A coalition of NGOs known as “Watch List on Children and Armed Conflict” is calling on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to add Israel to a UN blacklist of those committing grave violations against children.
This is not the first time that the group has lobbied for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to be included on the UN blacklist. It issued a similar call in 2017.
In its new March 2018 Policy Note, Watch List urged the UN chief to “elevate children’s rights above politics” when he decides which countries to include on the annual UN blacklist. Yet Watch List itself is guilty of placing politics first, by systematically ignoring egregious violations of children’s rights by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian actors.
Absurdly, Watch List seeks to place the IDF on the UN blacklist along with terrorist groups like the Taliban, the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaeda, and with repressive regimes engaged in long and bloody civil wars, such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and operates its military according to Western standards. All of the countries listed above are ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House, according to its 2018 report on freedom in the world, whereas Israel is listed as “Free.”
The Israeli army is subject to robust internal oversight for compliance with the laws of war. As evidenced by the Elor Azaria case, Israel prosecutes soldiers guilty of misconduct. By contrast, Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas make no attempt to comply with the laws of war and exploit such laws by operating from within civilian areas.
Moreover, the sheer numbers of children affected by the protracted conflicts listed above bear no comparison to the numbers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For example, according to UNICEF more than 1,000 children were killed or injured in Syria just since the beginning of 2018, while more than 5,000 children have been killed or injured in Yemen in three years of conflict; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 1.5 million children have been displaced from their homes, and some 2,000 children are being used by the local militias; and ISIS has recruited thousands of child soldiers in Iraq and Syria. By contrast, even according to the virulently anti-Israel NGO Defense for Children International, only 14 Palestinian children were killed by the IDF in all of 2017, mostly in clashes with the IDF.
Nearly all of the Palestinians referenced in the Policy Note were not defenseless children attacked by the IDF for no reason, but were killed or injured during the course of violent confrontations with the IDF—as Watch List itself acknowledges (pp. 13-17). Some of the children were killed or injured as they attempted to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis. For example, Watch List includes a 15-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot and injured after attempting to stab an Israeli man near Kiryat Arba (p. 13); a 17-year-old boy killed during an attempted stabbing (p. 14); and a Palestinian teen who was killed in May following a stabbing (p. 14).
As NGO Monitor pointed out with last year’s Watch List report, the group’s methodology was seriously flawed and allowed for bias. It relied on a desk review of a select set of publicly available reports, and did not conduct independent research or verification of the data. The same criticism applies to the March 2018 Policy Note.
For reasons they have not explained, Watch List ignores the Palestinian Authority’s routine violations of Palestinian children’s rights, which drive children to commit violence and terrorism. These violations include using the Palestinian curriculum to teach hatred of Jews and Israel and to glorify martyrdom, as detailed in recent studies by IMPACT-se; honoring terrorists responsible for killing Israeli civilians by naming schools and summer camps after them; using an official Palestinian television children’s program to incite children to follow the example of Abu Jihad, a top PLO official responsible for terrorist attacks that killed 125 Israelis; and incentivizing terrorism by offering financial rewards to terrorists and their families, with payments totaling approximately $350 million in 2017.
Finally, Watch List ignores Hamas’s abuse and cynical exploitation of children which places them at risk, including training children to be terrorists at Hamas summer camps in Gaza; building terror attack tunnels under UNRWA schools; storing rockets in UNRWA schools during the last military conflict between Israel and Hamas; and stealing electricity from hospitals and schools.