The Committee on the Rights of the Child today evaluated Israel’s record on children’s rights.
Israel’s delegation was headed by Mr. Daniel Taub, the Senior Deputy Legal Advisor of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. It also included Mrs. Simona Halperin, Director of the International Organizations and Human Rights Department at the Foreign Ministry; Mrs. Hila Gilad Tenne, Director of the Department for International Agreements and Litigation of the Ministry of Justice; and Mr. Harel Weinberg, legal advisor of the Ministry of Defense.
The Committee questioned the panel on military recruitment policies, the situation of children in Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan, and on Operation Cast Lead. Committee member Ms. Hadeel Al-Asmar of Syria asked, “Do you actually systematically collect data on the impact on children of armed conflict?” She expressed “regret” and “deep concern” that the report “only provide[s] details on Israeli children, not on the children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories who are so deeply affected by hostilities.”
Israel said that that every day Israeli children are victimized by Hamas rocket attacks that deliberately target civilians. Taub added that the death of any child, Israeli or Palestinian is a tragedy, and that Israel “strives constantly to develop solutions to difficult humanitarian questions.” He emphasized that it is an “unfortunate fact that a large number of youngsters are involved in terrorist activities. The age of suicide-bombers has dropped, and, due to their small size, children are used to build tunnels.”
The Committee consistently interrupted the panel with questions about Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children. The Israeli delegation noted Hamas’s record of protecting child rights, including teaching terrorist ideology, enrolling children in terrorist training camps, and using children as human shields.
The Committee repeatedly questioned the delegation on conscription of minors into the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in spite of Halperin’s assertion that “voluntary recruits under the age of eighteen cannot take part in combat duty. Only those trained in combat can take part in combat, and in no way can a person under eighteen be trained in combat.”
Furthermore, in response to the Committee’s allegations that the IDF employed human shields during Operation Cast Lead, the panel emphasized that “all IDF personnel receive training in human rights and international humanitarian law and are expressly prohibited from using civilians as human shields or directly involving them in operations in any way.”
Though the Committee members were charged only with evaluating Israel’s record of protecting and promoting children’s rights, commitee member Rosa Maria Ortiz of Paraguay asked, “If this is true, that all IDF soldiers receive human rights training, how do you explain your actions in Operation Cast Lead?”
Taub replied that Israel seeks constantly to find solutions to the toughest humanitarian questions, that it aims to protect civilian life at almost any cost, and that, most of all, it strives for peace in the region, so that children today, and in the future, no longer have to fear for their lives.