Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) released a report on Sunday to counter claims of the United Nations Human Rights Council that Israel is responsible for the injuries and deaths of several Palestinian children who protested at the Gaza border, and to call on the international body to look at the situation from a different perspective.
“If the UNHRC was sincere in its protection of children and human rights, it would recognize that Israel’s defensive measures are merely a response to the immediate and real danger posed by Palestinian terrorists, including the teen terrorists,” said Maurice Hirsch, head of legal strategies at PMW. “Additionally, it would condemn the PA and Hamas for indoctrinating entire Palestinian generations to hate Jews and Israel, and for the recruiting of Palestinian youth to carry out terrorist attacks.”
The council will meet in Geneva on Monday and is expected to condemn Israel, with a focus on its treatment of Palestinian children. The organization debates Israeli actions against the Palestinians at every council session as part of Agenda Item 7. PMW said it wanted to preempt this discussion.
The UNHRC report specifically examines demonstrations held in Gaza between March 30 and December 31; the response of Israeli security forces to the demonstrations; and the impact on civilians in Gaza and Israel. According to the report, some 40,000 to 50,000 Palestinian men, women, children, elders and public figures, as well as civil society and political activists, took part in demonstrations on May 14 – the peak of the march, and not coincidentally, the day that the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Gaza is home to two million people, about half of whom are children. The report found that some 35 children were killed by live ammunition and another 1,642 were injured by a combination of live ammunition, shrapnel, rubber-coated metal bullets or direct tear-gas canisters during the demonstrations.
The report details the deaths of these 35 children, noting their ages and how they were killed. For example, it describes the death of a 13-year-old schoolboy at the Gaza City demonstration site as follows: “Israeli forces shot a schoolboy in the leg as he stood in a crowd on Jakkar Street, approximately 300 meters from the separation fence.”
Then, it describes seven children being shot and killed on May 14: a girl, Wisal Khalil (14), and six boys: Izzedine al-Samak (13), Said al-Kheir (15), Ahmad al-Sha’ar (15), Talal Matar (15), Saadi Abu Salah (16) and Ibrahim al-Zarqa (17).
“On 14 May, Israeli forces shot Izzedine, from the Bureij refugee camp, in the abdomen after he and two friends slung stones at Israeli soldiers,” the report describes. “They shot him as he sat resting with his back to the fence 150m. from the separation fence. He died later that day.”
The commission conducted 325 interviews and meetings with victims, witnesses, government officials and members of civil society, from all sides, and gathered more than 8,000 documents, including affidavits, medical reports, open source reports, social media content, written submissions and expert legal opinions, as well as video and drone footage and photographs.
BUT ACCORDING to Palestinian Media Watch, “Israel cannot be blamed for arresting or shooting anyone while defending itself against the PA terror, even if the terrorist is a teenager.”
In its report, PMW systematically tracks indoctrination and calls to terror by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Though it reports on both organizations, the calls by Hamas are specifically relevant and reactionary to the UNHRC report.
For example, the PMW report, cites a piece published on February 10 in the official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida by Muwaffaq Matar, a Fatah Revolutionary Council member, that criticizes Hamas’s use of Palestinian children:
“Our children are our national project for the future,” Matar wrote. “Playing with their lives is treason and a crime… Escorting Palestinian children to the sites of confrontation with the occupation, allowing them to reach them, or transporting them to these dangerous sites must be viewed as indirect assistance to the crime against humanity… The protection of our children is a moral, human and national obligation, which must not disappear from the consciences of those responsible for organizing the demonstrations, activities and confrontations with the occupation forces… Martyrdom-death (Shahada) for nothing is not heroism.”
“There is no choice but to pursue those [i.e. Hamas] who are still placing our children’s lives in danger from the Israeli killing-bullets through their populist displays,” the editorial reads. “We must not be silent any longer about this matter. Palestine has the right that its children will learn and grow in order to be pillars of the future of freedom and independence, and the children in Palestine have the right to be protected and defended by [Palestine] so that they will live their lives in happiness.”
Furthermore, senior Palestinian Authority leaders accused Hamas of intentionally sending Palestinians into Gaza to “go and die,” for the sole purpose that Hamas would have stories of dead Palestinians to tell the media, said PMW in its report.
The desire to use youth in terrorism during these confrontations on the Gaza border was exposed in a Facebook post written by the march’s organizers, calling specifically to youth to participate in terrorism:
“Rebelling young people, treat seriously and do not take lightly the requests to bring a knife, dagger, or handgun, if you have one, and to leave them under your clothes and not use them or show them, except if you identify one of the [Israeli] soldiers or settlers,” was posted on an independent Palestinian Facebook page on May 14. “Do not kill Israeli civilians, instead hand them over to the resistance immediately, because this is the point that Israel fears, as it knows that the captor can set any condition he wants.”
PMW translated all relevant Facebook posts and articles from Arabic.
The UNHRC report calls on Israel to investigate promptly, impartially and independently every protest-related killing and injury in accordance with international standards, to determine whether war crimes or crimes against humanity have been committed – with a view to holding accountable those found to be responsible.
It also calls on Israel to provide rehabilitation and compensation to those injured or killed and to amend the law on civil liability to provide a remedy to Gazans through Israeli courts for breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israeli security forces.
But PMW says that these events would not happen if not for Hamas’s messages and actions that “indoctrinate Palestinian youths in Gaza, militarize them and encourage them to take an active part in terrorism against Israel and Israelis.
“Accordingly, many of these teen terrorists are injured or even killed as Israeli forces defend Israel and its citizens against these attacks,” the report states. “Reports such as these – which ignore the wider context, intentions and actions of the Palestinian terrorists, the PA, its representatives, and Hamas, and exonerate them of any responsibility for the violence and casualties – are clear proof of the all too prevalent anti-Israel bias that characterizes the UNHRC.”
Itamar Marcus, PMW’s founder and director, said that Palestinian children and teenagers have been taking an active part in violence and murderous terrorism for years and have paid the price with both their lives and becoming prisoners in Israeli jails.
“While the UNHRC is always quick to condemn Israel for the deaths of the Palestinian teen terrorists and for the imposition of prison terms on arrested teen terrorists,” he said, it should instead be condemning those who use children as combatants, “in violation of international law and morality.”
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