On July 26, 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) released an advanced copy of his 2018 report on Children and Armed Conflict. Despite intensive lobbying by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) over the past few years, the IDF was not included in the Annex of “grave violators” of child’s rights.

It is also notable that, for a UN publication, the report to some extent criticizes Palestinian violations of human rights.

NGO Campaigns to Blacklist the IDF

For years, NGOs such as Watchlist, Human Rights Watch (HRW) (which is also leads the Watchlist coalition), Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Amnesty InternationalAddameerB’TselemHaMoked, and Military Court Watch have engaged in misinformation campaigns alleging “systematic” violations committed by Israeli forces against Palestinian minors. The goal is to trigger the IDF’s listing in the Annex, which is almost entirely comprised of terror groups or militias associated with failed states (see NGO Monitor’s reports and submissions on the subject). Groups currently listed in the Annex include ISIS, the Taliban, and Boko Haram, which are subjected to UN Security Council sanctions.

UNICEF also plays a role in this campaign. Its regional branch, known as “UNICEF-oPt,” partners with a number of the organizations mentioned above, as well as with other NGOs that promote anti-Israel demonization and/or have ties to terror groups. UNICEF-oPt’s NGO partners publish misleading and false reports on the treatment of Palestinian minors involved in attacks and arrested by the IDF, rife with distortions and inaccuracies and devoid of necessary context. These same erroneous and unverified claims are then laundered through a UNICEF database to a variety of UN publications, ostensibly lending them legitimacy and prominence.

UN Reliance on NGO Claims

In a number of places, the UNSG’s report echoes NGO/UNICEF distortions:

  • Claims that the “United Nations verified 118 incidents of interference with education in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israeli forces (113) and Israeli settlers (5), affecting 23,188 children.” NGO Monitor research shows that the UN relies on EAPPI for its information regarding “interference with education” in the West Bank – without meaningful independent verification. EAPPI, the World Council of Churches’ flagship project on Israel and the Arab-Israel conflict, has brought 1,800 volunteers to the West Bank to “witness life under occupation.” Despite marketing itself as a human rights and protection program, EAPPI places significant emphasis on political advocacy before, during, and after the trip. When volunteers return to their home countries and churches, they engage in anti-Israel advocacy, such as BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany (see NGO Monitor’s report for more).
  • Recycles the false claim, promoted by groups such as HRW and the PFLP-terror group linked Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), that violent rioters on the Israel-Gaza border posed “no imminent threat of death or serious injury to Israeli forces.” NGO Monitor notes that the standard of “imminent threat to life” apply in a domestic law enforcement framework and is therefore inapplicable in situations of international armed conflict, including the violence along the border between Israel and Gaza.
  • Emphasizes injuries caused by “tear gas inhalation.” This type of injury, resulting from the use of non-lethal riot control measures, is not mentioned anywhere else in the UNSG report for any other conflict zone in the world.
  • Similar to NGO publications on the Gaza border violence, the UNSG ignores the use of incendiary devices, such as fire-bombing kites, used by Palestinian armed groups and fails to document incidences of when these landed in school zones.
  • Parrots NGO rhetoric regarding Israel’s provision of visas from Gaza to Israel, claiming visas were approved at a “very low rate” without providing confirmation or context. Moreover, Israel, as a sovereign state, is under no obligation to provide these visas, yet continues to, in spite of the significant security risks to the state.

UNSG Departure from Standard UN/NGO Narratives

In certain respects, the UNSG report represents a departure from typical NGO-influenced UN publications related to Israel. Significantly, the report highlights the recruitment and use of children as soldiers by Palestinian armed groups and mentions incidents where Israeli children were targeted.

  • The Secretary-General urged “all Palestinian actors to refrain from encouraging children’s participation in violence. I call upon the al-Quds and al-Qassam Brigades to immediately cease the recruitment and use of children, and I further request my Special Representative to further examine recruitment and use by armed groups” (emphasis added).
  • The UN verified “the recruitment and use of three 17-year-old boys in Gaza (two) and the West Bank (one) by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades and an unidentified Palestinian armed group (one each).” (It should be noted that, based on publicly-available materials gathered by NGO Monitor and others, there are many more examples of such recruitment and use by Palestinian actors in Gaza and the West Bank.)
  • The report provides examples of “one child was killed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, and one boy was killed by an improvised explosive device accidentally detonated at his home by his father, an Al-Aqsa Brigade member.”
  • Acknowledges that “Three boys were injured while committing or allegedly attempting to commit stabbing attacks against Israelis.”
  • The UNSG also relates to Palestinian attacks on Israeli children, such as “Six Israeli children were injured, including two girls injured in their home by a rocket fired indiscriminately by a Palestinian armed group” and “A mortar launched by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza exploded in the yard of a kindergarten near Sderot, a town located in southern Israel.”
  • Notes that Israeli children’s education was disrupted due to indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire, stating “Conflict escalations also caused significant disruptions to children’s education in Gaza and southern Israel, when schools were closed for the safety of students and educators as a result of air strikes by Israeli forces and indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups.”