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January 3, 2014 8:35 am

The Independent Falsely Claims That Israel ‘Caged’ Palestinian Children for Months

avatar by Adam Levick

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Even by the standards of anti-Israel bias in the British media that we’re used to, a story published yesterday at The Independent is simply astonishing.

indy

Screenshot.

First, Indy editors evidently couldn’t find an actual photo of Palestinian children in “cages”, so they figured this would do just fine:

fence

Photo: The Independent.

It’s only when you click on the top of the image that you see the caption and learn that the photo, from November, depicts children disembarking their school bus (along a fence) as they make their way home to Shuafat in eastern Jerusalem.

Then, there’s the following strap line:

strap

Screenshot.

This fantastical charge, that Palestinian kids are being caged for “months” during winter, is repeated in the story – written by Adam Withnall:

An Israeli human rights organisation has accused the government of torturing Palestinian children after it emerged some were kept for months in outdoor cages during winter.

To back up this claim, he cites a report from the radical NGO PCATI (Public Committee Against Torture in Israel), a group with a history of leveling unsubstantiated accusations about the treatment of Palestinian detainees.

Withnall adds the following:

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) published a report which saidchildren suspected of minor crimes were subjected to “public caging”, threats and acts of sexual violence and military trials without representation.

However, when you go to the actual report (open the Word document at the bottom) at PCATI’s site, you learn that PCATI does not actually level specific charges that Palestinian children are being “tortured,” only that they are currently “investigating” some complaints of torture from over the past ten years.

Second, there is NO specific claim in the report about the details of the open “caged” imprisonment, nor the length of time they are allegedly held there. Further, as far as the “sexual violence” charge, there are no details provided in the PCATI report. The only reference to the broad allegation is as a footnote at the bottom, which claims the following:

[1] This [ill-treatment] includes threats and acts of sexual violence.

No evidence appears in the report:

Then, Withnall adds the following:

The country’s Public Defender’s Office (PDO) recently released details of one particularly shocking visit by its lawyers to a detention facility.

“During our visit, held during a fierce storm that hit the state, attorneys met detainees who described to them a shocking picture: in the middle of the night dozens of detainees were transferred to the external iron cages built outside the IPS transition facility in Ramla,” the PDO wrote on its website.

Indeed, if you go to the PDO website, you learn that recently some detainees spent a number of hours in outdoor (open-air) jails until the arrival of the guard (who was supposed to take them to the courts) at around 6 a.m. The statement further clarifies that this practice under which detainees sometimes wait for the guard in outdoor “cages” for several hours has existed in the IPS for a number of months. (Translation from the Hebrew by CAMERA).  So, the word “months” clearly only refers to the length of time this practice has allegedly existed – not the length of time children were held there.

Further, as the Indy acknowledged, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called for the practice to be stopped as soon as she learned of it.

So, in conclusion:

The Indy’s charge that Palestinian children were caged “for months” is completely untrue.

The charge that Palestinian children are sexually abused is not backed up with any evidence.

The broader charge that Palestinian kids are “tortured” is unsubstantiated.

Finally, to give you a sense of perspective, not even Electronic Intifada or Russia Today (both of which ran stories over the last couple of days on the PCATI report) make claims as sensational as what the Indy reported.

As we’ve demonstrated previously, the Indy’s recent broad claim – in an official editorial – that the paper does NOT demonize Israel is clearly as fanciful a notion as Adam Withnall’s specific smear about ‘tortured Palestinian children’.

UPDATEFollowing our complaints, Indy editors amended the article.

Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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