On December 15, 2017, AJ+ – part of the Al Jazeera network – posted a video on its Twitter, that was also widely disseminated in an offensive tweet by Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth, alleging that Israel “systematically harasses and abuses Palestinian kids.” The video parrots blatantly false and/or misleading claims by non-governmental organization (NGO) regarding Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minors, and goes so far as to claim that Israel has no reason to arrest minors (0:27) – regardless of the fact that some minors are perpetrators of violent terror attacks, including murder.
The video’s reliance on NGOs such as B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch (HRW), as well as on UNICEF, clearly demonstrates that this video is part of a broader, concerted NGO effort to falsely accuse the IDF of violating the rights of Palestinian minors in order to impose sanctions against Israel. Contrary to the posture of the video and its NGO sources, this is not about advocating for Palestinian children (see NGO Monitor’s reports “No Way to Represent a Child” and “The Origins of No Way to Treat a Child”).
The most fundamental distortion in the film is its premise that Israel “systematically…. abuses Palestinian kids.” In fact, there are over 1 million Palestinian minors in the West Bank, but the film states that just 300 are in prison (less than 0.0003% of Palestinian minors). The following analyzes various specific claims made in the AJ+ video, demonstrating the factual inaccuracies and misleading content.
- “You’re going to be arrested…even in the middle of the night.” (0:24)
- There is no internationally recognized standard that prohibits nighttime arrests, even for minors. Israel carries out nighttime arrests for predominantly operational reasons, as daytime arrests often result in wide scale disturbances of the peace, including gun battles with Palestinian terror operatives. IDF statistics show that on average, between the years 2013-2015 no more than 21.3% of Palestinian minors were arrested at night.
- Quotes HRW’s Bill Van Esveld who bizarrely states that “There’s really no reason why you have to arrest a young child in the first place and detain them.” (0:27)
- This statement completely negates the possibility that Palestinian minors might be guilty of committing criminal offenses, including serious violent crimes such as murder or attempted murder. Just one example– in January 2016, a 16 year old Palestinian minor brutally and repeatedly stabbed mother-of-six Dafna Meir in her home, killing her in front of her children. According to HRW’s and AJ+’s logic, there is apparently no reason to arrest and detain this murderer. Moreover, it is strange that Van Esveld, an HRW employee and claimed human rights professional who regularly promotes accountability and the end of impunity, would suggest that those who commit violent crimes should be immune from prosecution and leave their victims without a remedy.
- “Your parents will most likely not be informed why or where you are being taken.” (0:48)
- This claim is false. Israeli authorities are both required by law to update the parents when a minor is arrested, and do so in practice. Israeli authorities provide parents with information regarding why, in general terms, their child has been arrested and where they are being held. Israeli authorities provide written notification of the reasons for arrest and/or place of detention to families upon arrest of a minor and in many cases, these forms are even signed by the parents, and are included in the investigative files that are passed on to the prosecution
- “You’ll experience verbal and physical abuse on your way to the interrogation center.” (0:55)
- While anonymous claims of this nature have become common place, in reality very few official complaints of this nature are ever actually submitted or raised at trial.
- “The focus of the interrogation is usually to get a confession.” (1:26)
- This is a blatant misrepresentation of both international and Israeli standards, under which the purpose of the interrogation is to investigate the facts of the case, identify additional perpetrators, if relevant, and to prevent the commission of future crimes. In the Israeli legal system, use of a false confession is grounds for a full acquittal. If an acquittal does result, the prosecution is required to pay damages and costs. Additionally, a confession without any evidence is not enough to convict an individual of a crime in court; the claim that Israel is seeking such confessions is thus preposterous.
- Misrepresents international and Israeli law, stating that “their parents and lawyers are not present or not allowed to be present” during the interrogation. (1:47)
- There is no internationally recognized standard that requires parents to be present during the interrogation of minors, nor is this standard practice in Western countries. Furthermore, the same laws apply under Israeli civilian and military law regarding the presence of a parent during interrogation. Under Israeli law, minors who are interrogated under arrest are not entitled to have their parent present (para. 9H). Israeli law also does not permit lawyers to be physically present during interrogations; however, the suspect has the right to consult with counsel before being interrogated (para. 56).
- “These are children who don’t know their rights.” (1:57)
- According to UNICEF’s May 14, 2016 Situation Report, UNICEF and UNRWA educate children on their rights in a program called “Know your rights.” The purpose of the initiative is to “sensitize children about their rights … In April, 1,200 children from two UNRWA schools (Shu’fat and Aida Girls and Boys, grade 7-10) attended the ‘Know your rights’ sessions. This programme will continue in May in order to reach the remaining four UNRWA schools. This project prioritizes children and adolescents living in the refugee camps most affected by episodes of violence with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), including cases of stabbing carried out by young refugees.”
- “Minors are also told to sign statements they do not understand because they’re in Hebrew.” (2:11)
- Interrogations of Palestinian minors are conducted in Arabic. If the statement of the suspect is subsequently documented in Hebrew, the interrogation must be audio or audio-visually recorded in order for an indictment to be submitted to the court. Additionally, by law, a suspect is not actually required to sign his/her statement.
- “The most common charge against Palestinian minors is stone throwing. Under Israeli military law, that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. (2:17)
- AJ+ misleadingly only notes the maximum sentence. Judges have wide-ranging discretion regarding the actual sentence and as such, in sentencing, the judges take into account the nature of the offence, its circumstances (para. 129(c)), the age of the offender and all other relevant considerations (para. 168). Even the Palestinian NGO DCI-P (when making this same distorted claim) notes that most Palestinian minors “receive plea deals of less than 12 months.” Given that multiple civilian deaths have resulted from stone throwing, it is disingenuous and immoral for AJ+ to imply that stone-throwing is an innocuous act.
- “Israel runs two legal systems: one for its citizens and another for the Palestinians it rules in the occupied territories. The Palestinians are subjugated to military law.” (2:38)
- This claim is false. A small segment of the Palestinian population falls under Israeli military jurisdiction, as required by international law, while the vast majority of Palestinians are governed by the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli military courts have jurisdiction over only a limited set of crimes, mostly related to terrorism.
- “So the rights that the Palestinian child gets under Israeli military law are less. It’s just blatantly discriminatory.” (3:03)
- The rights afforded to Palestinians are the same rights as those afforded to Israelis. The rules of evidence and procedure in the Israeli civilian and military courts are nearly identical. Again, only a small subset of Palestinians fall within the jurisdiction of the military courts.
- “Currently over 300 Palestinian minors are confined in Israeli prisons. (3:32)
- Providing a “head count” is a meaningless statistic, as it does not tell the viewer why the 300 Palestinian minors are in prison nor does it allow the viewer to note if 300 is a significant amount of the population. In fact, there are over 1 million Palestinian minors who are residents of the West Bank and therefore, according to AJ+’s statistic, less than 0.0003% of Palestinian minors are held in prison. This percentage is far less by multiple factors than the number of minors arrested and imprisoned in other Western countries, such as the US and the UK. Given the active armed conflict and a governmental program of incitement aimed at Palestinian youth by the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian armed groups, one would expect significantly larger numbers.