A dense crowd gathered outside Leinster House, home of the Dáil (Irish Parliament), at lunchtime today. Palestinian flags were in evidence as was a banner denouncing the jailing of Palestinian children by the Israeli authorities. Some passing drivers tooted their horns in solidarity.
A hollow space existed inside the crowd where young people knelt, blindfolded and with hands bound, to represent children taken prisoner by the Israeli state. According to the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which organised the solidarity protest, between 500 and 700 children are detained every year by the Israeli military, i.e up to an average of two a day.
The protest was attended by many TDs (members of the Irish Parliament) and Senators comprising a broad representation of political parties and independents. Ibrahim Halawa, the Irish citizen who was arrested by Egyptian police while still a minor of 17 years of age, subsequently to spend four years in jail without trial, also attended.
IPSC Chairperson Fatin Al Tamimi addressed the gathering and referred to “Israel’s apartheid prison system where torture and ill treatment during arrest and detention are routine, including horrendous abuses against children.” Tamimi went on to say, to loud applause: “Apartheid Israel must be held to account for its outrageous treatment of Palestinian children which violates the right of the child.”
After the protest a letter was handed in to the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs calling on the “the Irish Government to do all it possibly can to end these abuses of Palestinian children by Apartheid Israel. More than just condemnation, action is needed to bring pressure to bear of Israel to end these attacks on children, children who have known nothing but occupation and systemic violence their whole lives. Palestinians, not least Palestinian children, deserve freedom, justice and equality.”
The Irish Government action required was not specified but over the years demands have been made to call the Israeli Ambassador in for censure or even to expel him but no such action has taken place. As a participant on the demonstration said: “When the Irish Government did not even take serious action at the use of forged Irish passports by Mossad assassination squads, you know that they are not going to do anything about Palestinian children being jailed and ill-treated.” (The Irish Government expelled one minor diplomat only over that revelation in 2010 and even then the Ambassador stated that he could not guarantee that such faked passports would not be used again).
WIDESCALE VIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, apart from rights to survival (violated by Israel in its 2014 bombardment of Gaza, for example, when it killed 504 children and made thousands homeless), and adequate living standards (also violated by Israel in Gaza with damaged sewage treatment plants and water, power and fuel restrictions), children also have
- Development rights: include the right to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
- Protection rights: ensure children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, including special care for refugee children; safeguards for children in the criminal justice system; protection for children in employment; protection and rehabilitation for children who have suffered exploitation or abuse of any kind.
- Participation rights: encompass children’s freedom to express opinions, to have a say in matters affecting their own lives, to join associations and to assemble peacefully. As their capacities develop, children should have increasing opportunity to participate in the activities of society, in preparation for adulthood.
By jailing children, Israel is violating the rights of the child in each of these three broad categories above. Yet, according to UNICEF, only two states have currently failed to ratify the Convention after signing: the USA and Somalia. In other words, Israel has signed it but clearly is violating it as a matter of course.
Trials of Palestinian children have a 99.74% conviction rate, and “do not meet international standards for fair trial” according to Amnesty International. According to the IPSC, many more children are temporarily detained, sometimes taken by soldiers raiding homes in the dead of night, and later released after severe interrogation periods without prosecution. Defence for Children International Palestine states that some two-thirds of all children detained will face some sort of physical or mental abuses, including torture and sexual threats, during this process. UNICEF says that “Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.
According to the IPSC, “over 12,000 Palestinian children have gone through the Israeli prison system since 2000, while nearly 2,500 have been killed and countless thousands wounded. In Gaza alone, where children have borne the brunt of three vicious Israeli assaults over the past decade, UNRWA estimates that “more than 300,000 children are in need of psycho-social support”.”