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April 23, 2015 3:29 pm

Australian Jewish Group Knocks Human Rights Watch Report on Palestinian Child Labor

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Israeli date palms in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council blasted on Tuesday a report by Human Right Watch, which accused Israeli farms in the West Bank of exploiting Palestinian children for labor.

AIJAC criticizes the report for relying solely on Palestinian allegations, “without any additional documentary or professional evidence provided and without giving the Israeli farms concerned a chance to defend themselves from the charges.”

The group said HRW omitted the crucial role Palestinian contractors might play in providing Israeli farms with underage workers, as well as an “ingrained culture of child labour in Palestinian and greater Arab society.”

The report, which based its information largely on interviews with 38 children and 12 adults employed on seven settlement farms in the Jordan Valley, encouraged other countries to resist doing business with Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

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AIJAC said the report was an example of “political documents where the language of human rights is used to further predetermined political goals, and neither reasonable standards of evidence, nor fairness, nor context are allowed to stand in the way of furthering these goals.”

“The report was written primarily with the intention of demanding action against settlements, not fairly and professionally addressing the specific problem of Palestinian child labour,” said AIJAC.

AIJAC called on Israeli authorities to investigate instances of child labor in agriculture, and punish violators.

U.K.-based Human Rights Watch accused Israel of failing to uphold its agriculture laws — which contain provisions on youth labor — in settlement farms. It said no Israeli authority has properly been tasked with making sure labor laws are followed in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Local Israeli officials balked at the HRW report, calling it a “horrific lie” while insisting no minors were employed in the settlements, according to the Times of Israel.

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