Palestinian children have no right to have a parent present during interrogation, while Israeli children generally do.
The most stark inequalities are evident in the time it takes for the two systems to work. Palestinian children could have to wait up to eight days before being brought before a judge, while Israeli children have a right to see one within 24 hours; Palestinian children can be detained without charge for 188 days, while for Israelis the limit is 40.
In a press release about the report, Council for Arab-British Understanding director Chris Doyle describes witnessing in Palestine “nothing less than a kangaroo court that does nothing to improve Israel’s security while criminalizing an entire generation of Palestinian children.”
Children kept in solitary confinementDrawing on their meetings with nongovernmental organizations such as Defence for Children International-Palestine Section, the authors detail the shocking treatment of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli soldiers.
Arrested in nighttime raids, Palestinian children are often physically and verbally abused, brought before adult military courts, shackled, given little choice than taking a plea bargain, and can be sentenced to as many as 20 years for “crimes” as trivial as stone throwing. Some are even kept in solitary confinement, according to DCI.
When Palestinian children file complaints about their abuse at the hands of Israeli soldiers, they are almost always ignored. Israeli occupation authorities were able to give to the delegation “only one example of a complaint being upheld.” The authors report that there are “a significant number of allegations of physical and emotional abuse of child detainees by the military which neither the complaints system nor the justice system is addressing satisfactorily.”
The report compiles some shocking statistics. As many as 94 percent of Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank are denied bail, according to nongovernmental organizations. Some 97-98 percent of such cases end with a plea bargain, meaning they go to jail without even reaching the trial stage (as flawed as military courts are).
A key conclusion reached by the report’s authors is that Israel is in breach of articles of UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that prohibit: national or ethnic discrimination; ignoring a child’s best interests; the premature resort to detention, imprisonment and trial alongside adult prisoners; preventing prompt access to lawyers and the use of shackles.
While the report notes “the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Opinion [on Israel’s wall in the West Bank] which concludes categorically that the UNCRC is applicable in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Israeli officials the delegation met with refused to recognize this.
“Every Palestinian child a ‘potential terrorist’”
“In our meetings with the various Israeli Government agencies, we found the universal stance by contrast was that the Convention has no application beyond Israel’s own [pre-1967] borders,” the authors write, noting their disagreement.
They emphasize: “[t]he population of the West Bank is within the physical power and control of Israel, and Israel has effective control of the territory. Our visit dispelled any doubts we might have had about this.”
In its conclusions, the report notes that this refusal to fulfill its international law obligations with respect to Palestinian children probably “stems from a belief, which was advanced to us by [an Israeli] military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a ‘potential terrorist.’”
Questions about report’s futureRenowned Palestinian writer, activist and academic Ghada Karmi was at the report’s launch on Tuesday. She asked the panel if it would be doing a follow-up visit, or monitoring implementation of the report’s recommendations.
The answer was less than conclusive, with co-author Greg Davies saying they would have to “wait and see” what the Israeli government’s response would be. He later spoke to The Electronic Intifada over the phone about the report’s future: “the format in which that follow-up work takes place, I don’t know at this stage, it’s too early to tell … I’m committed to seeing as far as it’s possible these recommendations coming into effect. If that requires further work I’m prepared to organize that.”
Karmi later told The Electronic Intifada that the report is “toothless in the end” because there is no way to compel Israel to comply.
“Palestinians are fed up of being studied,” she said. What they really want to know is “how will I get help to end” the abuses of the military occupation. Karmi did however conclude the report was a good thing and the delegation was a “very interesting mission” because it was backed by the foreign office, who could not be accused of anti-Israel bias in the same way that Israel has managed to taint UN missions with “the usual slanders.”
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UK government approached report’s authorsLawyer Greg Davies was responsible for putting the ad hoc delegation together. He told The Electronic Intifada that while he was doing so, he was approached by the British Consulate in Jerusalem, who offered government funding. Davies replied in the affirmative, but on condition that the group be independent.
In response to such criticisms as Karmi’s, Davies said: “there have been a number of [such] reports submitted… those reports have largely gone unanswered [by Israel] … it was that lack of response that prompted this.”
“There isn’t an enforceability as such without the political will, and that’s where our remit stops,” he said, pointing to an Early Day Motion on the report tabled in parliament Wednesday. EDM 280 welcomes the report and “asks the Foreign Secretary to make a statement to the House [of Commons] setting out his proposals for persuading Israel to comply in practice with international law relating to the treatment of children.” Davies said of the EDM “we welcome that and are hugely encouraged by that.”
Advancing the debateThe Palestine section of Defence for Children International, through its reports and its meetings with the delegation, is one of the most quoted sources in the report. DCI-PS spokesperson Gerard Horton admitted to The Electronic Intifada that the report’s recommendations “won’t end the abuse,” but argued that some of them “will make it very difficult for the military court system to function effectively” if they were implemented.
He wrote in an email that the report’s list of forty recommendations include those DCI-PS have been demanding for years (parents present during interrogation; prompt access to a lawyer; audio-visual recording of interrogations; and an end to forcible transfer of children to prisons inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention).
Horton also highlighted the high profile of the report’s authors and backers: “the importance of this report is who wrote it … before real change can occur the debate has to become mainstream. People in the center and center-right have to start taking an interest and expressing a concern. To my mind this report goes some way to advancing that by helping to shift the debate to the center.”
“Justice is not a negotiable commodity”Among the report’s forty specific recommendations are: an end to night arrests, an end to blindfolding and shackling, observing the prohibition on “violent, threatening or coercive” conduct, the presence of a parent during interrogation and “[c]hildren should not be required to sign confessions” in Hebrew, since they do not understand it.
The report notes that since the delegation’s visit, a new military order has upped to 18 the age at which Palestinian children can be tried as adults. Previously, it had been 16 (then another inequality with Israeli children who are treated as children until 18).
But there are concerns this change has been rendered void in practice. While welcoming the change, the report expresses concern “that the change does not appear to apply to sentencing provisions.”
Seemingly deliberate loopholes in the law means that “adult sentencing provisions still apply to 16 [and] 17 year olds” and that children 14-17 years old can be sentenced as adults when the maximum penalty for the offense is five years or more. The maximum penalty for throwing stones (the most common offense) ranges from 10 to 20 years,
Asked by The Electronic Intifada at the Tuesday launch why there were no specific recommendations in the report to end this inequality, Judy Khan QC said it was covered by core recommendation three, which calls for an end to the current inequalities between Israeli and Palestinian child detainees.
In their meetings with the delegation, the Israeli Ministry of Justice “described [such changes] as conditional on there being no significant unrest or ‘third intifada.’” The report objects: “[a] major cause of future unrest may well be the resentment of continuing injustice … justice is not a negotiable commodity but a fundamental human right.”
Sharp rise in child detaineesSir Stephen Sedley, a former Lord Justice — senior appeal judge — underlined at Tuesday’s launch that there has been a 40 percent rise in child detainees since their visit in September, so the problem has only got worse since they returned to the UK.
While the report seems to have received some media coverage in the UK, it yet remains to be seen what practical impact it will have. More fundamentally, it does not call for an end to the occupation, considering political solutions beyond the authors’ mandate. It does note however that: “We have no reason to differ from the view of Her Majesty’s Government and the international community that these [Israeli] settlements [in the West Bank] are illegal. For the purposes of this report however we treat them, like the occupation, as a fact.”
But the question remains: a fact for how much longer?Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist from London who has lived and reported from occupied Palestine. His website is www.winstanleys.org.
In the report’s damning conclusion, the lawyers stated that the reluctance to treat Palestinian child prisoners in accordance with international law may stem from the Israeli view that every Palestinian child is a ‘potential terrorist’ which leads to a ‘spiral of injustice’.
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It shows how Israeli settlers and Palestinians are subject to different laws, so a Palestinian child can be held for up to 90 days without access to a lawyer and for 188 days without charge, whereas an Israeli child could only be held for two and 40 days respectively. When arrested, Palestinian children are not informed of their right to silence or a lawyer and are routinely held in solitary confinement. At present, 192 Palestinian children are imprisoned in Israeli jails, 39 of these are under the age of 16.
Read the full report here and watch the Channel 4 coverage here.
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Israel subjecting Palestinian children to 'spiral of injustice'
Foreign Office-backed delegation of UK lawyers says treatment may stem from belief every Palestinian child is potential terrorist
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 26 June 2012
A belief that every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist may be leading to a "spiral of injustice" and breaches of international law in Israel's treatment of child detainees in military custody, a delegation of eminent British lawyers has concluded in an independent report backed by the Foreign Office.
The nine-strong delegation, led by the former high court judge Sir Stephen Sedley and including the UK's former attorney-general Lady Scotland, found that "undisputed facts" pointed to at least six violations of the UN convention on the rights of the child, to which Israel is a signatory. It was also in breach of the fourth Geneva convention in transferring child detainees from the West Bank to Israeli prisons, the delegation said.
Its report, Children in Military Custody, released on Tuesday, was based on a visit to Israel and the West Bank last September funded and facilitated by the Foreign Office and the British consulate in Jerusalem.
It makes 40 specific recommendations concerning the treatment of Palestinian child detainees.
The issue has come under increasing scrutiny by human rights organisations and visiting delegations over the past year. In January the Guardian highlighted the use of solitary confinement in a report on the experiences of children under the military justice system.
The lawyers' report says Israel has international obligations as the occupying power in the West Bank, and its system of military law must respect human rights and non-discrimination. It points out that under international law, no state is entitled to discriminate in the exercise of justice on the basis of race or nationality. It says, however, that "there are major differentials between the law governing the treatment of Palestinian children and the law governing treatment of Israeli children".
The report compares the military justice system in the West Bank to the Israeli civilian legal system, finding key differences in the treatment of children. The most egregious are the length of time child detainees can be held a) before being brought before a judge (up to 24 hours for Israeli children compared with eight days for Palestinian children); b) without access to a lawyer (48 hours compared with 90 days); and c) without charge (40 days compared with 188 days). The minimum age for custodial sentences is 14 for Israeli children, but 12 for Palestinian children.
As well as meeting government officials, lawyers, NGOs and UN agencies, the British team also interviewed former child prisoners and former Israeli soldiers, and visited the military court at Ofer prison near Jerusalem, which holds regular child sessions. They witnessed children being brought into the court in shackles.
The report also details "two irreconcilable accounts of the treatment and rights of Palestinian children" given to the delegation. One was from Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, UN agencies, lawyers, former Israeli soldiers and former child detainees; the second from Israeli government officials, military judges and prosecutors.
The first included night-time arrests, the use of blindfolds and painful plastic wrist ties, physical and/or verbal abuse, the failure to be informed of the right to silence or to see a lawyer, solitary confinement, self-incrimination, children being made to sign statements in Hebrew which they could not understand and extremely restricted access to family. "In this process, every year hundreds of Palestinian children are traumatised, sometimes irreversibly, are denied part of the their schooling and then live at ongoing risk of much harsher punishment if they are arrested again," the report said.
In the second account it heard, children are informed of their rights, treated appropriately, subject to procedural safeguards, and violence and threats are forbidden. "In custody, children receive education to such a high standard that Palestinian children have been known to offend in order to access it," the delegation was told.
Among the report's recommendations are:
• An end to night-time arrests, except in extreme and unusual circumstances.
• Children should be told of their rights in their own language.
• Children should never be blindfolded or hooded.
• Single plastic hand ties should never be used.
• The prohibition on violent, threatening or coercive conduct towards children should be strictly observed.
• Children should not be shackled at any time.
• Any confession in a language other than the child's own should not be accepted as evidence.
• Solitary confinement should never be used "as a standard mode of detention or imprisonment".
• All Palestinian children should be held in facilities in the occupied territories, and not transferred to Israel, a breach of article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention.
In conclusion, the report says: "It may be that much of the reluctance to treat Palestinian children in conformity with international norms stems from a belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a 'potential terrorist'. Such a stance seems to us to be the starting point of a spiral of injustice."
Marianna Hildyard QC, one of the delegation, told the Guardian: "Israel claims to be a state committed to the rule of law and international standards. To make good that claim, it must formulate a legal structure for all Palestinian children in compliance with the convention of the rights of the child and international law. Further steps must be taken to close the gaps between the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children."
In a statement, the Israeli embassy in London said it appreciated the delegation's efforts "to learn about the challenges involved in dealing with minors involved in acts of militancy and violence. Regrettably, such activities continue to be encouraged by official Palestinian textbooks and television programmes which glorify terrorism and suicide terrorists. As a result under-18 year olds are frequently involved in lethal acts … with the Palestinian Authority unable or unwilling to meet its obligation to investigate and prosecute these offences, Israel has no choice but to do so itself."
Israel would study the report's recommendations "as part of its ongoing efforts to find the most appropriate balance between preventing violence and treating perpetrators with humanity".
Rough justiceHamza K, 15, arrested 5 January 2011
"At around 2.30am, I was sleeping … when I woke up to soldiers screaming through loudspeakers and saying: 'Open up immediately'. I looked out of the window and saw many military jeeps and soldiers with their lights focussed on the house … When the soldiers saw me, they pointed their weapons at me."
Malek S, 16, arrested 9 January 2011
"One of [the soldiers] tied my hands behind my back with one set of plastic cords and tightened them. He also blindfolded me. They took me out and forced me to stand near a military truck near the house … One of them hit me so hard in the testicles and I felt much pain."
Husam S, 15, arrested 12 September 2011
"The two interrogators kept me standing and never allowed me to sit in a chair. They kept slapping me around, but I never confessed. The interrogation lasted about two hours. After that, they printed out some papers in Hebrew and forced me to sign them. Later on it turned out that I had signed a confession saying I threw stones. This is what my lawyer told me later in court."
Rami J, 17, arrested 24 October 2011
"I was detained in Cell No 36 [in Al Jalame prison in Israel]. It is a very small cell, which had a mattress on the floor and a toilet with a horrible smell, as well as two concrete chairs. The lights in the ceiling were dim yellow and on 24 hours a day, and they hurt my eyes. The walls were grey and had a rough surface. The cell had no windows, just two gaps for letting air in and out. The food was served through a flap in the door … I eventually decided to confess because of the pressure they put on me. I was in a bad psychological state." (Rami J was held in solitary confinement for 24 days)
Malek Z, 15, arrested 4 July 2011
"'You better confess,' [the interrogator] shouted, but I never confessed. He was typing what I was saying in the computer. Then he printed it out in Hebrew and ordered me to sign it, but I refused so he slapped me hard across the face while shouting. He got up and pushed me towards the wall and I slammed against it. I was so scared of him I immediately signed the papers."
Source: affidavits given to Defence for Children International, published in Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted, April 2012