This excerpted from the Zionist Federation of Australia.
Many of you will have come across two articles written by John Lyons in this week’s The Weekend Australian. These featured as part of a joint-campaign between The Weekend Australian and ABC’s Four Corners on the Israeli justice system and its alleged mistreatment of Palestinian ‘children.’
Unfortunately, these are only the prelude for what’s likely to come. On February 10 The ABC’s Four Corners will continue the expose in a segment titled ‘Stone Cold Justice’. The show’s blurb reads as follows: “John Lyons travels to the West Bank to hear the story of children who claim they have been taken into custody, ruthlessly questioned and then allegedly forced to sign confessions before being taken to court for sentencing.”
The issue at the heart of Lyons’ investigation is that “Israel enforces two legal systems for children in the West Bank: one for Palestinian children and one for the children of Jewish settlers. A Palestinian child accused of a crime is brought before Israel’s military court while an Israeli child appears before a civilian court.” You can find an interview with John Lyons on his investigations here…you’ll quickly get the gist of it.
Lyons’ makes repeated reference to a UNICEF report published last year which concluded that ill-treatment of Palestinian children appeared to be “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”
But this evidence is far from new or refreshing. Back in 2011 Lyons launched this same personal investigation publishing a feature piece in The Australian Magazine. Close comparison reveals that no new information or interviews have been added to the repertoire this time around. Rather, the same misinformation has been rehashed with a bang.
It is reasonable to assume that these two articles offer a preview of what is to come on Four Corners this evening. We encourage all community members to tune in at 8.30 pm on ABC1 and see whether this issue is handled neutrally and suitably. It is safe to say that the previews suggest otherwise.
Here are some core talking points that we hope will make it easier for the community to stand up and rebuff the inaccuracies and biases that have been circulating around this issue.
1. Palestinian “children”
Lyons repeatedly laments the cruel arbitrary arrest of “Palestinian children.” But who are the Palestinian children to which he refers? 16 year olds? Any person below the age of 18? It is hard to believe that of the 700 + Palestinian youth to which Lyons refers, a majority are five and six year olds. The emotive images suggest the children are very young however most of those arrested for crimes are predominantly youths aged 17 and 18. They are engaged in serious terrorist activity and carry out the same heinous crimes as those Palestinians who are legal adults.
2. Understanding the need for 2 judicial systems
Lyons makes a grave error in his comparison of the legal proceedings for “Jewish children” and “Palestinian children.” Contrary to Lyons’ positioning, the two legal systems are divided between Israeli citizens (including Jews, Arabs, Christians and others) living and offending in Israel and non-Israeli citizens in the disputed territories. As Honest Reporting explains “this is not a division based on race, ethnicity or religion but on the legal status of the disputed territories.” The Israeli justice system cannot be applied to Palestinian youth in the West Bank as it is still a disputed territory. To apply Israeli civil law to this region would signify annexation, undoubtedly causing international outcry and accusations of breach of international law. What’s that they say about damned if you do, damned if you don’t? The legal status of the settlements is complex and Lyons should acknowledge this outright rather than filtering out facts that spoil his version of the story.
3. Why arrest the perpetrators at night?
This investigation has gained traction largely due to its highly emotive undertone. The arrest of Palestinian youth at night-time is portrayed as aggressive, immoral and inhumane. However, were Israeli soldiers to enter Palestinian villages in the West Bank during the daytime, the prospect of riots and armed conflict would be great. Arresting Palestinians during the night minimizes the chance of dangerous confrontation and reduces potential casualties on both sides. Minimizing injury for Israelis and Palestinians is something Israel strives for. Is this method desired? Absolutely not. However, it surpasses potential disastrous alternatives.
4. Enlisting children and youth for terror activities is child abuse
The question that needs to be raised unequivocally is why are Palestinian ‘children’ in the streets throwing stones rather than in school? Indeed, it is not the Israeli justice system that plays Palestinian youth as pawns, but rather Hamas, the PA and the Palestinian leadership that recruit their own youths as puppets in their game of armed conflict. Palestinians know the deadly repercussions of rock throwing and the potential legal implications. Yet, they continue to exploit their children in their own violent pursuits rather than foster sentiments of mutual coexistence.
By the same token children as young as five are recruited as ‘assistants’ for suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks that have killed many innocent civilians. Unfortunately, Lyons ignores the dilemma of the Israeli courts to deal with the very challenging problems posed by Palestinian “child terrorists.”
5.“Stone throwing” is terror, not child’s play
Lyons’ shows his contempt for balance when he continuously plays down the lethal repercussions of stone throwing. There have been countless fatalities and serious injuries caused by Palestinians throwing rocks at passing cars and civilians. Lyons’ makes fleeting reference to Adele Biton, a three year old Israeli girl who was still in hospital with head injuries four months after Palestinian youths threw rocks at her car. However, he quickly changes the tone to imply (without direct quotation) that the child’s mother, Adva, “says the law should be the same for Palestinians and Jews.” This is clunky journalism at best, malicious distortion at worst.
Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor based in Jerusalem touched on this back in 2011 when the first spate of propaganda surfaced. He wrote most aptly: “Attempts to minimise or erase the severity of these crimes works against an enduring solution and perpetuates the exploitation of Palestinian youth, as well as adding to the toll on Israeli children.”
I am not going to recount examples of Palestinian youth committing grave crimes. Many case studies are linked in the articles above; horrific examples of 16, 17 and 18 year olds engaging in terrorist activities resulting in loss of innocent life.
Honest Reporting has prepared a fantastic piece debunking these distortions. Please read Rock Solid Reporting Down Under? see below.
Rock Solid Reporting Down Under?
February 9, 2014 16:28 by Simon Plosker
In advance of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program to be aired on February 10, The Australian’s John Lyons has produced two articles and an accompanying video interview on the subject of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank.
The Australian articles most likely offer a preview as to what will be seen on the television.
To our Australian readers – please tune in on February 10, 8.30pm to Four Corners on ABC1 and see whether this topic is handled fairly and appropriately.
Central to Lyons’ report is the following:
At the heart of the issue is that Israel enforces two legal systems in the West Bank, one for Jews and one for Palestinians. About 2.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank – also known as the Palestinian Territories – which Israel has occupied since 1967.
Palestinian children appear before the military court, while Jewish children face a civil court with full legal protections.
Contrary to Lyons’ statement, the two legal systems in operation are divided between Israeli citizens (which, of course, includes both Jews and Arabs) and non-citizens. This is not a division based on race, ethnicity or religion but on the legal status of the disputed territories. The reason why Palestinians, both children and adults, are not subject to Israeli civil law is that Israel has never annexed the West Bank and therefore, Israeli law does not apply to the area. Instead, military law is applied.
It’s safe to say that Lyons would not advocate Israel’s annexation of the West Bank and it’s also safe to assume that were Israeli law to be administered in the disputed territories, there would be an international outcry and accusations of breaching so-called international law.
So it’s hardly surprising that Jewish children face a civil court. After all, how many Jewish children would find themselves in front of a military court charged with throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli cars or IDF soldiers?
In addition, Lyons’ statement that “2.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation,” needs clarification, especially when discussing the legal rights of the Palestinians. Some 2.4 million Palestinians live under Palestinian Authority rule and are subject to the PA’s domestic laws.
To Lyons’ credit, he interviews Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor who refutes the charge that Israeli policy is designed to make life intolerable for the Palestinians:
Let me say this very clearly. There is no such policy. A policy to create fear? There is no such thing. The only policy is to maintain law and order, that’s all. If there’s no violence, there’s no law enforcement.
But who exactly are the Palestinian “children” that Lyons refers to? These aren’t 8 year olds but Palestinian youths, perhaps 17 years old who are engaged in the same terror activities as Palestinians who are legally considered to be adults. Israel does not arbitrarily arrest minors for the sake of it. It isn’t “only” stone throwing that Palestinian minors are involved in.
In response to a Guardian article on the same subject, the spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in London wrote in January 2012:
But you omit the horrific nature of the atrocities that minors, some as young as 12, can be arrested for.
Hakim Awad, 17, is a minor. Last March  he and his 18-year-old cousin, Amjad, brutally murdered the Fogel family while they slept. No mercy was shown to three-month-old Hadas, her two brothers (aged four and 11) and their parents. The scene of the crime, including the severed head of a toddler, left even the most experienced of police officers devastated. The duo proudly confessed to their killings, and they have shown no subsequent remorse.
Between 2000-04, 292 minors took part in terrorist activities. Shocking images of Palestinian infants dressed in explosive vests are only the tip of the hate industry that Palestinian children are exposed to. Ismail Tsabaj, 12, Azi Mostafa, 13, and Yousuf Basam, 14, were sent by Hamas on a mission chillingly similar to the one involving the Fogels, aiming to penetrate a Jewish home at night and slaughter a family in their beds. In this case, the IDF fortunately stopped them in time. …
In the face of ever younger minors committing ever greater numbers of crimes, its efforts to maintain and even increase legal protections are impressive. When a minor involved in terrorist activity is arrested, the law is clear: no torture or humiliation is permitted, nor is solitary confinement in order to induce a confession. …
Furthermore, a special juvenile court has been established to guarantee professional care for minors in detention. The above and other measures have succeeded in making legal proceedings easier for minors, and have almost halved their duration. …
It would be our wish that no minor would ever find themselves in Israeli custody. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the reality, not our dreams.
Much criticism is made of Israeli arrest operations of children in the middle of the night. Lyons may wish to consider the probable outcome of an arrest operation carried out during daylight hours. This would most likely result in violence as Palestinians in the immediate vicinity engage IDF soldiers leading to injuries or worse on both sides. Is the arrest of children during nighttime hours unpleasant? Certainly. But it still preferable to the alternative.
Lyons also states in his video interview that the Israeli authorities have been very receptive to the criticisms of the treatment of Palestinian children. Israel recognizes that improvements need to be made to the system and are continuously striving for this.
The discussion is undoubtedly a sensitive and emotive one. Nonetheless, it should be carried out in an accurate manner that avoids demonizing Israel.
CAMERA has an important article where the first question asked is – is it factually correct? with the conclusion being that much is fictitious.
We have enough experience with prior manipulations, distortions and lies to not first off be skeptical, rather than assuming that an anti-Israel’s statement is going to be accurate.