Palestinian children hold toy guns during a protest in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – Israel was criticized for committing violations against Palestinian children by countries including Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as the United Nations Security Council, presided this month by Malaysia, held a meeting focusing on Children in Armed Conflict.
Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Nations Rafael Ramirez said that Israel “denies Palestinian children their status as minors, and subjects them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
“We note with shame that while some countries call for accountability for violations against children in armed conflicts, when it comes to violations committed against Palestinian children by Israel, they remain silent,” Ramirez said.
“We view with concern the policy of double standards, in discussing the case of Palestine and call for redoubling efforts to fulfill obligations under international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality."
In addition, Iran stated that the international community should “bring an end to Israeli impunity” when it comes to “restricting the rights of Palestinian children.”
Saudi Arabia, which has been blamed by the UN for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year as a result of its military intervention in the region, also joined the criticism of Israel, describing the country’s policies as “terrorist and aggressive.” The country also blamed Israel for using excessive force against Palestinian children and said it was holding and torturing them in Israeli jails.
The Israeli Mission to the UN’s legal adviser Amit Heumann, who delivered Israel’s position to the council, noted the importance of both tackling Palestinian exploitation of children as well as protecting Israeli children living in fear.
“In the North, the internationally recognized terrorist group Hezbollah has transformed the villages of Southern Lebanon into terror outposts.
They place rocket launchers next to kindergartens where youngsters play, and store missiles under the homes the children return to after school,” Heumann said. “In Gaza, the terrorist group Hamas uses young boys to dig their terror tunnels, and uses children of all ages – along with their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, to serve as human shields.”
“No child should play in a schoolyard which doubles as a rocket launching site,” he added. “And no child should spend their summer being drilled for war.”
The Israeli legal adviser also spoke of Hamas’ annual military camps for children where “instead of learning how to swim or play soccer, the children of Gaza are taught how to assemble automatic weapons and operate shoulder-fired missiles.”
“It is the responsibility of leaders everywhere to protect children at all costs, to protect them from the ravages of war and to shelter them in a protective environment, where children can thrive,” Heumann said. “Unfortunately, the Palestinians are failing at this most critical responsibility.”
“Instead of nourishing their youth with the dreams of a bright future, Palestinian children are fed a steady diet of hatred for Israel and glorification of violence in the lessons they learn in school, in the sermons they hear in the mosque, and in the streets that are named after terrorists.”
According to the Israeli mission at the UN, during the current wave of violence, which began last fall, 47 of the acts of terrorism, including stabbings, shootings and car rammings conducted against Israelis have been carried out by Palestinian youth. In addition, they said, 22 Israeli children were attacked.
Amit Heumann also recalled the case of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the 13-year-old Israeli girl killed in her bedroom by a 17-year-old Palestinian.
“Children killing children. This is the direct result of the venomous hatred preached to children in Palestinian society,” Heumann told the Security Council. “For the sake of peace, for the sake of the children on both sides, the international community must send a clear message to the Palestinian leadership.”
“Children are our most precious gift,” he added. “They deserve to grow up in a society which fosters a vision of hope, and promotes an education that preaches peace instead of hate, tolerance instead of violence and mutual understanding instead of martyrdom.”