Child rights groups appeal against biased reporting on Palestinian children

Two children walk down a street pounded by Israeli shells in Gaza (Johannes Abeling)

The apprehension twice in 10 days of two Palestinian children allegedly carrying explosives at Hawara checkpoint near Nablus has sparked a media frenzy. However, the multitude of violations to Palestinian children�s rights that occur daily at the hands of Israeli forces in the illegally-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are almost entirely ignored by journalists and the media.

DCI/PS and NPA-Pal condemn this selective and biased reporting of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and urge the media to adopt an impartial approach in informing the public of the truth.

The Israeli military violates the right to life and physical security on a systematic and regular basis. Since the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, the indiscriminate use of lethal force by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has resulted in the death of over 530 Palestinian children; thousands more have been injured. The violation of other fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of movement, the right to education and adequate healthcare to name but few, continues to pose a serious threat to the physical and psychological wellbeing of Palestinian children. Though well-documented, these daily abuses are rarely reported in the media.

However, on the infrequent occasions that Palestinian children are involved in the armed conflict against Israel�s illegal occupation of their lands, the full force of the media is brought to bear.

DCI/PS and NPA-Pal condemn the use and recruitment of children in conflict. The involvement of children in military operations is in direct contravention of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and its optional protocol on the use of children in armed conflict, which is ratified by Israel and supported by the Palestinian government. DCI/PS and NPA-Pal also condemn the cynical exploitation of such incidents by the Israeli military, media and opposition forces to undermine the legitimate Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination.

Following the two incidents at Hawara checkpoint near Nablus on 15 and 25 March, the Israeli and international press were quick to report as fact the Israeli army�s version of events. No independent sources were quoted as confirming the stories, and in the case of the first child, no evidence was presented to prove that he was actually carrying explosives, as the army had claimed. Although this child was quickly cleared of any responsibility, local media reports failed to emphasis his innocence.

While Israeli law stipulates that minors deserve special protection from potentially harmful publicity, pictures of the children and their personal details were immediately made available by the military and published in newspapers, on websites and on the television.

In both cases, the media reported the children as being younger than they actually are � the 11-year old was said to be aged 10, while the 16-year old in some articles was reported to be only 14 years old. This reduction in the age of the children gives more impact to the stories and fuels Israel�s frequently repeated propaganda that the Palestinians have little respect for the rights of their children. The inflammatory language used to describe the children and their alleged intentions, helps justify Israel�s exaggerated security policy which permits the Israeli occupation forces to carry out gross human rights violations against Palestinians, including children. As the occupying power of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel is obliged by international humanitarian law to protect the rights of all Palestinian residents, in particular women and children.

In reporting these distorted and one-sided accounts, without mentioning the myriad rights violations of Palestinian children, the media is enabling the abuse of Palestinian children to continue unabated. DCI/PS and NPA-Pal urge all journalists to expose the full and correct facts in their reports, to protect the privacy and uphold the rights of all children, and remain independent in their coverage of the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Related Links

  • BY TOPIC: Children
  • Defence for Children International/Palestine Section
  • Palestinian parents blamed for their children’s deaths during street clashes, Nigel Parry and Laurie King-Irani (12 April 2001)
  • The under-reporting of Israel’s repression of Palestinian education, Arjan El Fassed (24 March 2001)