Image: Israeli soldiers arrest a young Palestinian boy following clashes in the center of the occupied West Bank town of Hebron, June 20, 2014. (Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP)
Months ago journalists leaked that Israel would be kept off a United Nations list of the worst violators of children’s human rights in 2014 following frantic lobbying by Israel and the United States. The Guardian reported Israeli officials placed phone calls to the UN, the Jerusalem Post acknowledged Netanyahu spoke to Ban Ki-moon personally, and Foreign Policy found that the Obama administration dispatched Ambassador Samantha Power—all to pressure the UN into changing the draft.
“Top officials have buckled under political pressure,” a UN official told the Guardian back in March, “As a result, a clear message has been given that Israel will not be listed.”
Even so, Israel is preeminently featured throughout the report published yesterday and called out as one of the worst child rights abusers in the world with “devastating impacts” on minors. Last year the Israel military killed 200 more children in Gaza than the total number of children killed in Syria, the report noted. However, Israel was—as media outlets said at the beginning of the week when early releases of the final draft circulated—excluded from a list in the annex, a blacklist of the most egregious child abusing parties.
Screen shot of UN report on the killing and maiming of children.
Despite the accounting within the report, human rights groups are criticizing the move to cut Israel from the ‘list of shame’. “By removing Israel’s armed forces from the children’s ‘list of shame’, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has provided tacit approval for Israeli forces to continue carrying out grave violations against children with impunity,” Khaled Quzmar, Defense of Children International Palestine’s General Director, said.
What is included in the report is five pages in the main document that notes 35 separate incidents, under the header of “Israel and the State of Palestine.” It is the longest section of 22 geographic regions examined, longer than the profiles on Iraq and Yemen combined, two countries embattled in warfare with Islamic terror organization and airstrikes from coalition forces.
In Gaza alone, the UN documented 557 children were killed, the third highest number of minors killed in a single region, trailing behind Afghanistan and Iraq, but ahead of Syria. Of the 4,249 injured children, 70% were under the age of 12. Moreover, the Israeli military razed or struck 543 school, including 274 kindergartens. The UN underscored more schools were damaged in Gaza during the 51-day the summer war than any country in the entire world, for the whole of 2014.
“The number of child casualties exceeds the combined number of Palestinian children killed during the two previous escalations,” the inquiry stressed, adding “reports of Palestinian civilians and civilian objects being directly hit in circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the vicinity”—including a number of drone strikes that killed children.
In the West Bank, “The children killed by the Israeli security forces did not appear to have posed a lethal threat,” the UN wrote of the 13 minors killed in Israeli military shootings.
In Jerusalem, 700 children were detained while 151 from the West Bank were in detention at the time of conclusion of the investigation in December 2014. The UN further obtained sworn testimony from 122 previously incarcerated minors who were “subjected to ill-treatment, such as beatings, being hit with sticks, being blindfolded, being kicked and being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of sexual violence.”
The UN also found Palestinian militants in Gaza were responsible for killing four Israeli children and 13 Palestinian children in 2014 due to rocket fire. Three Israeli schools were damaged. There were five confirmed instances where militant groups recruited Palestinian children into combat, and were subsequently killed by the Israeli military.
The report did not indicate the Palestinian Authority, the governing body over the West Bank, had caused any deaths of children in 2014.
Annually the UN assembles a report on the countries with the highest number of killings, and physical and sexual abuses. At the end of the document an annex lists out the top perpetrators, a mix of state militaries and militant groups described in the above region profiles. Usually the parties outlined in the annex match the groups detailed in the full report, with Israel as an outstanding exception.