The Guardian and the Australian Use Suspect Sources in Israel Child Abuse Story
by Lakkana Nanayakkara
The Guardian recently highlighted Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minors in two articles written by Harriet Sherwood.
The first piece published on January 22, 2012, mentions that minors are accused of throwing stones and flinging Molotov cocktails, but Sherwood does not consider these to be “weapons” or “serious offenses”. Several Israelis have been killed and numerous others injured by Palestinian stone throwing.
The second article published on January 23, 2012, refers to British government concerns about Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minors, including criticism of Israel by Labour MP Sandra Osborne who is seen here with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh.
Most of the details of alleged abuse come from Defense for Children International (DCI) which was also the main source for similar articles in The Australian written by John Lyons, discussed in greater length below. Sherwood’s article also refers to a report conducted by B’Tselem.
According to the B’Tselem report, out of 835 Palestinian minors arrested and tried in military courts in the West Bank from 2005 to 2010 on charges of stone throwing all but one were found guilty. That number is in stark contrast to the material provided by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (IMFA) and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which shows that the conviction rate was 62.8% for 2009, 57.3%, in 2010 and 58.62% in 2011.
Sherwood claims that “few parents are told where their children have been taken. Minors are rarely questioned in the presence of a parent, and rarely see a lawyer before or during initial interrogation. Most are detained inside Israel, making family visits very difficult.” According to material provided by IMFA and the IDF, the recently approved Amendment 10 to the Security Order (Judea and Samaria) 5771-2011 provides all minors under the age of 18 with a court-appointed defense attorney, the presence of a parent or relative during every hearing and the notification of a parent about any investigation. The amendment was made on September 27, 2011, about 4 months prior to Sherwood’s article.
Both articles by Harriet Sherwood claim that Israel could be in breach of the Fourth Geneva convention but the Fourth Geneva convention does not place any obligation on Israel to apply Israeli civil law in the West Bank.
In July 20, 2011, she was in a boat off Gaza reporting on fishing restrictions enforced by Israel due to security reasons, where she tweeted that Israeli gunboats were preventing them from going further out to sea. However, according to her own GPS coordinates, she was outside the 3 mile permitted zone.
A detailed analysis of 138 articles written by Harriet Sherwood shows a clear pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel slant.
Former Guardian columnist Julie Burchill confirmed there was “striking bias against the state of Israel” at the Guardian and Honest Reporting awarded The Guardian its 2011 “Dishonest Reporting Award” due to at least 10 incidents of misleading anti-Israel coverage.
John Lyons is the Middle East correspondent for The Australian and in an article he penned entitled, “Stone Cold Justice“, Lyons states that Palestinian child prisoners are treated differently from those in Israel.
According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor, “Israel is obliged under international law to apply to the West Bank the legal system that was in place before it became occupied in 1967, so it is therefore neither surprising, nor a cause for outside international concern, that the rules for minors accused of offenses there are different to those in Israel proper.”
The article publishes a statement from British MP Sandra Osborne, also mentioned in the Guardian articles who claims that “… A whole generation is criminalized through this process.”According to Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein, the reason Palestinian minors are jailed, and Israeli civilians are injured or killed is because of “the exploitation and indoctrination of children by both Palestinian terror groups and by the Palestinian Authority official education system and media.”
John Lyons has a history of writing articles critical of Israel. In this November 2010 article, he blames Israel for the failure of the peace process. In another June 2010 article, he claims there is a food shortage in Gaza and that Israel is responsible for it. The fact is that Israel allowed over a million tons of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza from January 18, 2009 to June 5, 2010.
The main source for the article was Defense for Children International (DCI) represented by Australian lawyer, Gerald Horton. Despite the name of the organization, there is no mention on its website of Israeli children who suffer due to rockets from Gaza and Palestinian suicide bombings. However, Defense for Children International does have a separate and comprehensive Palestinian website which details alleged abuses committed by Israel.
DCI’s president, Rifat Odeh Kassis, is a Palestinian who supports the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. DCI calls on Israel to recognize the right of return for Palestinian refugees, supports the Goldstone Report and called for sanctions against Israel after the Gaza flotilla incident. In addition, the group accused the Israeli military of committing war crimes in Gaza and published a list of Palestinian children killed in the conflict that was later contradicted by Palestinian sources.
According to DCI-Palestine’s annual report, revenues in 2010 were $1.2 million. Its funding comes almost exclusively from European countries. Board member Shahwan Jabarin, had been denied entry into Israel and Jordan due to his past involvement with the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group.
Other sources John Lyons used for his article include Yesh Din, No Legal Frontiers and Breaking the Silence. According to Emily Schaeffer, a lawyer employed by Yesh Din, “Yesh Din was founded to use law as a tool to fight the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.” No Legal Frontiers does not list its funding sources or staff. but it’s newsfeed prior to 2011 was based on DCI-Palestine reports. Breaking the Silence receives the majority of its funding from foreign sources and accused the Israeli military of committing “war crimes“ in Gaza.
Kevin Rudd is the current foreign minister and former prime minister of Australia. Following the publication of Lyons’s article, Rudd instructed “Australian diplomats in Israel to take up the matter with Israeli authorities.”
Rudd has “echoed the call of US President Barack Obama in May, calling for two states divided along 1967 borders, with appropriate land swaps.” He also wants Australia to abstain from a possible United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood. This may be seen as an attempt to gain support from Muslim countries for “Australia’s campaign to gain a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.” Several prominent Australian politicians expressed concern after Australia changed its voting record at the UN in November 2011. Australia abstained from two anti-Israel resolutions and voted in favor of a third resolution that was critical of Israel.
Despite asking Israel for concessions, Kevin Rudd has not made similar demands from the Palestinians. He also criticized Israel’s decision to build 1100 new homes in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo. He has asked Israel to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and subject Israel’s nuclear facility to IAEA inspections. Rudd had also expelled “an official from the Israeli Embassy in Canberra over the Dubai passports affair.”
John Lyons could not be reached for comment. At the time of publication, Kevin Rudd’s office and The Australian, had not responded to the Algemeiner’s request for comment.