This circus, titled “A generation without a future: Children under occupation,” was the initiative of Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, Meretz MK Michal Rozin, and Joint Arab List MKs Ayman Odeh and Dov Khenin.
The session was attended by European Union Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret, Dutch Ambassador to Israel Gilles Beschoor, Deputy British Ambassador to Israel Tony Kay, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director — and BDS advocate — Omar Shakir, and representatives from organizations like B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Physicians for Human Rights, Gisha, Moked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Combatants for Peace.
In recent years, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies have been increasingly accusing Israel of abusing and falsely arresting Palestinian minors, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the minors’ involvement in terrorist activities.
In November 2017, NGO Monitor alerted Israeli lawmakers, government offices, and civil-society entities that this issue would become central this year — and would be used to launch a political attack.
Many of these initiatives focus on children, especially the documentation of supposed violations by Israeli security forces. Many of the initiatives are funded by the countries whose representatives attended the conference. This quasi-propaganda campaign is being led by the Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), which supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist group.
Just last week, the Arab Bank and Citibank stopped providing services to the group, due to these terror ties. As part of its propaganda efforts, the DCIP has tried to have the Israel Defense Forces added to a UNICEF blacklist of organizations that violate children’s rights. Among the organizations that appear on the blacklist are terrorist organizations like Islamic State and Boko Haram.
The propaganda campaign has gained steam. In the United States, legislation was proposed in November 2017 to “to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinian children and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds shall not be used to support the military detention of Palestinian children.” The BDS organizations behind the legislation based their claims directly on the findings of the DCIP report.
The December arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi for slapping an IDF soldier paved the way for a variety of these activities. In February, the British Parliament convened to discuss the “the military detention of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities.” During the discussion, lawmakers discussed UNICEF data that relied on a DCIP report, and was not independently verified, regarding the “systematic and sustained harm to Palestinian children who come into contact with the Israeli military detention system.”
Contending with the exploitation of children for the purposes of terrorism and incitement in schools and in the media is a serious challenge for Israel. In every democracy, there is a legal mechanism that exists for this very purpose.
The conference in the Knesset was an inseparable part of the international propaganda campaign that misrepresents Israel as a systematic violator of children’s rights. As part of this campaign, there is never any serious discussion of human rights, or the exploitation of children for warfare by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — and certainly no mention of Israeli children.
All the information necessary to contend with this circus exists. Everyone, including the lawmakers who protested the cynical exploitation of children in the Knesset, are aware of this. The problem is that instead of initiating action against these groups, Israeli authorities have chosen only to react to them. The time has come for Israel to initiate moves in this political war and take steps against the European countries that fund these groups.
Gerald M. Steinberg is president of Jerusalem-based research institution NGO Monitor and is a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.