Australian lawmakers urge end to Israeli abuses of Palestinian children

Some of the 49 members of Australia’s parliament who signed a letter urging Israel to end its military detention of Palestinian children participate in a press conference organized by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network in Canberra, 28 November. (via Facebook)

One in five members of Australia’s parliament is calling on Israel to end its systematic abuses of Palestinian children.

“Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts. And only Palestinian children,” dozens of members of the Australian house of representatives and senate say in a letter released by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network on Monday.

“Up to 700 Palestinian children are arrested each year by the Israeli military, and this number is increasing,” the 49 lawmakers add, citing United Nations reports that ill-treatment of Palestinian children is “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”

The lawmakers call on Israel to comply with its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and “to not arrest or detain Palestinian children unless this is a last resort, and if they are detained, to immediately institute protections for those children including that their safety and best interests are prioritized, and that they are permitted a fair trial.”

Growing debate

The letter is part of a growing debate on Israel’s human rights abuses. Earlier this month, Maria Vamvakinou, a member of the main opposition Australian Labor Party, introduced a motion calling on Australia “to raise concerns with the Israeli government about the treatment of Palestinian children.”

Though parliament has yet to vote on the measure, a number of lawmakers have given speeches calling on Israel to end its abuses of Palestinian children:

“We are very encouraged to see this issue resonating with members of parliament in Australia,” Beth Miller from the human rights group Defense for Children International-Palestine told The Electronic Intifada. “The situation on the ground for Palestinian children is increasingly dire. This is a welcome sign that more leaders are ready to take bold action to ensure justice and accountability.”

International success

The initiative in Australia was the result of international cooperation among advocates for Palestinian rights.

Over the summer, members of APAN – the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network – contacted the No Way to Treat a Child campaign about its successes in winning US congressional support for Palestinian children’s rights.

Led by the American Friends Service Committee and Defense for Children International-Palestine, the No Way to Treat a Child campaign has gained traction in notoriously difficult political territory for those working to hold Israel accountable for its abuses.

“We were thrilled that organizers in Australia heard of our advocacy with members of the US Congress about Palestinian children in Israeli military detention,” Jennifer Bing of the American Friends Service Committee told The Electronic Intifada. “We had several email and Skype exchanges to share strategies and effective messaging with those often silent about Palestinian human rights.”

In June, 20 US lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to send a “clear signal” to Palestinian children that their lives are valued.

In a letter initiated by Minnesota congresswoman Betty McCollum, the lawmakers urged the president to appoint a special envoy to protect the rights of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation.

A year earlier, 19 US lawmakers called on Secretary of State John Kerry to “prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children” in relations with Israel.

While Obama did not act on the lawmakers’ request, and unconditionally awarded Israel the biggest US military aid package in history earlier this year, the lawmakers’ willingness to speak out is a sign of the greater openness and contestation over Palestinian rights within the Democratic Party.

One of the signers of the letter to Obama was Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, a leading contender to be chair of the party’s top governing body, the Democratic National Committee.




Well done Australia! You have recognised the paradoxical nature of Israel's claim to democracy. It is a lie that I have witnessed personally in occupied Palestine. It cannot go on indefinitely.


I commend wholeheartedly these members of parliament for standing up to be counted concerning the treatment of Palestinian children by Israel. Now let them stand up and condemn the treatment of Asylum Seeker children who have been incarcerated indefinitely on the island of Nauru by both major parties of Australian politics. Australia should hang its head in shame for its inhumane treatment of children as should Israel. In both instances people are being de-humanised by governments. Children, no matter where they live should not be treated in this way.
What is happening to our humanity and compassion.


Good Grief! What has come over Australian politicians - to be so uncharacteristically outspoken - after all these decades? Now, to wait for the zionists' backlash!


Israel''s recalcitrant behaviour has made it a source of irritation around the world. There is never a situation so desperate that the arrival of the Israelis cannot make it worse. And, of course, they will fight to the last Christian.


The trouble with us Australians is that we are to bloody polite .. & they get away with murder.
Payday in Australia .. they are all over us like a rash .. not only do they take out tax .. then we have compulsory superannuation / medicare levy / & who knows what else.
The GST was inflicted on the common man of Australia by the then PM John Howard / The King of The Lose Purse Strings ( Hey Big Spender) the biggest & most wasteful spending PM Australia has ever had.
And we don't bat an eyelid .. to bloody polite .. that's what's wrong with us.
Now we have professional people / leaders speaking out ..
Quote: John Wayne "Well it's about time" .. what took them so bloody long ?
You have to be grateful Ali .. you are a stranger .. I don't .. I am Australian & I have expectations of responsibility of Australians that can make a bigger noise than me.
What too you all so long to get your act together ?


Yes, cheers to the 49 Parliamentarians for their stand on Palestinian children.

The story of Bob Carr (former Australian Foreign Minister in Labor govt) is to the point. He was a co-founder in 1977 of Labor Friends of Israel and was duly awarded 'honourable gentile' status by Israel. He is now openly critical of Israel and its intransigence and in 2014 he become a patron of Labor Friends of Palestine.

Given that Carr is one of the most able, intelligent politicians in Australia, this is good news. He has both integrity and a good feel for the changing tides of opinion. Whilst he is no longer a serving politician, he remains an important figure in the Australian Labor Party and its policy formation.

Australia is still a long way from distancing itself from American ME policy, but as the song we all love says 'from little things big things grow'.