Friday, March 4, 2011

Defending Palestinian Children’s Human Rights and What You Can Do About It!

This post will be a stream of consciousness type of post. I am writing what I think today. My thoughts at times just roam, but in this case I am focused on Israel’s mistreatment/abuse of Palestinian children in Gaza. Nothing quite gets my goat (so to speak) as does the abuse of children; any children, but in this case the abuse of Palestinian children. What have they ever done to be hurt and used as tools by the Israeli Apartheid regime against their parents? To traumatize them, to hurt treat them as pawns. It disgusts me and makes me angry beyond belief!

I once – ok more than once, but one such event stood out - saw horrible things as a child. A slaughtered Palestinian refugee camp. I blocked these images out for many years, but they returned to me one day during an Israeli Apartheid Week event at university. I saw images that made my brain click and it all flooded back. Images of children crying. Images of destruction and death – completely random horrible death. Images of people that look like me. If someone had cut a picture of me and pasted it into any of those photos I would not have looked out of place. This is how I really became part of the struggle. Self identification with an issue or a cause to some is key. And now that I am also a mother, the issue of the persecution and abuse of Palestinian children is becoming more and more of a cause to fight against for me. This abuse HAS TO STOP!
So I began looking into the matter. Is there a UN convention out there that is supposed (please note the slight hint of sarcasm here) to protect the rights of the child internationally? As it turns out there is. The UN convention on the rights of the Child is an internationally binding instrument to its signatories (which includes Israel much to my surprise) that is supposed to incorporate/extend the full range of human rights to children globally speaking. As per article 54 and two optional protocols, these rights are intended to include the right to survival, civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The intent is to protect children (individuals under the age of 18) as they often require special care and protection that adults do not. One can argue the part about adults not requiring that special care and protection also, but that’s something for future blog post.
So what we have here is the attempt to extend the right to basic human rights: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention is intended to protect children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services.
As one of the signatories (on July 3, 1990), Israel has in fact committed itself to protecting and ensuring children's rights and to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. States that are party to the Convention are obliged to implement all required actions and policies that are in the best interests of the children – all children living within individual states’ boundaries. However, the state of Israel has shifted the intended focus of the overall protection of children to one of protecting children in the context of labour violations and child labour issues. Since 1953, this is particularly evident as their international activities have included signing on to or being party to conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), primarily the Convention Concerning Medical Examination of Children and Young Persons in Non-industrial Occupations (No. 78, 1946); the Convention Concerning Medical Examination for Fitness for Employment in Industry of Children and Young Persons (No. 77, 1946); the Convention Concerning Night Work for Children and Young Persons in Industrial and Non-industrial Occupations (No. 90,1948 and No. 79, 1949). And since 1995, Israel has been a party to the Hague Convention Concerning the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (1993).
Since 1980, Israel has been a party to the International Labor Convention Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (No. 138, 1973). In addition, Israel is a party to the Hague Convention on International Private Law. Since 1991, Israel has been a party to the Hague Convention Concerning Civil Aspects of Child Kidnapping (No. 513 XXVIII, 1980), and since 1995, Israel has been a party to the Hague Convention Concerning the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (1993). (the above two paragraphs originated at
At first glance Israel has signed onto the right conventions and supports children’s rights in every way. What is of greater importance here is that Israel’s so-called protection of children has only applied to Israeli children (and by that I mean that Arab Israeli children not living in Gaza or the West Bank are also subject to such abuse) within its massively contested state boundaries. And instead of adhering to the requirements outlined by the Convention, Israel has continuously abused Palestinian children and has lied to or simply not cared about the response of the international community in regard to their innumerable crimes against Palestinian children. These Israeli crimes, which are carried out by their IDF forces include, but are not limited to arbitrary arrest/kidnapping of minors, physical abuse of minors in Israeli jails, terror and intimidation of minors in their homes (as demonstrated in recent night time raids where children were woken up, photographed and at times kidnapped), the sentencing of Palestinian children in adult courts, the lack of appropriate representation by legal council, the lack of access of parents to their children, the manner in which their arrests/kidnappings are used to pressure their parents...the list is endless.
And guess what? The international community has not said a thing! At least there has not been a response of note to make a difference. This could of course now lead into a discussion of the effectiveness of the UN, but I won’t go there for the moment. Another time maybe...
This makes Palestinian children and the violence they are being subjected to by IDF soldiers in Palestine nearly invisible. It is a ghost phenomenon that has not resulted in Israel being held accountable for their incredible violence toward Palestinian children!  It is despicable and must change!
What can be done about this? I feel helpless, but I have to try something. So what this in my mind boils down to is that the international community must speak up! In every way! The blockade on Gaza must be broken. Children must have access to a quality of life that is appropriate. They must not be subject to abuse by IDF soldiers. Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian population must end! And last but not least, Israel must be held accountable internationally speaking on their crimes against Palestinian children. The trauma must end! As a start here is how you can contact the UN and ILO to register your complaints. We need a lot of these formally registered complaints, so please pass on the url to this post as much as you can!
1.   International Labor Organization (ILO) – regarding Israel’s violation of the Convention Concerning Medical Examination of Children and Young Persons in Non-industrial Occupations (No. 78, 1946)
2.   United Nations – regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Please contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in regard to Committee on the Rights of the Child in the following manner.

By Mail:
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

By E-mail:

By Phone:

General Inquiries             +41 22 917 9220                
Civil Society Section        +41 22 917 9656


~ Sofia Smith


  1. I like your post - very personal, passionate and important. Keep it up - you make a difference.

  2. enjoyed reading your blog ~ thanks for posting such useful content./Nice article and great photos. Very nicely done!

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