UN Committee on child’s rights gets it wrong
Can you imagine a treaty compliance report on a state (America, for example), written from the point-of-view of that state’s declared ideological enemy (the former Soviet Union when it was still Marxist, for example), by a committee of bureaucrat lawyers from Mars? If you can you will have some idea of the twenty-one pages of heavy legalese that is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report on Israel (UNCRC) sixty-third session (27 May – 14 June 2013). It’s not just an agenda to demonise Israel, although that is inevitably present. It’s a blueprint for centralised world control using the language of
human child rights as a justification.
This is not the article I expected to write. My first question was going to ask, are the charges true? Then I realised they don’t have to be true. All they have to be is made. I call that Israel-Palestine 101.
There’s much more here than false, misleading or exaggerated charges. To my surprise I will write about that only in passing. The media, predictably, went for the juicy bits such as false charges of torture and most of the responses I read from my fellow bloggers challenge the media or the inherent bias even before one word went to print.
Did the journalists read the boring but important other sections? The bulk of this report raises quite a few questions about what this committee thinks they are doing. Indeed we should ask did the committee read the report they were submitting?
Thinking as a committee member
Children may be disadvantaged by just about anything you can think of. Consequently the committee has the ‘right’ to stick their oar in to everything and everything. The rights of the child, defined as anyone under 18, (preferably a Palestinian Child), take precedence over unimportant concepts like survival, sovereignty, independence and practical things like treaties and the impossibility of actually carrying out many of the recommendations. The report truly must have been penned by an alien because it is hard or even impossible to imagine the committee member accepting those recommendations for their own countries.
Here are some WTF examples the press missed.
22. The committee urges the state party to include the prohibition of discrimination and the principle of equality into its Basic Laws …
If you are unaware some countries have written constitutions and Bills of Rights; some have unwritten constitutions and/or no rights document and some have a basic set of principles, like Israel, that are an ongoing project and don’t pretend to cover everything. The Committee takes upon itself to tell a sovereign state party what to put in its constitution, as if any state that is not a dictatorship, can do it by fiat.
BTW what is this state party label? Is it a way of avoiding referring to Israel as Israel, essentially fulfilling the Arab claim that Israel doesn’t exist while simultaneously making demands on it; or a subtle way to demonise it as a bully – the ‘state’ oppressing a poor, little child. It can hardly be a lawyer’s technique to avoid continual repetition of a long title. The word Israel is four letters (five if we include the space) shorter than state party.
23. The Committee also welcomes the 2006 and 2008 rulings of the Supreme Court which revoked decisions of Sharia and Rabbinical Courts granting custody of children to their father without taking into consideration the best interests of the children.
Are you telling me that the Saudi Arabian vice chair signed off on this? Sharia Law is constitutionally protected in Saudi Arabia and many Arab/Muslim states. You can debate the relationship between church and state and the independence of the courts but can you state that the UNCRC gives the committee the right to step into that debate? I can confidently predict that if they attempted that stunt in any of the committee states the response would uniformly be Go F#*k yourself‡.
41. The Committee expresses concern about reported short and long-term complications arising from some traditional male circumcision practices.
42. The Committee recommends that the State party undertake a study on the short and long-term complications of male circumcision.
Keep your hands off my son’s dick. The surgical removal of the foreskin (prepuce) from the human penis of boys is practised as an essential religious ritual in Judaism, Islam, Coptic Christianity, Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, certain African cultural groups, such as the Yoruba and Igbo of Nigeria and some Australian Aborigines. About one-third of males worldwide are circumcised. No major medical organization recommends either universal circumcision for all infant males (aside from the recommendations of the World Health Organization for parts of Africa*), or banning the procedure.
There is no way the Israeli government is going to restrict it and still consider Israel to be the Jewish state. There is no way the UN would make such a demand of a Muslim state. Did the representatives of Muslim nations read the draft?
While there is considerable debate in the medical profession about the benefits or otherwise of the procedure for males†† it is not for the UNCRC to take a position on it. Another GFY moment.
Written from another planet
Where have the committee been for the last decade that they don’t know that Israel has had no presence in Gaza since 2005 and by written agreement is not involved in the civil control of 95% of all Arabs in the territories?
60. (c) Take immediate measures to ensure the availability of sufficient and safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for Palestinians living in the OPT as already recommended by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/ISR/CO/ 3 para. 29, 2011);
The tragic problem of water quality in Gaza is decades old. It is largely the result of over extraction compounded by non licensed and unregulated well drilling, by the Palestinians themselves, which has allowed salt water to pollute the coastal aquifer. Nitrate contamination by sewerage and along with agricultural products/fertilizers adds to the problem. Private water vendors generally don’t chlorinate the water or transport it hygienically.
As with everything else in the Middle East it is customary to blame Israel rather than even consider the Palestinian contribution. Operation Cast Lead damaged much infrastructure but rather than fix it the Hamas government has invested in grandiose public and private building and making war against Israel.
How exactly do the committee think Israel can fix the problem as they demand if Israel can’t bring in contractors to renew the entire water/sewage infrastructure of an area about the area of Montreal? Who will pay the billions of dollars required? If the answer is Israel, what will the effect be on Israel’s children?
Israel has relaxed controls on building materials but the bottom line is that Israel is not present in Gaza.
62. The Committee urges the State party to:
(c) Put an end to the segregation of Arab and Jewish children in schools and build an education system based on tolerance and understanding among children from all communities; and
(d) Establish an inclusive education system for all children regardless of individual differences or difficulties, ethnic or cultural background, or socioeconomic status in order to build a society that is genuinely inclusive, that values difference and respects the dignity and equality of all human beings regardless of difference.
Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Surely it would be a human rights offense and Israel would be accused of racism if it forced Arabs to attend Hebrew language schools? Nor are Arabs prevented from attending government Hebrew language schools if they choose and live close enough. Although a small minority, some Arab families take that option. Others, and this is clearly those with higher incomes, take the option of private education. ironically these private schools are generally run by Christian churches and the language of instruction is neither Hebrew nor Arabic but English or French.
Whatever problems particularly of infrastructure exist in the Arab sector and the committee predictably doesn’t consider that Arab municipalities in Israel notoriously don’t collect rates and thus miss out on matching funds they are ironed out by university. The percentage of Arab students in tertiary education is roughly the same as their percentage in the general population.
As 95% of Arabs in the Palestinian Authority and 100% in Gaza learn in schools without any Israeli input you might think that the committee would investigate frequently reported incitement to violence and martyrdom in their schools. Needless to say, you would be wrong. As a former teacher in both Israeli state secular and religious schools I can state with confidence that the hatred and incitement that are formally and officially taught in Palestinian schools are missing in Israeli schools.
The missing Palestinians
I have often thought about the cognitive dissonance in Palestinian thinking. The completely innocent (child) victims and the heroic warriors resisting the occupation are frequently one and the same. They never consider that the act of them making war has consequences which frequently disadvantage the Palestinians themselves, and their children. The committee seems to have adopted that dissonance because Arabs have no agency in their own fate. They are missing from the report except as victims.
Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly shown total disregard for the most fundamental human rights, notably the right to life, by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and by using Palestinian children in armed attacks. Children are susceptible to recruitment by manipulation or may be driven to join armed groups for a variety of reasons, including a desire to avenge relatives or friends killed by the Israeli army.
The military use of children takes three distinct forms: children can take direct part in hostilities (child soldiers), or they can be used in support roles such as porters, spies, messengers, look outs; or they can be used for political advantage either as human shields or in propaganda. Which is this?
International human rights law
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37, (1989) proclaims: “State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.” However, people who are over the age of 15 but under the age of 18 are still voluntarily able to take part in combat as soldiers. The Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention that came into force in 2002 stipulates that its State Parties – “shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons below the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities and that they are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces”. The Optional Protocol further obligates states to “take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices.” (Art 4, Optional Protocol.)
So, what is it? Did the Committee somehow miss the Palestinian effort to encourage children to risk their lives attacking Israel because:
- Palestine isn’t a state actor and somehow is excused – mirroring the lesser criminal responsibility of a child;
- No one told them and this group about what was going on there so they couldn’t possibly know;
- Lazy, sloppy, agenda driven research;
- The purpose of this is to demonise Israel;
- All of above.
Was the Israeli Government right not to cooperate?
They appointed a committee of eighteen independent experts who are persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights. We know that because the United Nations voted them in. That committee has plenty of representatives from countries who hostile to Israel. For the record that’s Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Malaysia and Egypt (5/18 is 28%) with the Russian Republic and Norway as doubtful.
The result was predictable and could have been cut-and-pasted from Ramallah. illegal long-lasting occupation of Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan Heights, the continued expansion of unlawful settlements and construction of the Wall into the West Bank as well as land confiscation, destruction of houses and livelihood of Palestinians constitute severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families, feed the cycle of humiliation and violence and jeopardize a peaceful and stable future for all children of the region.
Israel was going to found guilty no matter what they did.
On the other hand. If Israel had been involved and countered every charge the committee would have been obliged to report Israel’s objections, even if they use every semantic trick in the book to discredit them. Now, they ignore them completely. Speculating this is either because their sources are all dedicated to demonising Israel (apparently B’TSELEM was involved, so the conspiracy theory is plausible) or because contrary to their self-generated publicity, the committee was too lazy to do any proper research by themselves.
The UNCRC report is hardly the first time Israel has opted out of cooperation in an investigation. In the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory judgement on the security barrier, Israel claimed the court had no jurisdiction and refused to take part in a Kangaroo Court. It was tried in absentia. It will pay the price of not attempting to defend itself from the false charges and faulty methodology of the court for years to come.
The Goldstone Report, even more obviously agenda driven, is another example. Israel could have publicly and energetically fought the terms of the inquiry and the composition of the authoring team. It could have given its input before the report was written. At worst it would have had a heads-up on specific charges instead of a rebuttal written days and months after publication that few would read.
Who could argue that Israel’s policy of noncooperation with investigations, has been a public diplomacy fiasco? How could cooperation have been any worse?
The moral would seem to be:
If you are going to go down – go down fighting.
- Israel slams UN report claiming Palestinian minors tortured in jail, Tova Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, 22 June 2013
- British Labour MP: “No justice in Israeli legal system. Palestinian children found guilty on flimsy evidence.”, Richard Millet, RichardMillett’s Blog, 18 June, 2013
- Honoring Shahids as role-models, PMW Palestinian Media Watch
Even more extra credit
- Concluding observations on the second to fourth periodic reports of Israel, adopted by the Committee at its sixty-third session (27 May – 14 June 2013), United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 14 June 2013
† This quote appears all over the Internet except the Amnesty International site that everyone links to. Hmmmmmmm?!?
‡ Five Minutes for Israel uses this euphemism, not because it is afraid of strong language or self censuring but because it doesn’t want to caught and filtered out by some search engines.
* Circumcision is said to reduces the infection rate of HIV among heterosexual men by 38–66% over a period of 24 months.
†† Partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, also known as female circumcision is another issue entirely. It is not practised by Jews and although common in Africa and the Middle East is not, as far as I know part of Palestinian culture either.
‡‡ Off on a tangent, so I didn’t write this in the main article. A charming Arab lady once told me that a consequence of a whole strata of Jaffa residents sending their children to private schools, she and her friends consider English as their first language and struggle in Arabic.