NGO Defense For Children distorts reports of Palestinian youth attacks on Israelis - opinion

DCI-P regularly cast doubts on incidents of Palestinian youth violence against Israelis, while demonstrating a lack of interest in the recruitment and exploitation of Palestinian children.

 A boy holds a toy weapon as Palestinians take part in a rally marking the 34th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in the northern Gaza Strip December 10, 2021.  (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
A boy holds a toy weapon as Palestinians take part in a rally marking the 34th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in the northern Gaza Strip December 10, 2021.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)

Over the past few weeks, Israel has again experienced a wave of “lone-wolf” attacks, largely committed by Palestinian teenagers against Israeli civilians and security personnel. The latest example: on December 8, 2021, a 14-year-old girl stabbed an Israeli woman in Jerusalem as she walked with her children.

Unfortunately, the role of Palestinian teens in terror attacks is not new. In recent years, Palestinian minors have repeatedly killed and maimed Israeli civilians and security forces through stabbings, as well as hurling stones and firebombs.

In other cases, they have been sent to participate in violent clashes with IDF forces. Some of these youths were even members of internationally-designated terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

While this phenomenon both threatens the lives and violates the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians alike, the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that claim to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children instead manipulate and distort these events for propaganda. Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P) – designated in October by Israel as a terror organization citing links to the PFLP – is particularly insidious in its approach to teen terrorists.

DCI-P regularly publishes reports on incidents in which Palestinian youths were arrested or killed during security operations by Israeli forces, while erasing, downplaying, and sometimes excusing attacks committed by Palestinian minors. In many instances, DCI-P intentionally ignored these youths’ documented affiliations with Palestinian terror groups.

 A Palestinian boy takes part in a protest against the decision of an Egyptian court to list Hamas' armed wing as a terrorist organization, in Rafah near the border between southern Gaza Strip and Egypt February 5, 2015.  (credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS) A Palestinian boy takes part in a protest against the decision of an Egyptian court to list Hamas' armed wing as a terrorist organization, in Rafah near the border between southern Gaza Strip and Egypt February 5, 2015. (credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

For example, in a November 2021 film produced by DCI-P on the clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak said, “... we are usually talking about... boys throwing stones at tanks of Israel. This is not a very serious crime... They should not be put in police custody. They should not be put in pre-trial detention... in principle, they should also not be convicted of such minor crimes... ” In this way, DCI-P reframes life-threatening attacks on Israelis as imaginary attacks against “tanks,” which have not been operationally deployed in the West Bank in nearly two decades.

DCI-P and its allies regularly cast doubts on incidents of Palestinian youth violence against Israelis even in the face of incontrovertible evidence, and completely erase recruitment by terror groups, even though their affiliation has been publicly announced by the organizations themselves. For example, DCI-P claimed that 16-year-old Hamas terrorist Omar Abu Asab, who was killed after he stabbed two Israeli border police officers on November 17, 2021, “allegedly stabbed two Israeli paramilitary border police officers... ” DCI-P’s account of the incident ignored Abu Asab’s affiliation with Hamas.

IN ANOTHER episode, a 17-year-old member of Hamas, Zuhdi al-Tawil, was killed after stabbing and wounding an IDF soldier and an Israeli civilian. Ignoring his Hamas affiliation, DCI-P claimed that al-Tawil “allegedly committed a stabbing attack” and that he was “unlawfully killed.” This, despite security camera footage clearly showing al-Tawil’s attack. In this manner, DCI-P seeks to delegitimize Israeli self-defense, condemning what they call a policy of “routinely unlawfully kill[ing] Palestinian children with impunity, using excessive force and unjustified intentional lethal force.” These allegations regarding responses to homicidal stabbing attacks are clearly a form of propaganda.

DCI-P also demonstrates an apparent lack of interest in the recruitment and exploitation of children by terrorist organizations. In fact, in several instances in which Palestinian youths injured or killed Israelis and were not gravely injured themselves, DCI-P remained silent and failed to even report on the incidents. Its silence in the face of these grave human rights violations highlights the organization’s true political agenda.

Were they genuinely motivated by a concern for Palestinian children, DCI-P would advocate and campaign against the endemic incitement against Jews and Israelis to which these children are exposed.

Instead, DCI-P has used the funding it receives primarily from European governments to cynically lobby for Israel’s inclusion on the UN’s “Children and Armed Conflict” (CAAC) annex of parties engaging in “grave violations” of children’s rights. To date, the annex almost entirely consists of failed states, state-sponsored militias, and terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. Inclusion on the list paves the way for sanctions and other measures. DCI-P has also lobbied the US Congress to cut support for Israel, based on this agenda.

UN and government officials, diplomats, and journalists – who regularly uncritically repeat DCI-P’s claims and narrative – have a moral responsibility to acknowledge the evidence showing the true face of this NGO: a PFLP-linked propaganda group, whitewashing and ignoring Palestinian terror. DCI-P’s “reports” should be understood accordingly, as cynical attempts to distract from the grave violation of children’s rights as posed by incitement and recruitment. International donors should act accordingly by freezing grants and contracts with DCI-P, and ceasing to bankroll this manipulative NGO.

The writer is a researcher for NGO Monitor