Rock Solid Reporting Down Under?

stonethrowing

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 [2011] 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.

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.

 


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Image: CC BY-SA flickr/Petras Gagilas

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