Amnesty International Ignores the Weaponization of Palestinian Children
On January 14, 2017, Amnesty International issued a press statement (“Israel Must Release Teenage Palestinian Activist Ahed Tamimi”) claiming, despite damning video footage of 16-year old Ahed Tamimi assaulting soldiers, that “Israeli authorities must release” her. The charges against Tamimi also include incitement to terror, such as a statement that “Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine” (emphasis added). Nevertheless, Amnesty argues, “Nothing that Ahed Tamimi has done can justify the continuing detention of a 16-year-old girl.”
As an initial matter, Amnesty’s statement is a profoundly dishonest.1 The NGO omits the fact that the court was prepared to conduct a bail hearing immediately after the submission of the indictment on January 1, 2018, but it was Tamimi’s own attorney, Gaby Lasky, who twice asked for delays resulting in the postponement of the hearing until January 15.
Setting aside the fact that Amnesty is either ignorant of the court proceedings or deliberately misleading its readership, Amnesty’s call is an affront to human rights and the rule of law. By assaulting a soldier, among other alleged offenses, Tamimi did, in fact, partake in actions that according to the law would result in her continued detention and trial. Of course, Amnesty ignores and does not condemn the broader context of the weaponization of Palestinian minors by the Palestinian Authority and armed groups to commit violent attacks, failing to hold Palestinians accountable for child abuse, incitement, and recruitment and use of child soldiers.
By praising “Tamimi’s act of defiance” and labeling her an “activist,” Amnesty detracts from any sense of childhood “mental immaturity” that demands “special safeguards and care” (to quote from the Declaration of the Rights of the Child). Similar encouragement from Tamimi’s parents reflects a deeply problematic environment endangering child welfare, yet Amnesty fails to condemn her family for its role in pushing her to violence.
Likewise, there is no basis for the accusation that her trial in an Israeli military court will “not ensure basic fair trial standards.” This is a standard talking point of anti-Israel NGOs, but it is entirely false. Both Israeli military and civilian courts provide comprehensive rights, including the right to a fair trial, for all those who violate the law.
Amnesty’s claims that Israel’s legal enforcement is “discriminatory” are also false, as Western democracies’ juvenile legal codes also contain provisions regarding the minimum and maximum sentencing for assault against security officers and members of the armed forces, and incitement to terrorism.
The following chart compares the maximum sentences for chargers related to assaulting a security officer and incitement to terrorism under Israeli military law with civilian law in Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the UK.
|Israeli Military Law||Australia||Canada||Germany||Sweden||UK|
|Assault on an Officer||5 years||3 years||5 Years||3 years||4 years||6 months + fine|
|Incitement to Terror||10 years||10 years||Life||5 years||6 years||7 years|
- Amnesty’s statement also repeats many false and misleading claims from PFLP-linked NGOs regarding the Israeli justice system. See NGO Monitor’s reports “UNICEF and its NGO Working Group: The Campaign to Blacklist the IDF,” “No Way to Represent a Child: Defense for Children International – Palestine’s Distortions of the Israeli Justice System,” “The Origins of No Way to Treat a Child,” and “Addameer: The PFLP’s Prisoner Advocacy Wing.”