Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"No Way To Treat A Child"

Each year, an estimated 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted in two Israeli military courts operating in the West Bank. Their crime? In most cases, simply throwing stones. According to UNICEF and Defense for Children International, Palestinian children picked up by the IDF are routinely ill-treated, even tortured, with impunity.

They may be pulled out of bed in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers. They may be blindfolded and handcuffed, separated from their parents, denied access to a lawyer, and threatened with physical and emotional abuse, including violence to family members. They may be placed in isolation, beaten, choked, and coerced into a confession in Hebrew, a language they do not understand. 

This treatment is not carried out by a few “bad apples,” but “appears to be widespread, systemic, and institutionalized,” according to a 2013 UNICEF report. 

This abuse must stop.

Why single out Israel for its mistreatment of children in military detention? 

Because we expect “the most humane army in the world” to do better. And because Israel’s practice of routinely trying children in military courts is unprecedented. As UNICEF says: “It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

International civil society is coming together to say: “NO WAY TO TREAT A CHILD.” The campaign is supported by AFSC and FCNL as well as Jewish Voice for Peace, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Friends of Sabeel North America, and many other human rights organizations.

Even U.S. Congress members are taking action. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, nineteen Congress members urged the Department of State to “elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in our bilateral relationship with the Government of Israel.” Citing UNICEF’s “profoundly disturbing” report regarding the “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment” of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, the officials emphasized that “progress to ensure Palestinian children’s rights are not abused is in the interest of the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinian people.”

You can add your voice to the “No Way To Treat A Child” campaign by logging on to www.nowaytotreatachild.org/ There you can read the letter to Secretary Kerry and find out who signed it – and who didn’t. You can find talking points, download graphics, watch videos, and read case studies of individual children. With this information you can write your members of Congress, post information on email, Facebook and Twitter, or talk to your friends over the garden fence. 

Children’s rights are human rights. Palestinian children need our advocacy.