UN sends mixed messages to ‘Palestine’ about using child soldiers

Overlapping UN bodies have been sending mixed messages in their first review of “the State of Palestine’s” compliance with children’s rights, especially regarding accusations of exploiting their children for armed conflict with Israel.
The issue came to a head as the world on Wednesday celebrated Red Hand Day, or the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, in which pleas are made to political leaders not to exploit children in armed conflict.
While the politically staffed UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which is generally viewed by Israel as entirely biased, has ignored the issue, the more apolitical expert-staffed UN Human Rights Committee has pressed PA representatives hard over the issue in recent weeks.

NGO Monitor, which monitors a variety of UN and NGO activities relating to Israel, has been on the front lines of trying to present evidence about the PA’s deliberate exploitation of children to foment armed conflict with Israel.
It told The Jerusalem Post that the UN committee either tried to minimize the evidence it has presented or consciously used procedural obstacles to block some photographic evidence from presentation.
Specifically, NGO Monitor said that the UN committee at first refused to even allow its submission regarding the Palestinians’ exploitation of children for armed conflict into the record.

Subsequently, the UN told NGO Monitor that it could not post the organization’s submission because of photos depicting children’s faces. There are laws against identifying minors in photos.

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However, NGO Monitor replied that the photos it used were all publicly available, and in any event, it refiled its submission with the faces of the children blurred.
Another twist is that NGO Monitor has contended that UNICEF, which has special responsibility for protecting children’s rights globally, has been passive on the issue and is more active in criticizing Israel.
NGO Monitor also said that UNICEF did not make any oral presentation at a major UN committee hearing on how the PA is handling the issue.

However, UNICEF said that it was present for the hearing and that it filed a submission, “highlighting areas where further work is needed to ensure all Palestinian children are provided with the necessary conditions to reach their full potential.”
Summarizing its position on the issue, UNICEF told the Post, “Children are disproportionately affected by armed conflict in Israel and the State of Palestine. UNICEF advocates with all parties to put the interests of children first.”

“This involves advocating with Palestinian authorities on shortcomings, making clear that no child should be enlisted to violence, and advocating with Israel to make sure children are not targeted by violence. In the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict Bulletin for 2018, which can be found on UNICEF’s website, the UN documents verified incidents by all sides,” said UNICEF.

UNICEF added, “For example, in this report three cases of recruitment and use of Palestinian children in the conflict are included,” and an evenhanded critique of both the Israeli and Palestinian sides (even naming specific groups that are recruiting Palestinian minors) was part of UNICEF’s contribution to a 2018 report by the UN secretary-general.
Many of the disputed developments occurred at a January 29 committee hearing. At the hearing, Bragi Gudbrandsson, committee co-rapporteur for evaluating the PA’s handling of children’s rights, said that “Israel’s occupation and the construction of settlements seriously hampered the enjoyment of the right to nonviolent childhood.”

However, despite his comments about Israel’s role, he also noted accusations that the “State of Palestine” engaged in rampant incitement of children to violence against the “occupying force.”
Gudbrandsson pressed the PA about whether all measures had been taken to protect children from participating in armed conflict against Israel. PA Minister of Social Development Ahmed Majdalani responded that the PA is committed to the principle of peaceful coexistence and a world based on justice, in which the potential of the Palestinian people could be achieved.

He argued that all Palestinian parties and factions had signed a code of conduct that prevented them from involving children in any demonstrations.
However, he then appeared to admit to the allegations of children being widely involved in conflict, while trying to pass the blame on to Israel, claiming, “There was no need for the State of Palestine to provoke or incite Palestinian children to demonstrate or engage in acts of violence against the occupation – acts of violence by the occupying forces they witnessed on a daily basis were enough.”
Another committee expert inquired about the content of education and how textbooks promoted the concept of peace and tolerance. The UN expert also asked about measures to prevent children from going to school with guns and knives.Responding, the PA delegation said that the school curricula from grades 1-6 were reviewed last year, and that any content violating “the rights of the child had been removed.”

However, the PA then appeared to admit that some material that the committee might view as problematic was kept in the school curricula, noting, “As for the glorification of martyrs, the delegation said that, like any other state... Palestine also celebrated its heroes.”
Many “martyrs” of the PA are viewed by Israel and most Western countries as terrorists who intentionally murdered Israeli civilians.
The UN Human Rights Committee pressing the PA for answers about its handling of the exploitation of Palestinian children to fight Israel was a significant contrast to the UNHRC, which usually merely uses agenda item 7 to condemn Israel.

Even UNICEF – regardless of the debate about whether it spends more time criticizing Israel – showed a greater readiness to criticize the PA about exploiting Palestinian children for violence against Israel than has the UNHRC.

Source: https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/UN-sends-mixed-messages-to-Palestine-about-using-child-soldiers-617390

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