Human Rights Watch Report Highlights Stories of Palestinian Children Abused by Israeli Forces

As the United States government prepares to increase military aid to Israel by as much as fifty percent, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has put focus on Israeli security forces’ brutal treatment of Palestinian children.

The report includes six stories of questionable arrests and abuse six Palestinian children suffered in recent years. Neither of the children were older than 15 years-old when they were arrested.

According to HRW, there have been numerous reports by local human rights organizations and news media about arrests of Palestinian children. The frequent arrests pushed HRW to identify specific cases, interview abused children, and investigate the abuse, which had occurred.

A fourteen year-old girl, Malak Al-Khatib, was arrested on December 31, 2014, in a village in the West Bank. She was beaten by soldiers with “something like a baton,” according to her mother.

Khatib was kicked and a soldier stepped on her neck. She lost consciousness. She was put in a blindfod and endured further abuse as she was taken to a police station.

Her family had no idea she had been arrested. As Ali, her father, recalled, “She had a final exam that morning, in English, and we thought that as usual she had gone for a walk after an exam. Then the Beitin village council called to say she’d been arrested, but nobody knew where she’d been taken.”

Malak claimed the “interrogator yelled at her for two hours to confess, slammed his hand on the table, and threatened to bring in her mother and sister and arrest her father.” As is typical, if she wanted to return to her parents, she was forced to sign a “confession” that was in Hebrew, which the security forces know a vast majority of Palestinians cannot read.

Her lawyer reached a plea deal on January 14. She pled guilty to “throwing rocks at Road 60, a major road near Beitin used by Israeli settlers,” and received a two-month jail sentence and a three year suspended sentence. Her family paid a $1,560 fine.

HRW was unable to find evidence of stone throwing, and whether Malak did throw stones or not, Israeli authorities violated her rights when they refused to inform her parents she had been arrested or allow Malak to consult her parents or lawyer during her interrogation.

It also is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention to transfer Malak out of the West Bank to Israel. Although the Israeli Supreme Court has upheld this practice as lawful, it is only lawful under domestic law. It violates international standards, which Israel has adopted, and are supposed to supersede domestic law.

This abuse makes it possible for Israel to keep children from seeing their parents during their detention:

Malak’s parents, who have West Bank identification documents and are not permitted to enter Israel, were unable to see her in detention from December 31 until her release on February 12, except during five trial hearings at the Ofer military base and court complex, when they were not permitted to speak with her.

“At the hearings in Ofer, she would be brought in handcuffs. One time there was a boy with her in the dock, he was around 15 years old, also in [handcuffs]. We couldn’t call her on the phone while she was in prison,” her mother said.

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In US, Black Children in Poverty Now Outnumber White Children in Poverty

Screen shot 2015-07-14 at 4.44.42 PM
Screen shot of chart from Pew Research Center

There are three times as many white children in the United States, but for the first time since the United States Census began collecting data in 1974, data appears to indicate that there are now more black children in poverty than white children in poverty.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of impoverished black children in 2013 was 4.2 million. The number of impoverished white children was 4.1 million and decreased about 700,000 since 2012.

The poverty rate for black children was at 38.3% in 2013 and is slowly returning to the level it was at in 1976.

“Black children were almost four times as likely as white or Asian children to be living in poverty in 2013, and significantly more likely than Hispanic children,” the Pew Research Center found.

Twenty-seven percent of the black population are children, however, 38% of blacks in poverty are children. Similarly, Hispanic children make up 33% of all Hispanics but 42% of Hispanics in poverty are children.

Meanwhile, the number of white children in poverty is slowly decreasing and are not overrepresented. “Children make up roughly equal shares of the white and Asian populations and of whites and Asians living in poverty.”

The fact that the poverty rate for black children is holding so steady is a story that receives very little attention in the media, and it is partly why Pew Research Center analyst Eileen Patten and a colleague chose to highlight these latest statistics

“The fact that the trajectory has been different for blacks than for these other groups, that caught our attention,” Patten told the New York Times. “We were surprised the story had not been told like this since this data had been around for a while.”

The trend is likely related to the fact that black unemployment rates remain so high. However, what is contributing to the steadiness of black children in poverty was outside the scope of statistics compiled for this latest report from the Pew Research Center.

Last year, the Children’s Defense Fund reported a “black baby is born into poverty every two-and-a-half minutes and into extreme poverty every four-and-a-half minutes.” In six US states, “half or more black children are poor,” and in “nearly half” of the US, Black child poverty is 40% or more.

Part of what fuels poverty for black children is the fact that black households typically earn much less than white households. In 2011, a black household earned 94% less than the average white household.

Average annual income for a black family in 2012 was $35,700. A white family’s average annual income, on the other hand, was around $75,500.

UN’s Ban Ki-Moon Caves In, Takes Israel Off List of Serious Child Abusers

By Ali Abunimah

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has caved in to pressure from Israel and the United States and taken the Israeli military off an official list of serious violators of children’s rights, in this year’s report on children in armed conflict.

In doing so, Ban rejected an official recommendation from his own Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui and numerous human rights organizations and child rights defenders.

Ban’s act is particularly egregious since the report found that the number of children killed in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2014, at 557, was the third highest only after Iraq and Afghanistan and ahead of Syria.
“The revelation that Israel’s armed forces were removed from the annex of the annual report by Ban Ki-moon is deplorable,” Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine), told The Electronic Intifada.

“The annual report and its annex, or children’s ‘list of shame,’ has been a strong evidence-based accountability tool proven to help increase protections for children in armed conflict situations. There is ample evidence on persistent grave violations committed by Israeli forces since at least 2006 that should have triggered listing,” Parker added.

“The secretary-general’s decision to place politics above justice and accountability for Palestinian children has provided Israeli forces with tacit approval to continue committing grave violations against children with impunity,” Parker said.

The top UN official’s decision will be greeted with relief by the Obama administration, Israel and others concerned with ensuring such Israeli impunity.

Obama pressure

“The draft 2015 report prepared by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, recommended adding Israel and Hamas to the annexed list of parties – the so-called ‘list of shame’ – due to their repeated violations against children,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on 4 June.

Human Rights Watch called on Ban to “list all countries and armed groups that have repeatedly committed these violations, and resist reported pressure from Israel and the United States to remove Israel from the draft list.”

But that pressure proved irresistible to Ban. Foreign Policy reported last week that the Obama administration had made a concerted effort to pressure him to drop Israel from the list for cynical political reasons.

According to an unnamed UN official quoted by Foreign Policy, the Obama administration was concerned about false accusations that “the White House is anti-Israel,” as the US completes sensitive negotiations over Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program.

False balance

Human Rights Watch supported calls on Ban to list Hamas as well as Israel, but this appears to have been a maneuver to look “balanced” and avoid baseless accusations of anti-Israel bias frequently leveled at the organization.

Sources familiar with the final report have told The Electronic Intifada that Hamas is not on the list either.

But the violations attributed to Palestinian armed groups, including the death of one Israeli child last summer due to a rocket fired from Gaza, can hardly be compared in scope to the systematic mass killings with impunity of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and West Bank by Israeli occupation forces.

Since Hamas and other Palestinian armed resistance groups are already under international sanctions and arms embargoes and listed by various countries as “terrorist organizations,” adding Hamas to the list would have meant little.

It is Israel whose violations continue not only with impunity but with assistance from the predominantly European and North American governments that arm it.

DCI-Palestine documented the killings of at least 547 Palestinian children during last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza.

Human Rights Watch cites as part of Israel’s record the “unlawful killing of children” in the occupied West Bank, including Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, both 17, shot dead by snipers on 15 May 2014.

In April, a board of inquiry set up by Ban found that Israel killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians in seven attacks on United Nations-run schools in the Gaza Strip last summer.

Sabotage

In March, there was an outcry among Palestinian and international human rights advocates when it was revealed that UN officials appeared to be trying to sabotage the evidence-based process that leads to a recommendation of listing, after threats from Israel.

Palestinian organizations called on the mid-level UN officials accused of interfering with the process to resign.

This led to assurances from Special Representative Zerrougui that the decision-making process was still underway and indeed, after gathering all the evidence, Zerrougui did recommend that Israel be listed.

Such a recommendation comes after UN bodies collect evidence in collaboration with human rights organizations, according to specific criteria mandated in UN Security Council Resolution 1612.

But despite the months-long nonpolitical and evidence-based process, the final decision was always in Ban’s hands.

Partner in Israel’s crimes

There was much at stake for Israel and indeed for Ban if he had gone with the evidence instead of submitting to political pressure.

“Inclusion of a party on the secretary general’s list triggers increased response from the UN and potential Security Council sanctions, such as arms embargoes, travel bans, and asset freezes,” Human Rights Watch notes.

“For a country or armed group to be removed from the list, the UN must verify that the party has ended the abuses after carrying out an action plan negotiated with the UN.”

Ban has a long history of using his office to ensure that Israel escapes accountability except for the mildest verbal censures that are almost always “balanced” with criticism of those who live under Israeli occupation.

At the height of last summer’s Israeli attack on Gaza, 129 organizations and distinguished individuals wrote to the secretary-general, condemning him for “your biased statements, your failure to act, and the inappropriate justification of Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law, which amount to war crimes.”

Ban’s record, they said, made him a “partner” in Israel’s crimes. His latest craven decision will only cement that well-earned reputation.

While Israel will celebrate victory in the short-term, the long-term impact will likely be to further discredit the UN as a mechanism for accountability and convince more people of the need for direct popular pressure on Israel in the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

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