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The International Journal of Human Rights ISSN: 1364-2987 (Print) 1744-053X (Online) Journal homepage:
The International Journal of Human Rights ISSN: 1364-2987 (Print) 1744-053X (Online) Journal homepage:

The International Journal of Human Rights

ISSN: 1364-2987 (Print) 1744-053X (Online) Journal homepage:

Children, human rights organisations, and the law under occupation: the case of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem

Bella Kovner & Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian

To cite this article: Bella Kovner & Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian (2018) Children, human rights organisations, and the law under occupation: the case of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem, The International Journal of Human Rights, 22:5, 616-639, DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2017.1397635

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Published online: 22 Nov 2017.

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616 – 639 Children, human rights organisations, and the law under

Children, human rights organisations, and the law under occupation: the case of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem

Bella Kovner a and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian a,b

a Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel; b School of Social Work and Social Welfare, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel



This article discusses the (im)possibility of human rights organisations and state judicial actors success in safeguarding of children s rights in Occupied East Jerusalem (OEJ). Considering Israel s political reality, and consequently, the Israeli justice system s mode of operation and treatment of Palestinian children, we argue that civil society actors, particularly those dealing with children, are unable to challenge violations of Palestinian children s rights. Our analyses of media coverage, key informant interviews, and focus group and round table discussions reveals that formal and informal socio-legal systems are failing in their mandate to protect children s rights, challenge the states biased juvenile justice system, and prevent the racialised state from breaching local laws and ethical and international standards. Instead of challenging the systems that are embedded within the settler-colonial setting, human rights organisations reinforce the state s control by operating within its systems and according to its rules. In so doing, these entities help the state in keeping Palestinian children under conditions of suffering within their otherised spaces.

help the state in keeping Palestinian children under conditions of suffering within their ‘ otherised ’
help the state in keeping Palestinian children under conditions of suffering within their ‘ otherised ’


Received 2 June 2017 Accepted 24 October 2017


Child arrest; human rights organisations; juvenile justice; Palestinian children; Occupied East Jerusalem


Human rights organisationscyclical role in perpetuating and addressing human rights breaches

Academic researchers, United Nations (UN) agencies, child protection specialists and social development professionals have been involved increasingly in protecting human rights and ensuring that national standards are consistent with international human rights frameworks and protocols. 1 In response to the increased global political influence of external stakeholders such as the World Bank, international non-governmental organ- isations (INGOs), and bilateral and UN organisations, scholars have criticised these organ- isations as being inefficient interveners in the communities they claim to serve, failing to protect these populations, provide aid or reduce poverty. 2 Reflecting on the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, Razack concluded that the worlds wit- nessing of Rwandans pain has served primarily to dehumanise further the suffering of

CONTACT Bella Kovner Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor &
of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor &


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 617 black men and women, and in the process to


black men and women, and in the process to reinstall white westerners as morally superior. 3 The images of black bodies situated within a desolate African landscape not only displaces the narrative testimony of the Rwandans themselves but actually silence [s] and dehumanise[s] Africans by presenting them as a mere, bare, naked, or minimal humanity . 4 The pain and suffering of the black natives constructs western society and its values as more civil and morally superior. Said defines Orientalismas the west s basic distinction between east and west and the wests stereotypic perception of Arab people and their culture as exotic, backward, uncivilised and dangerous in comparison to the United States (US) and Europe. Saids intervention suggests that western political economy of knowledge production about the east is a modality of Eurocentric discourse to maintain western supremacy, and reproduce the unequal power dynamic between Eur- opeans and their colonial subjects. 5 In conjunction, scholarsanalysis of human rights interventions with Palestinian Bedouin women in Israel engages with what is defined as funding pain, an economy of international donors offering funding through the lens of Arab/Muslim/Bedouin individualised and violent oppression, while maintaining the dom- ination of those in power, and further reproducing it. 6 According to Fassin, the tension between inequality and solidarity and between domination and assistance is used to justify the common sense of superiority and ambivalence of donors and agents working for the good of others and accounts for compassion fatigue: the wearing down of moral sentiments and, in some extreme circumstances, even a sense of aggression towards the victims of adversity. This power structure often explains the shame felt by the poor the beneficiaries of aid and accounts for the resentment and hostility expressed by the disadvantaged towards foreign parties. 7 Weizman claims that the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s brought the idea of huma- nitarianism into crisis. The Ethiopian zone of humanitarian management was not only the site where relief was provided, it was the frame through which the story of the famine was told and disseminated. The controversy surrounding the Ethiopian crisis of the 1980s revealed the potential for abuse in humanitarianism specifically, the fact that humani- tarian intervention can aggravate the suffering of the people it is intended to help. 8 At the outset of the twenty-first century, governments in poor and middle-income countries began passing laws restricting the ability of INGOs to access and use foreign aid while operating on their sovereign territory. 9 Indeed, in their longitudinal study analysing public trust in human rights organisations in 60 countries, Ron and Crow found that without substantial support from local human rights organisations and other civil society actors, the international human rights toolkit of treaties, declarations, UN audits, and NGO reports are likely to have little effect on conditions on the ground. 10 Allen distinguishes conceptually between human rightsand the human rights indus- try. In contrast to the former the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) the human rights industry comprises the material and financial infrastructure and institutions that function under the banner of human rights, relying on the funding streams that this industry generates. 11 Indeed, notions of what amounts to human rights can vary; Kennedy finds many interesting analogies to human rights ideas in various cultural traditions. However, he concludes that the particular form these ideas are granted in the human rights movement in practice is the product of a par- ticular moment and place: post-enlightenment, rationalist, secular, western, modern and capitalist. 12


618 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN Suggesting that human rights organisations yield little positive effect on


Suggesting that human rights organisations yield little positive effect on impacting social change, Merry claims that the spread of human rights institutions and discourses may not actually address inequalities. 13 Indeed, Jad articulates the disconnect and dis- parity between donorsagendas and the local lived experience of female aid beneficiaries, noting that NGOs are seen increasingly as donor-drivenand reflecting a Western agenda. 14 Petras views NGOs as entities that undermine local democracies by taking social programmes and public debate out of the hands of the local community and its elected leaders, creating in its place a dependence on non-elected officials (for example, UN officials and advisors) who are disconnected from local needs. By doing so, NGOs foster a new type of cultural and democraticcolonialism under the guise of international aid. 15 This imposed regime is democratic according to the donorsagenda but on the receiving end, the local population and its leadership do not have a say in terms of the aid they receive. Mutua distinguishes the human rights narrative into a three-tiered construct: savage- victim-saviour. This perceived three-dimensional structure constructed in the human rights discourse includes the UN, western states and INGOs on the saviorside. 16 Mutua interprets the human rights story as one in which the saviour is the human rights corpus itself, with the western players as the rescuers and redeemers of a benighted world. 17 Furthermore, he claims that the human rights corpus is fundamentally Euro- centric and suffers from interdependent flaws reflected in the triad model. Examining the role and mandate of civil society organisations in addressing the socio- economic needs of Bedouin women in the Nagab, 18 scholars found that donor-funded NGOs sought to engage with Bedouin communities with the goal of savingwomen from their allegedly patriarchal culture through the imposition of superior European values, thereby failing to acknowledge oppression in the political, historical, or economic spheres. Studying Palestinian Bedouin women in the Nagab, Shalhoub-Kevorkian et al. looked closely at how and who is marked out as deserving care, and what the conditions are for intervention, protection and prevention. 19 Spivak argues that an epistemological disconnect exists between human rights advocates and those whom they seek to protect. 20 The human rights project in colonial and settler colonial contexts is regulated by complex and exclusionary colonial rules that promote the economic advancement and political interests of the colonisers through coercive means. 21 Often, human rights activists are regulated, used and co-opted by those whom they claim to challenge, simul- taneously manipulated by colonising powers who insist that oppressed communities are primitive , backward, underdeveloped , and untrustworthy . 22 In an attempt to explain how the international human rights framework can be better used to help reduce child poverty and improve child survival rates, Pemberton et al. claim that some rights should be prioritised over others. 23 Any comprehensive understanding of the root causes of poverty cannot ignore the legal and institutional structures that create and perpetuate income and wealth imbalances. Thus, human rights should challenge these structures. 24 To ensure that institutional structures are aligned with international conven- tions, Van Bueren stresses that both domestic and national judiciaries should follow the inventive and progressive approach of treaty committees that regularly report on nation states adherence to the conventions. 25 In the children s rights context wherein the intended beneficiaries are particularly vulnerable, this issue is even more pronounced. To move the child rights discourse from the realms of rhetoric to that of tangible


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 619 reality, there is a need to prioritise the realisation


reality, there is a need to prioritise the realisation of rights in policy so that action is divided into successive stages responding to degree of severity of transgression and avail- able resources. Civil society stakeholders should challenge the structure of global poverty through a rights-based strategy, which is necessary to the development of not only inter- national and national jurisprudence but to a global civil society movement. 26 Research by UNICEF suggests that human rights organisations aimed to address the needs of children are fragile even in peaceful settings, due to difficulties in translating the vision of the child embodied in the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) into social and political reality; the need to navigate national governance systems while dealing with socially sensitive issues; the low status of childrens rights on the global agenda given the limited understanding of their practical implications; competing budget- ary priorities; and social resistance based on concerns that principles are irrelevant or inappropriate. 27 In conflict-ridden zones, these weaknesses tend to become significant obstacles to the objective of safeguarding childrens rights. Linnarsson and Sedletzki found that international legal protection of children affected by armed conflict remains largely ineffective, and the gravest childrens rights violations are often left untouched or addressed only following resolution of the conflict. 28 Overall, national conflict compli- cates the work of childrens rights organisations as it disproportionally affects children, disrupts the functioning of services, and makes it more difficult to ensure that children are being served.

Civil society in occupied Palestine

Following the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, a new level of institutionalised politics was established, along with the professionalisation of human rights activism and the battles for funding that became part of both the formal and informal systems. 29 Allen suggests that the international human rights system is composed of a conglomeration of organisations, ideologies, activities, discourses, and declarations. This system has grown steadily since the 1980s, and has come to infuse the ways in which Palestinians from all walks of life from politicians and representatives of civil society to militants and victims of violations speak and relate to outsiders and to one another. 30 According to Hajjar, many Palestinians are inclined to see the framework of human rights as a western import, which diminishes from its credibility. This perspective may impact the way in which Palestinians receive and mainstream aid efforts. 31 In analysing the case of Israeli NGOs defending Palestinian rights, Golan and Orr suggest that limitations of human rights are embedded in the complex process of trans- lation and localisation of transnational human rights norms on the one hand, and the suf- fering of Palestinians on the other, into discourses and practices more acceptable in Israel. 32 Scepticism about or hostility towards the human rights framework among Pales- tinians in the West Bank and Gaza reflects a critical evaluation of the translation and local- isation of globally generated ideas and strategies, which in turn creates ongoing tensions between global and national rights. Indeed, this phenomenon is what Levitt and Merry call vernacularization, a situation in which actors such as NGOs, the UN and other bilateral organisations frame human rights claims in local terms and adjust them to existing ideas of justice. This may mean abandoning references to human rights and highjacking these concepts for different purposes. These actors adapt and reframe ideas from one context to


620 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN another to resonate with the new location. These are the


another to resonate with the new location. These are the in between people that are con- versant with both sides of the exchange but can move across borders of ideas and approaches. This is the role of power and vulnerability. 33 Referring to the human rights sector as a parallel system that has the ability to both undermine local governance and civil society and to create dependency on foreign aid, Allen further remarks that the influx of the human rights industry in the Occupied Pales- tinian Territories (OPT), a phenomenon that was encouraged by the infusion of donor funds, has led to the professionalisation of human rights work but has not resulted in the improvement of most Palestinianspolitical and social circumstances. 34 Detailed legal analyses by human rights researchers have also revealed the contradiction between the ideology of rights espoused by the international community and the inability (or unwillingness) of those same states to hold Israel accountable for its abuses. 35 Thus, Allen suggests that despite its dominance, the human rights system has the tendency to promote social justice only when it is understood in explicitly political terms and motiv- ated by political goals. 36

The status of children in Occupied East Jerusalem

In their study of the risk and protection factors that may reinforce the ability of Palestinian children living in refugee camps in the Gaza strip to adjust to a traumatic and risky life context, Veronese et al. claim that the psychological adaptability and ability of Palestinian children in the developmental phase to reposition themselves along the continuum between ease and disease is characterised by political agency that drives sense-making activities in an uncertain traumatising environment. Empowerment and resistance, along with the experiences of personal suffering are qualities that provide children with a sense of coherence and survival skills for resisting political and military violence. 37 In another study, Veronese et al. find that the corpus of psychological research on children living in war affected areas such as Palestine switches focus on mental health from psy- chiatric informed frameworks to the promotion of and preservation of childrens rights and dignity. 38 In their study on differences in attitudes towards the rights of children in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Ben-Arieh et al. find that the experience and development of Pales- tinian children living within Israel are also shaped by their communitys status as a national minority subjected to economic and social disadvantages. 39 Indeed, among the layers of disadvantage faced by the Palestinian society within Israel, an Association for Civil Rights in Israel report from 2013 found that 79.5% of East Jerusalem residents and 85% of East Jerusalem children live below the poverty line – ‘ the worst rate of all times . 40 Palestinian children living in Occupied East Jerusalem (OEJ) suffer from three-tiered oppression including structural discrimination which targets them as criminals based on their ethnicity; lack of resources and assistance as they fall under the responsibility of neither the Palestinian nor the Israeli socio-legal systems; and limited access to welfare, health, justice and educational opportunities. 41 Over the past four decades, the Israeli government has not allocated the necessary resources to develop OEJ. As a result, residents suffer from a severe shortage of public services and infrastructure, including health and education services, welfare services, and water and sewage


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 621 systems. UNICEF finds education facilities in East Jerusalem to


systems. UNICEF finds education facilities in East Jerusalem to be substandard and unsuitable, facing a chronic shortage of classrooms. 42 UNOCHA reports reveal that pupils are often accommodated in rented houses that fail to meet basic educational and health standards; consequently, parents who can afford to do so have resorted to costly private education alternatives, although children are entitled to free education under Israeli law. 43 Moreover, Palestinian children and youth in OEJ suffer from the Israeli establishments policy of conducting housing demolitions. The Israeli NGO B Tselemnotes that between

2004 and 2014, 2,028 people in East Jerusalem lost their homes, including 1,108 minors. 44

B Tselem further reports that the Jerusalem Municipality conducted 814 total or partial

demolitions of houses and other structures in East Jerusalem between 1999 and 2013, while the Ministry of Interior carried out 174 demolitions during that same period. 45 Figures published by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions reveal that as of the end of 2009, over 60,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem (20% of the Palestinian popu- lation in the city) were at risk of having their homes demolished due to unauthorised con- struction. 46 Demolition is a subjective and painful experience, to which men, women, and children react differently. Schaeffer, Halper and Epshtain posit that not only the acts of demolition themselves but also the months and years leading up to it comprise a traumatic time for children. The experience of witnessing parentsfear and powerlessness; feeling constantly afraid and insecure; seeing loved ones being beaten and losing their homes; experiencing the harassment of Civil Administration field supervisors; and then enduring the noise, violence, displacement, and destruction of the home which comprises a childs entire world affects children for life. 47 In addition to lack of access to social and educational opportunities, Palestinian children in OEJ have been targeted increasingly by the Israeli criminal justice system. In 2010, human rights organisations reported a sharp increase in the number of children arrested by the Israeli authorities in Silwan neighbourhood follow- ing the killing of a Palestinian resident by a security guard in September of that year. 48 According to police statistics, 600 Palestinian minors were arrested in OEJ in 2014 and 608 Palestinian minors were arrested during 2015 representing an increase of 105% compared to 2010. 49 Statistics reported by the police to the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in 2016 show different figures, however; 792 Palestinian minors were arrested in OEJ in 2014. From 13 September 2015 through 15 December 2015 alone a three-month period that was one of the most violent Jerusalem has experienced in modern times 398 Palestinian minor residents of East Jerusalem were arrested. Indictments were served against 30% of all minors arrested. 50 The two different and contrasting figures may imply that the police reporting of arrest statistics may be arbitrary. Shalhoub-Kevorkian finds that in the Palestinian context, children are formulated as politically dangerous security threats who are situated as unwanted others. 51 State violence illustrates a new form of violence that promotes fear of the Palestinian child as an inher- ently dangerous security threat. The Israeli authoritiesroutine nature of violence against Palestinian children such as assaulting children during everyday operations, situates chil- dren outside spaces of exception, and constructs repressive conditions against children under counter terrorismpolitics. 52


622 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN Israeli juvenile justice policies In analysing the Israeli juvenile justice


Israeli juvenile justice policies

In analysing the Israeli juvenile justice policies that defined the past two decades, Ajzen- stadt and Khoury-Kassabri found that juvenilesinvolvement in crime originates from a host of social factors that lie within the states realm of responsibility and not within the personal volition of offenders. Palestinian children lack access to basic social rights that the state should guarantee for example, the right to be cared for, to be supported by parents, and to be healthy and educated. Adding to the damage caused by the inability to fulfil basic rights is the children s inability to speak the states official language and their lack of confidence in its formal systems. 53 Indeed, Justice Rot-Levi has noted that these conditions push Palestinian youth to become involved in criminal activity. 54 Additional influences beyond the Israeli justice system affect Palestinian childrens propensity to be involved in unlawful activities as well. For example, childrens rights advocates in Israel claim that due to welfare budget cuts, social workers lack resources to identify and treat children who are at risk of deteriorating into a life of criminality. 55 The Youth Law (Trial, Punishment and Modes of Treatment), 1971, 56 determines the methods of operation of Israeli government agencies that focus on how youth are to be treated in the criminal justice system. 57 The law applies to minors aged 1218 years. 58 In July 2008, the Rot-Levi Committee was initiated to integrate principles of the UN CRC into Israeli juvenile justice procedures. The committee was established under the rec- ognition of the fact that the law might not meet the standards of the CRC. Following the committee; the Knesset passed Amendment No. 14 to the Youth Law. The amendment is intended to help realise the rights of minors in criminal proceedings while maintaining their dignity and giving due weight to their rehabilitation and integration into society. The amendment added special provisions concerning the right of the child to express his or her position before a decision is made on his or her case. 59 However, changes in the Youth Law do not necessarily reflect progress towards legal recognition of childrens rights. Following the escalation in cases of violent reactions by youth after the Gaza War of 2014, the Israeli government was quick to amend existing laws and suggest new ones to criminalise Palestinian children. 60 Although these legislative changes do not specifically target Palestinian children in OEJ, they were initiated following incidents of violence in OEJ and are mostly relevant to this context. Considering Israels political reality, the unique status of children in OEJ, the escalation in violence, and the resultant legislative changes, our study examines the role, mandate, and effectiveness of human rights organisations and the Israeli judicial system particu- larly those institutions handling children in safeguarding and protecting Palestinian chil- drens rights and challenging discriminatory practices.


To assess the states treatment of arrested Palestinian children in OEJ and examine the role, mandate, and effectiveness of civil society organisations and the Israeli judicial system in safeguarding their rights, we conducted a broader study involving a series of interviews with children and their families. 61 For this article, we engaged in further research from March 2015 to May 2016 to study and analyse the encounters of Palestinian child residents of OEJ with the Israeli legal system, incorporating four methodologies: (a)


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 623 Interviewing 14 key informants representing the judicial and welfare


Interviewing 14 key informants representing the judicial and welfare systems, as well as Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights organisations. Interviewees include two Public Defence officers, the Head of Investigations at the State Attorneys Office, one parole officer, the special assistant to the Mayor of Jerusalem for OEJ, and seven repre- sentatives of human rights organisations. These professionals were chosen to represent a range of both official state and civil society stakeholders. The in-depth interviews were semi-structured, open-ended and taped. Most spanned one to two hours in length and focused on the respondents professional perspective of the situation of child arrests in OEJ, as well as on civil societys role in safeguarding children s rights within the unique context of OEJ. The interviewees selection was based on snow-ball sampling which aimed to include stakeholders representing both the formal and informal sectors that handle child arrests in OEJ; (b) Reviewing both Israeli and Palestinian media coverage on child arrests in OEJ for the years 2014 2016. For this purpose, we reviewed the Pales- tinian online English website Electronic Intifada, which brings the perspectives of chil- dren and parents, while juxtaposing these with newspapers and human rights reports representing the Palestinian political scene in relation to child arrests in OEJ; we also included the Israeli online English newspaper Haaretz, which covers Israeli official and civil society reports, while juxtaposing these with interviews with Israeli judicial and law enforcement officials, representing the Israeli political scene in relation to child arrests in OEJ. The rationale for choosing the e-magazine and leftist newspaper is based on the authorsassumption that these sources provide both comprehensive and updated coverage of the events and legislative changes concerning child arrests in OEJ. The media coverage provided through these sources reflects both formal and informal voices representing both the Palestinian and the Israeli stakeholders, as well as a thorough documentation of each specific event and legislative decision. This methodology is limited in its representation of only online English publications. Moreover, both Haaretz and Electronic Intifada do not necessarily reflect the mainstream political attitudes and public opinions. However, we selected to include these two channels as they voice a range of approaches, opinions, and publications; (c) Conducting both a roundtable and focus group discussions held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during 20152016. The focus group comprised individuals who specialise in youth delinquency, juvenile justice, and children s rights, and included a member of the Child Rights Legal Clinic at the Hebrew University and professors from the faculties of law and social work at the uni- versity. 62 The selection of participants was based on their research interest and expertise surrounding various aspects concerning youth delinquency and juvenile justice. The focus group discussion explored avenues to address the escalation of violence against youth in OEJ. The roundtable included four lawyers from the Public Defence Office in the Jerusa- lem District, the Head of Arrest Teams from the Jerusalem State Attorneys Office, the Special Advisor to the Mayor on East Jerusalem, members of Israeli NGOs ACRI and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, a lawyer from the Socioeconomic Legal Clinic at the Hebrew University, a lawyer from the Child Rights Legal Clinic at the Hebrew University, and faculty members from the Hebrew University who specialise in youth delinquency. 63 The rationale for selecting these roundtable participants was to include representatives of both formal and informal organisations which handle different aspects of child arrests in OEJ; and (d) Conducting participatory observation in a Knesset


624 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN Committee on Child Rights meeting concerning arrest and imprisonment conditions


Committee on Child Rights meeting concerning arrest and imprisonment conditions of minors held on 21 December 2015. This method of qualitative analysis focuses on the emergence of ideas and thematic structures raised first by children themselves, and examined further when juxtaposed with those presented by formal and informal players, as well as in the media coverage. The interviews with children and families were used as an initial platform to identify and learn about the characteristics of child arrests in OEJ. Once we had identified the pro- cedures and trends which characterise the child arrest phenomena, we were able to ident- ify recurrent themes. These themes were later analysed through a thematic content analysis process while utilising the findings gathered through the media coverage, inter- views, and roundtable and focus group discussions. The authors have conducted the the- matic content analysis by clustering findings from the various sources to the most dominant emerging themes. The findings were analysed by juxtaposing the different sources while extracting the relevant arguments and counter arguments under each theme. To control possible bias within the analysis, we only used the dominant themes, which illustrated different aspects and opinions as reflected by the different sources and interviewees. The analysed data was continuously juxtaposed and reviewed by both authors. Furthermore, to avoid possible bias, the findings were reviewed by a lawyer who specialises in childrens rights and is familiar with the different issues and aspects related to child arrests in OEJ. This process has enabled us to illuminate the context in which a range of meanings is granted to the states treatment of children in OEJ and to the responsibilities of human rights organisations in safeguarding children.


Discriminatory treatment of children in Occupied East Jerusalem

Despite the protections offered by the law, our findings point to the fact that violations of children s rights seem to be the norm in the encounters between Israeli law enforcement agencies and child residents of OEJ. The professionals participating in this study, as well as both Israeli and Palestinian media outlets, express this reality quite clearly.

Media representations Both Israeli and Palestinian media present and discuss the escalation in violence against children. The reports describe cases of extreme abuse and violations of child rights by the Israeli authorities in conducting arrests, house demolitions, searches, pre-trial deten- tion, interrogations, and other intrusive practices. The following blog entries on Electronic Intifada, for example, provide graphic stories of child arrests and mistreatment:

[An] Instagram user captured these dramatic images and voices of heavily armed Israeli forces arresting a Palestinian girl in Eastern Occupied Jerusalem s Old City on Friday after- noon there were about 8 soldiers (as I counted) surrounding this girl and handcuffing her, she was quiet but her eyes showed fear, she seemed bewildered and was offering no resistance. It all seemed surreal to see all these soldiers armed to the teeth overwhelming this child and the soldiers were behaving as if they had caught a dangerous criminal. The soldiers did not want people around, especially as they had their phone cameras out, and started pushing them away. Despite being handcuffed and completely restrained, two soldiers were holding her arms each. She was wearing a sweater saying I <3 Palestine . I tried asking


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 625 what was happening and I couldn ’ t get


what was happening and I couldn t get anything concrete from people there, most were passers-by and they were as surprised as I was by what they were seeing. More soldiers started coming after about 10 minutes until they were 15 in total, all surrounding the girl, they formed a corridor and rushed her out of the Old City to a police car. 64

Another blog entry demonstrates the threats and terror used to elicit confessions from child suspects, as well as the violations of due process (as veried and explained below by the child rights lawyers participating in this study):

An Israeli interrogator allegedly forced a Palestinian child to sign a confession after threaten- ing him with sexual violence, according to a signed affidavit collected by Defense for Children International Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) Othman S., 14, was arrested by Israeli forces in Occupied East Jerusalem on the morning of 25 November 2013. Along with his brother, he was taken to the Russian Compound, an Israeli interrogation center in Jerusalem. During the interrogation, an intelligence officer accused him of throwing a stone and then a Molotov cocktail at a police car and, when Othman would not confess, the officer threatened to sodomise him. [The interrogator] then brought a broomstick, about 1.5 meters (6 feet) long, from one of the corners and threatened to shove it up my bottom , Othman said, adding that the interrogator said to him: You want me to shove this stick up your ass so you ll feel pain and tell me the truth? The interrogator also insulted Othman s mother and sister and warned him that he would demolish my home if I did not talk , he said. The boy was subsequently forced to sign a prepared confession in Hebrew, a language that he does not understand. 65

Discussing the harsh conditions of house arrests and their impact on children and their families, another blogger reports:

Said Mufid Abu Ghannam, the father of two children ages eight and nine claims; The border policy do not bring security to Al Tur [neighbourhood], they bring terrorism against small children . Apart from the strict conditions imposed on children and their families, children under house arrest face almost daily raids by the Israeli police. 66

Palestinian social worker Dalal Ali-Oweis describes one particular case of a house arrest, and then argues that the impact of house arrest on children and their families has not been studied adequately:

Abir Abu Shahwan, the mother of Nour Abu Shahwan, 14 years of age, who has been in house arrest since November 2015 claims The Police break into our house regularly. They come after midnight to confirm that my son hasn t violated the house arrest . The mother of Fadi Shaludi claims He [Fadi] fears going downstairs, let alone to the corner shop next to his home he is utterly devastated this house arrest has completely changed him. He is nervous and angry all the time he bangs his head against the wall in frustration. He used to have a strong and daring character, but his voice is barely audible now and he can hardly string sentences together House arrests shifted the battlefield from the courts and prisons to our own homes they transform the house into a prison, the mother into a prison guard who ensures her son does not violate the conditions of his house arrest. This provokes endless divisions and conflicts among the one family. 67

The Israeli media also describes the harsh reality surrounding East Jerusalemite children and the escalation in violence used against children. Other articles reect on questionable cases of youth arrests:

Jerusalem police detectives on Sunday arrested four local Palestinian youths on suspicion of burning and looting a gas station in a demonstration a week ago. The September 7 attack on


626 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN the Menta station in French Hill, a Jewish neighbourhood in


the Menta station in French Hill, a Jewish neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, followed the police shooting and death of Mohammed Sunuqrut during a stone-throwing protest. Police said they shot Sunuqrut, 16, in the leg and he died from hitting his head on the pave- ment after falling, but Israeli and Palestinian sources say the boy s autopsy showed that he died from a bullet to the head. His family say photographs from the scene show Sunuqrut was not throwing stones at time he was shot. 68

Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass explains the complexity of OEJ as experienced in chil- drens encounters with the Israeli law enforcement system as follows:

Nasser Kos recalls a 12-year-old boy who returned from school to find his home demolished. He cried revenge so the whole world would hear him and then he went to throw a firebomb, Kos says. Today he is 18 and still in jail.69

In contrast to PA enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza, there is no buffer between the youths and the Israeli occupation and there is no place in which it is possible to pretend the occupation doesn t exist. There are no PA security forces preventing Palestinian youth from confronting the Israeli police as there is in Bethlehem and Nablus.

The reports from both Palestinian and Israeli media shed light on the disparities between the legal framework and the current practices as manifested by the law enforcement agents. Both the Israeli and Palestinian media outlets reveal the failure of the Israeli crim- inal justice personnel to abide by Israeli law and the unwillingness to apply regulations and codes of conduct properly.

Findings from interviews, roundtable discussions, and focus groups The impression provided by the professionals participating in this study paralleled that of the harsh reality described in the media. The problem begins with the number of arrests ultimately shown to be groundless. As Adv. A.M. from ACRI explained, ACRI has found that the number of arrested children broadly eclipses the number of charges submitted against children. Ultimately, only in 25% of the cases are charges actually filed against the children, despite the tremendous impact of arrests on children. Advocates K.A. and D.S. from the Jerusalem Public Defendants Office affirm this statistic, noting that minors are often not convicted during the trial stage as the defence usually finds violations and proceedings that involve a miscarriage of justice. As such, a disproportional number of children face the hassles and trauma of detention and custody unnecessarily. Mistreatment, false accusations, and attacks against children as young as nine years old are not new to OEJ. S.W., 70 a social worker from the Public Committee Against Torture, shared the alarmingly young age of children being arrested, which he linked to the escala- tion in violence.

I had a case of a fifteen-year-old boy who was arrested for stone throwing. As soon as he told the interrogators his identity and they learned that he was the brother of a suspect in a stab- bing case, he was brutally beaten.

A.C. from the NGO the Human Rights Defenders Fund added: There are many more arrests and suspicions regarding stone throwing than the acts themselves. In some cases, no direct connection exists between the arrest and the act for which the child was arrested.Adv. N.A. from ACRI claimed that current law enforcement practices involve a more thorough usage of the exception as the norm, meaning that the age of


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 627 the accused is increasingly young and that children who


the accused is increasingly young and that children who are arrested do not benefit from the presumption of innocence, but rather are imprisoned without a fair trial. She states,

Amendment 14 in the Youth Law should reflect the CRC. In reality, the police contradict and negate the law. Through the present, we have been continuously stipulating that the usage of the exceptions as the norm completely contradicts basic children s rights.

Experts in the field of childrens rights affirm the vast inconsistencies between the law and practice in East Jerusalemite children s access to the juvenile justice system. Adv. T.S. from the Childrens Rights Clinic at the Hebrew University claimed,

It is clear that discrimination exists, that Palestinian children are treated differently than Jewish children. Current legislation, specifically the Youth Law, is sufficient; but its implementation is lacking. Overall, there is a gap in the implementation of the law between East and West Jerusalem.

A.C. from the Human Rights Defenders Fund affirmed this notion, saying that the Israeli Youth Law is very advanced and touches upon most issues related to juvenile justice. The problem is the lack of application of the law by law enforcement officials and judicial system alike.L.M., an advocate who represents cases of Palestinian children who are arrested for stone throwing, further asserted that the major issue in East Jerusalem is the gap between reality and rhetoric. A.E., an advocate from B Tselem, added that while the law should apply similarly in both sides of the city, in the case of East Jerusalem, it is often manipulated by the law enforcement and justice authorities . K.A. and D.S., public defence lawyers from the Jerusalem District, state that the courts presently convict all cases of stone throwing with a punishment of either imprisonment or community service. Furthermore, the district court handles all such files, reflecting the exaggerated severity of the offence in the eyes of Israeli officials:

The district court is called upon when the state seeks imprisonment. The judges in district courts, despite the age of the accused, do not place emphasis on their rehabilitation, but only on punishment. Even in cases involving youth without a criminal record, where the Parole Officer recommends the accused s release, the courts decision will contradict the recommendation.

This criticism seems to be supported by the statements of Adv. A.M. from ACRI: No child is arrested for stone throwing and released before serving a period of at least six months of imprisonment. This is also the case when a stone is thrown without malicious intention to hurt another human being.Indeed, some of the participating experts at the roundtable discussion stressed the criminal justice systems tendency to use punitive measures instead of a rehabilitative approach when handling East Jerusalemite children. Prof. Mona Khoury Kassabri noted that severe punishment in cases pertaining to youth has been proven to be an ineffective method, both in Israel and abroad. Referring to economic sanctions of parents, she claimed that parents are generally not aware of the childs behaviour unless the child has already been arrested and detained. In such cases, families, even those who are impo- verished, will allocate funds for alternatives to detention. If we impose economic sanctions on parents, the youths situation will worsen.In discussing the approach applied by the police handling arrested children in OEJ, Prof. Badi Hasisi added:


628 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN In times of crisis, such as the present, a need


In times of crisis, such as the present, a need exists for accountability within the criminal justice system. Currently, the police s ability to monitor arrest practices is limited, and there is no way to control police officers who handle children.

Prof. Hasisi s statement is supported by the preliminary interviews with children and families, which demonstrate that the East Jerusalemite Palestinian community distrusts the Israeli justice system. In discussing alternatives to detention, Adv. A.M. from ACRI noted that the govern- ment decided that there should not be alternatives to arrest in OEJ and that all arrested children should remain in pre-trial detention. She rightly affirmed, this completely con- tradicts the mandate and purpose of the Youth Law. Currently, there are more children in custody and awaiting plea-bargains than in appropriate legal proceedings. In addition, the courts are unable to handle the overflow of cases involving children. Given the massive numbers of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, the timeframe for setting up a trial hearing is unnecessarily long. Whereas in previous years the child could see a judge once every month or every six weeks for a proof discussion, judgesschedules have become overcrowded, and discussions concerning childrens cases are held approximately once every three months following the arrest. This situation leads parents and children to sign a plea deal simply to end the arduous process. Adv. T.S. claimed that among the many violations of child rights is the scarcity of the use of home arrest as an alternative to impri- sonment. The state rationalises the lack of home arrests on grounds of its inability to use electronic handcuffs due to the lack of phone infrastructure in OEJ. Yet the limitation of such an alternative results in high conviction and detention rates. Overall, our discussions with the various practitioners involved reveals that a major pillar of the Youth Law, reha- bilitation, is yet to be put into practice in regard to Palestinian children from OEJ. Pro- fessionals explained that alternatives to imprisonment are rarely implemented, as in most cases the states intent is to enforce its power over Palestinian minors. Another common complaint by the professionals involved in the study relates to the broader treatment of minors from OEJ as if they were adults and the denial of the special channels the law provides for when dealing with child defendants. The Israeli Youth Law, Section 34f of the Penal Code 1977 upholds that no person is criminally responsible for acts committed before the age of twelve years(Israeli Penal Code, 1977). Yet, as noted in the roundtable discussion, children are being arrested at a young age. D.S. from the Public Defenders Office stated:

A minor under the age of 12 should be referred to the welfare system. In most cases, the police refer the cases to the Public Defence and there is nothing we can do to help, as these cases are not under our jurisdiction.

Furthermore, The Youth Law determines that in order to create a child-friendly environ- ment, all cases should be handled by the Magistrate Court and by a judge who specialises in Youth Law; yet the professionals involved noted that this ideal is rarely realised in relation to cases from OEJ. Moreover, the discrimination against child defendants from OEJ is apparent even in the polices internal complaints and review process. Further complicating matters, Palesti- nians lack of trust in the due process of the state results in families refraining from fight- ing for their childrens rights, considering it to be a lost battle. K.A. and D.S. from the Jerusalem Public Defenders Office noted that Palestinian families from OEJ regularly


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 629 submit complaints against Israeli authorities concerning the latter ’


submit complaints against Israeli authorities concerning the latters disproportionate conduct during the arrest and imprisonment process. The complains involve practices such as physical and verbal abuse, coercion for revealing information, signing them onto documents in Hebrew that they cannot understand (lack of access to Arabic forms), long-term detention without access to visitors, and deprivation of food and water. The public defence representatives explained that the Police Investigation Depart- ment (PID) closes files in a serial manner, disregarding and invalidating complaints. Even in cases of severe violations such as use of violence and deprivation of food and water, they stated, PID officers usually resolve the complaint by interrogating the child and sending letters to families. Hence, the families often feel that the PID does not take its review process seriously. Ultimately, the public defenders have observed that since both the minors and their families wish to put the incident behind them following an arrest, most complaints are overlooked and dismissed. The lawyers further claim that cases invol- ving the arrest of Jewish settler children over incidents of violence are taken more seriously and are properly addressed. This differential treatment exemplifies the comparative insti- tutional discrimination against Palestinian children. As a result, families in OEJ do not trust the system, and the lack of public sympathy towards their children only amplifies their frustration. Palestinians have always held deep mistrust in the judicial and legal mechanisms of their occupier; but as M.R. from the Ministry of Welfare claimed, the July 2014 event in which 15-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burned alive by a gang of Jewish set- tlers, in particular increased the mistrust by OEJ residents towards Israeli governance. The Israeli justice systems lenient response to the Abu Khdeir murder served as a cat- alyst that generated an overall crisis in the East Jerusalemite Palestinian communitys trust of the Israeli justice system, strengthening notions regarding the systems double standards in relation to Arab and Jewish populations. Further evidence supporting these claims can be found in the near doubling of child arrests in OEJ following this case, as noted above. K.D., advisor to the Jerusalem Mayor for East Jerusalem Affairs, also attests to the fact that the Abu Khdeir murder was a turning point in East Jerusalem, marking the peoples loss of faith and hope in the justice system. He claimed that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem feel that the State of Israel has neglected them, particularly with regard to their protection. They consider themselves to be of no interest to the Israeli institutions, and hence assume that they should take responsibility for themselves in order to do what is in their best interest, including through violent resistance. Summing up the discussion on the conditions children from OEJ face in their encoun- ters with Israeli law enforcement, R.W., a public defender, stated during the roundtable discussion:

The three things that I find most troubling are: (a) how easy it is to arrest a child; (b) the absence of alternatives to imprisonment theoretically, such options do exist, but in practice they are not implemented; and (c) the lack of additional approaches other than the harsh punishment of minors.

Notably, in contrast to this child-centred approach, E.P., the Head of Investigations at the State Attorneys Ofce, claims that the point of departure for the justice and law enforce- ment systems is the rule of law. These systems attempt to guard the rights of suspects and


630 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN those who are found guilty. At the end of the


those who are found guilty. At the end of the day, there is a reality of severe delinquent behaviour of a huge magnitude.Such statements reveal the contradictory discourses among various players: one centres around the goals of law enforcement, and the other focuses on the childs best interest. The current situation in OEJ can be summarised by the words of P.L., Advisor to the Jerusalem Mayor for East Jerusalem Affairs:

When a child in West Jerusalem encounters a police officer, he thinks of how he can help him to cross the street. When a child in East Jerusalem encounters a police officer, the immediate response is fear and the expectation that he will be targeted rather than protected.

The problematic involvement of judicial professionals and human rights organisations in safeguarding children in Occupied East Jerusalem

The context of unrelenting state violence against Palestinian children in OEJ has turned its space into an unpredictable maze of injustice; a disposable zone of multiple violations interacting and feeding off of each other. The maze of injustice surrounding children as documented through both the Israeli and Palestinian media is apparent not only in the words of local formal and informal stakeholders, but also in the statements and reports provided by and submitted on behalf of international childrens rights defenders. The continuous maze of injustice is defined by commonly used phrases such as the esca- lation of violenceand reflected in the increased number of arrests and usage of violence against children. To date, this reality has not been influenced or reshaped in any way by the actions manifested by Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights organisations. As reflected in media coverage of incidents of child rights violations, local NGOs and INGOs are often the first to offer assistance in such cases. The following entry on Elec- tronic Intifada reported on various NGO responses to the arrest of a local girl in the Old City of Jerusalem:

Marah Bakir, 16, was leaving school in OEJ s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on 12 October [2015] when she was shot and injured by Israeli police. They [the Police] allege she intended to stab an officer. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that Marah had been walking with a friend when they were harassed by an Israeli who accused her of being a terrorist . Addameer [a Palestinian NGO] says keeping the girls in the prison amounts to psychological torture because they are isolated from other Pales- tinian female political prisoners the girls live in constant fear and avoid sleeping. The three are being held in a thilthy cell with two bunk beds, a blanket and a mattress. Addam- eer reports that neither Marah nor her 14 year old cell mate are receiving necessary follow- up treatment for bullet wounds. Lawyers from human rights groups, including the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Addameer and Defence for Children International (DCI)-Palestine, have all collected testimonies from children, who report being beaten, denied adequate food and held in mouldy and frigid jail cells Human rights organiz- ations and international monitors have condemned Israel s routine practice of extra judicial executions. As long as Israel faces little of the international accountability, human rights defenders are urging, children will continue to bear the brunt of escalating violence it uses to maintain its occupation. 71

Indeed, human rights NGOs often comprise news sources for media outlets reporting on the issue as demonstrated by the following example from Electronic Intifada:


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 631 The human rights group B ’ Tselem reported last


The human rights group B Tselem reported last year that Israeli occupation forces fre- quently accuse Palestinian youths and children of violent attacks and then subject them to abuse and torture, including solitary confinement and threats of rape in order to get them to confess. 72

Electronic Intifada also reported that in a response to a six-month sentence given without charge or trial to a 17-year-old resident of OEJ, Amnesty International demanded his immediate release, in the following blog entry:

At present al-Hashlamoun is one of two minors in administrative detention by Israel, which rights groups say amounts to arbitrary detention under international human rights law and violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Four other children were released in January; Amnesty reports that Israeli forces took Muhammad al-Hashlamoun from his home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Amoud in the early morning hours of 3 December Muhammad was reportedly beaten during his arrest According to tes- timonies collected by human rights groups, Palestinian minors routinely face physical and emotional abuse while in Israeli custody in order to force confessions or extract information. 73

The Israeli media likewise describes some actions undertaken by ACRI and the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN as a response to the escalating violence used against children in OEJ:

Zakariya Julani, a 13 year old boy from the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, lost his eye apparently from a sponge-tipped rubber bullet fired last Tuesday by a female Border Police officer. Julani s family and friends said there were no disturbances or rock throwing in the area before the firing Researchers from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel raised the possibility that Julani was hit by a black sponge bullet of the type introduced into regular use over the past year by Jerusalem police, and is harder and considered more danger- ous than the previously used blue sponge bullet. 74

Another case documented by Haaretz follows the proceedings of and response to the arrest and detention of a 9-year-old boy:

Police arrested and detained a 9-year-old boy from Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem on Tuesday, without allowing his parents to meet with him. Part of the time the child was held in a squad car, and during questioning he was asked if he wanted to be a martyr. 75

The Palestinian Authority has complained to the United Nations Security Council after a 9- year-old boy from East Jerusalem was illegally detained by police last week. The minor was held for eight hours after the police said he had thrown rocks at a bus. The boy, A.Z., was detained along with his 12-year-old brother The Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, sent a letter to the president of the Security Council last Friday, complaining of Israel s handling of Palestinian children in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Mansour claimed that A.Z. was questioned for hours without his parents being informed, and without receiving food or water The arbitrary arrest of a child under 12 is illegal and Israel has violated the international standard in doing so, as well as its own law, wrote Mansour. He also listed a number of other incidents in which he claimed Israel had allegedly harmed Palestinian children and youth, and called on the international community to inter- vene in providing help and protection. 76

G.P, UNICEFs child protection specialist, stressed the existence of competition between the NGOs working on the issue of child arrests in East Jerusalem. This competition dis- courages collaboration and prevents these agencies from building on each others


632 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN efforts and strengths. A.C. from the Human Rights Defenders Fund


efforts and strengths. A.C. from the Human Rights Defenders Fund noted that public interest in OEJ child cases both within Israel and abroad is limited. She considers it to be human rights organisationsrole to create awareness regarding the rights of Palestinian minors. Israeli human rights organisations that work with Palestinians suffer from the challenge of gaining trust among the Palestinian public. Distrust is also manifested in the form of unwillingness to cooperate with both formal and informal organisations (including public defence, the PID, and academic legal clinics) that represent Israeli civil society and legal and law enforcement systems. L.M., an advocate who represents Palestinian children arrested for stone throwing, asserted with some cynicism that INGOs are not genuinely interested in what is actually happening on the ground or in safeguarding children s rights. Rather, he claimed, they are only interested in promptly submitting their monthly reports. According to D.S. from the Public Defenders Office, since the recent upsurge in violence, 95% of the cases of child arrests in OEJ are being defended and contested by NGOs. Palestinian residents have lost their confidence in the Israeli judicial system and, as a result, have increased their reliance on NGOs. Lawyers paid by the NGOs represent the children en masse with no consideration for the unique characteristics of each individual case. Furthermore, N.K., an advocate from the Palestinian NGO Addameer noted that no coordination and partnership exists between the NGOs, the international entities, and the Israeli institutions, thus limiting the utility of NGOswork. A.C. from the Human Rights Defenders Fund further directed her criticism towards Palestinian NGOs: Palestinian NGOs are highly politicised, as they would prefer their actions to have a political nature rather than focus on the rights of indi- vidual children.The evidence gathered through the interviews, focus groups, roundtable discussion and both Palestinian and Israeli media seem to imply that the emergence of human rights organisations involved in the rights of OEJ children is causing an epistemic shift. Working within the mechanism of the occupiers oppressive rule of law, the human rights organisations, which represent the human rights industry, are using the grammar that feeds into the judicial culture and rule of law of the state. Hence, some doubt remains regarding the utility of the interventions and actions performed by the human rights organisations for the arrested children. Articles in the Palestinian media written from the perspectives of parents and children reveal that while human rights organisations express extreme criticism towards Israelis alleged security claims and treatment of chil- dren, the reality on the ground is that their actions do not improve the implicated individ- ual childs situation and well-being. Indeed, it seems that these organisations use their mandate not to challenge the inherent injustice embedded within the Israeli system, but rather to help , represent, and protectchildren. Therefore, it is crucial to unravel the political nature of the specific context of OEJ and how it disrupts, complicates, and requires a new analysis concerning the role and effectiveness of such humanitarian inter- ventions that function within the discriminatory Israeli system.


In her speech at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, endorsed the legal obligation that human rights conventions place upon states, noting that a human


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 633 rights approach adds value because it provides a normative


rights approach adds value because it provides a normative framework of obligations that has the legal power to render governments accountable. 77 Our findings and correspond- ing analysis show an escalation in violence used against Palestinian children in OEJ. The current usage of exceptions as the norm completely contradicts basic childrens rights as framed within the human rights conventions. Those stakeholders that are responsible for keeping the government accountable to adhere with the current child rights discourse, including the CRC and other binding international and national frameworks and insti- tutions, have been either sucked into the mainstream system, and their regimes of dispos- sessions, are failing to challenge the current systems and institutional practices to enforce accountability, or are accomplices to maintaining the hegemonic matrix of power. The underlying process of colonisation, the elimination and replacement of Jerusalems Palestinian population, is justified and enabled by the criminalisation of the Palestinian children in the Israeli states security discourse, which marks these children as terrorist others. 78 Indeed, the Israeli states law enforcement system constructs each Palestinian child as a potential terrorist. 79 As such, each Palestinian child is said to embody violence. Thus, these children are positioned in times, spaces, and conditions of insecurity and aggression, stripped of their humanity and evicted to zones of death. 80 Our evidence shows that instead of challenging the existing structures, both the formal judicial system and the human rights organisations active in OEJ are co-opted by the state and ultimately function within these discriminatory security frameworks and discourses. Our examination revealed that child arrest in conditions of continuous political vio- lence and colonial dispossession rendered legislation, law enforcement personnel, criminal proceedings, and even childrens rights defenders as entities controlled by the states ideol- ogies. In this context, the applicability of child-centred laws to protect, prevent and inter- vene when childrens rights are violated are curtailed, and state officials manoeuvre these laws when handling Palestinian children in OEJ. The state uses securitisedclaims to justify a discriminatory ideology, violate childrens rights, and increase their suffering. Such security theology81 maintains a continuous and systematic status quo in which Palestinian children and their families mistrust both their defenders at human rights agencies (as representatives of local and international civil society) and the formal stake- holders involved in administering justice: welfare practitioners, judges, public defence lawyers, and police officers. Indeed, Palestinians in OEJ perceive most parties involved to be participating in a self-perpetuating cycle that accepts and turns violent exceptions used against children into norms. Overall, both the informal and formal stakeholders fail in addressing the needs of the child, as childrens rights are connected to the Israeli legal system that is inherently discri- minatory and ideologically embedded in an exclusionary and eliminatory regime of control. The analysis that we propose in this article leads to questioning the utility and meanings of the children s rights narrative, and its politics of care in a settler-colonial context. Instead of challenging the systems that are embedded within the settler-colonial setting, the human rights organisations reinforce the existing status quo and the states control by operating within its system and according to its rules. In so doing, these entities help the state in keeping Palestinian children in a state of suffering within their otherised spaces. Moreover, human rights organisations should be criticised from another perspective, based on our findings in this study. Civil society and human rights stakeholders are fed


634 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN and legitimised by the same governmental structures that they are


and legitimised by the same governmental structures that they are meant to criticise. Referring back to the analysis of the wests response to the Rwandan genocide which amounts to stealing the pain of others82 as well as to the finding that for many Bedouin women, sourcing funding to improve their lives failed to look beyond donor desires and the states ideological underpinning and neglect, 83 we claim that keeping OEJ children in conditions of suffering reinforces the survivability, mandate, and justifica- tion for the continuous operation of local and international human rights organisations in the area and provide another technology of exclusion and dispossession. The intricate, contradictory, and dehumanising logics inherent in the various interven- tions in child arrest suggest that violence against children is more than a legal issue; it is a health, social and psychological issue that must be prioritised. Despite the influx of Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights organisations specialising in health, edu- cation, child protection, juvenile justice and rule of law, which operate to safeguardchil- dren in OEJ, the Israeli juvenile justice system continues to treat East Jerusalemite children in an increasingly exclusionary manner. The Israeli state brutally contradicts the spirit of the CRC and other national and international childrens rights agendas through legislation facilitating long-term detention of Palestinian youth, lack of implementation of the Youth Law, a focus on punishment instead of rehabilitation, and violent treatment of children. The mandate and corresponding strategy of childrens rights organisations is to ensure that Israel upholds its responsibilities and duties in protecting children and their rights according to the CRCs framework. Considering the unique status of OEJ, we question the effectiveness of these representatives in fulfilling their mandate and their ability to be held accountable to their mission. Follow-up research focused on operative suggestions for improving the impact and effectiveness of human rights organisations operating in OEJ will be important for supporting a more responsive and meaningful civil society. We argue that the performance of civil society organisations and human right defen- ders must be re-examined. Their intervention apparatus raises critical questions not only in relation to their ability to care for and protect children from state criminalities, but also their role in maintaining the states abusive power. The complicit nature of their interventions, their inability to challenge existing laws and regulations, and challenge the trail of justice, and the injustices that strip children of their right to safety and secur- ity, further children s suffering and pain. Rather than examining how various actors used the existing system to care for children, this study focused on the nature, logic, and modalities of power inherent in human right and legal interventions. The congenital complex condition in OEJ, and the marking of children s bodies as unwanted, non-human others, must be the focus of intervention. Failing to attend to the states machinery of dispossession, and the states targeting of chil- dren, situates children at the limits of justice, and allows the state to further perpetuate its oppression. Policymakers, judicial, law enforcement and civil society stakeholders must re- examine their mandate, role and responsibilities in addressing the needs of East Jerusale- mite children throughout and following the different stages of their encounters with the Israeli juvenile justice system. Failing to counter Israels logics of control and its use of Palestinian children and childhood to further its militarised occupation, divests Israel of any responsibility, curtails legal activism, and ultimately turns childrens rights defenders into tools in the hands of the colonial state.



Notes THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 635 1. Peggy Levitt and Sally Merry, ‘ Vernacularization



Peggy Levitt and Sally Merry, Vernacularization on the Ground: Local Uses of Global Women s Rights in Peru, China, India and the United States , Global Networks 9, no. 4 (2009): 441 61; UNICEF Office of Research, Championing Children s Rights: A Global Study of Independent Human Rights Institutions for Children Summary Report , Office of Research (Florence: UNICEF, 2012); Eyal Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils: Humani- tarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza (London, New York: Verso, 2011).


For example, Sherene Razack, Stealing the Pain of Others: Reflections on Canadian Huma- nitarian Responses , Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 29, no. 4 (2007):

375 94; Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009); Didier Fassin, Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of Califor- nia Press, 2012); Lori Allen, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine (Stanford, CA: Press Stanford, 2013).


For example, Razack, Stealing the Pain of Others .




Edward W. Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).


Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian et al., Funding Pain: Bedouin Women and Political Economy in the Naqab/Negev , Feminist Economics 20, no. 4 (2014): 122.


Fassin, Humanitarian Reason.


Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils .


Sarah E. Mendelson, Dark Days for Civil Society: What s Going Wrong And How Data Can Help , Foreign Affairs , March 2015, 11/dark-days-civil-society (accessed 2 October 2015); Thomas Carothers and Saskia Bre- chenmacher, Closing Space: Democracy and Human Rights Support Under Fire (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2014); Darin Christensen and Jeremy M. Weinstein, Defunding Dissent: Restrictions on Aid to NGOs , Journal of Democracy 24, no. 2 (2013): 7791; Kendra E. Dupuy, James Ron, and Aseem Prakash, Who Survived? Ethiopia s Regulatory Crackdown on Foreign-Funded NGOs , Revie w of International Politi- cal Economy 22, no. 2 (2015): 419 56; Jude Howell et al., The Backlash Against Civil Society in the Wake of the Long War on Terror , Development in Practice 18, no. 1 (2012): 82 93; Maina Kiai, In Kenya, Averting a Move to Strangle Civil Society with the Financial Noose , openDemocracy , December 2013, maina-kiai/in-kenya-averting-move-to-strangle-civil- society-with-financial-noose (accessed 16 November 2015); Douglas Rutzen, Aid Barriers and the Rise of Philanthropic Protection- ism , International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law 17, no. 1 (2015): 5 44.


James Ron and David Crow, Who Trusts Local Human Rights Organizations? Evidence from Three World Regions , Human Rights Quarterly 37, no. 1 (2015): 188 239.


Allen, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights ; see also M. Goodale, Surrendering to Utopia: An Anthropology of Human Rights (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009); W.H. Sewell, Historical Events as Transformation of Structures: Inventing Revolution at the Bastille, Theory and Society 25, no. 6 (1996): 841 81.


David Kennedy, The Dark Sides of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism (Prin- ceton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).


Sally Engle Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).


Islah Jad, NGOs: Between Buzzards and Social Movements , Development in Practice 17, no. 45 (2007): 622 9.


James Petras, NGOs: In the Service of Imperialism , Journal of Contemporary Asia 29, no. 4 (2007): 429 40.


636 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN 17. Ibid. 18. The Nagab is a desert and semi-desert


17. Ibid.

18. The Nagab is a desert and semi-desert region of southern Israel.

19. Shalhoub-Kevorkian et al., Funding Pain .

20. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Righting Wrongs , The South Atlantic Quarterly 103, no. 2/3 (2004): 523 81.

21. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Birthing in Occupied East Jerusalem: Palestinian Women s Experience of Pregnancy and Delivery (Jerusalem: YWCA, 2012).

22. Ibid.

23. Simon Pemberton et al., Child Rights and Child Poverty: Can the International Framework of Children s Rights Be Used to Improve Child Survival Rates?, PLoS Med 4, no. 10 (2007):

1567 70, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0040307

24. Ibid.

25. Geraldine Van Bueren, Combating Child Poverty Human Rights Approaches , Human Rights Quarterly 21, no. 3 (1999): 680 706.

26. Pembertonet al., Child Rights and Child Poverty .

27. UNICEF Office of Research, Championing Children s Rights.

28. A. Ann Linnarsson and Vanessa Sedletzki, Independent Human Rights Institutions for Chil- dren: An Actor for the Protection of Children s Rights during Armed Conflict? , Human Rights Quarterly 36, no. 2 (2014): 447 72.

29. Allen, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights .

30. Ibid.

31. Lisa Hajjar, Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005).

32. Zvika Orr and Daphna Golan, Translating Human Rights of the Enemy : The Case of Israeli NGOs Defending Palestinian Rights , Law and Society Review 46, no. 4 (2012): 781 814.

33. Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence; Levitt and Merry, Vernacularization on the Ground .

34. Allen, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights .

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37. Guido Veronese et al., ‘“ We Must Cooperate with One Another Against the Enemy : Agency and Activism in School-aged Children as Protective Factors Against Ongoing War Trauma and Political Violence in the Gaza Strip , Child Abuse and Neglect 70 (2017): 364 76, doi: 10.

38. Guido Veronese, Alessandro Pepe, and Marco Castiglioni, Fundamentalism in the Mental Health System-Children Agency and Activism in the Shadow of PTSD Industry: A Palesti- nian Case Study , Countering Radicalisation and Violent Extremism Among Youth to Prevent Terrorism (2015): 220 30.

39. Asher Ben-Arieh, Mona Khoury-Kassabri, and Muhammad Haj-Yahia, Generational, Ethnic and National Differences in Attitudes Toward the Rights of Children in Israel and Palestine , American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 76, no. 3 (2006): 381 8.

40. Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), East Jerusalem By the Numbers, http://www. (accessed 15 July 2015).

41. Bella Kovner and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Children s Rights, State Criminality and Settler Colonialism: Violence and Child Arrest in Occupied East Jerusalem , State Crime Journal 5, no. 1 (2016): 109 38.

42. United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), Children in Israeli Military Detention: Obser- vations and Recommendations ,

(accessed 15 July 2015).

43. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Occupied Palestinian Territory (UNOCHA OPT), East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns , https://www.

(accessed 15 July 2015).


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS 637 44. B ’ Tselem – The Israeli Information Center


44. B Tselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Statistics on Demolition of Houses Built without Permits in East Jerusalem , http://www. (accessed 5 September 2015).

45. Ibid.

46. Emily Schaeffer, Jeff Halper, and Itay Epshtain, Israel s Policy of Demolishing Palestinian Homes Must End: A Submission to the UN Human Rights Council by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) , The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions,

icahd-submission-to-the-un/ (accessed 26 October 2014).

47. Ibid.

48. UNOCHA OPT, East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns .

49. Israel Police, the National Unit for Public Complaints, 10 July 2016.

50. Police reply to ACRI, 19 October 2015. Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Arrested Childhood: The Ramifications of Israel s New Strict Policy toward Minors Sus- pected of Involvement in Stone Throwing, Security Offences, and Disturbances , http:// (accessed 4 April 2016).

51. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Childhood: A Universalist Perspective for How Israel is Using Child Arrest and Detention to Further its Colonial Settler Project, International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 12 (2015): 223 44; Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Stolen Childhood: Palestinian Children and the Struc- ture of Genocidal Dispossession, Settler Colonial Studies 6 (2015): 111.

52. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Palestinian Children as Tools for Legalized State Violence ”’ , Borderlands , 13, no. 1 (2014): 124.

53. Mimi Ajzenstadt and Mona Khoury-Kassabri, The Cultural Context of Juvenile Justice in Israel , Journal of Social Policy 42, no. 1 (2013): 111 28.

54. Israel, Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, 2007.

55. Ajzenstadt and Khoury-Kassabri, The Cultural Context of Juvenile Justice in Israel .

56. The Youth Law (Trial, Punishment and Modes of Treatment), 1971, determines the methods of operation of government agencies that focus on youth involved in criminal activities.

57. Ibid.

58. According to the Israeli Youth Act, Section 34f of the Penal Code 1977: A person shall not be held criminally responsible for acts committed before he was twelve years old.

59. Israeli Government Proposed Law: The Youth Law (Adjudication, Punishments, and Methods of Treatment), Amendment No. 14, 5766 2006, Government Proposed Law 244, June 12, 2006, 468.

60. 29 June 2014: Publication of Decision 1776 of the 33rd Government Strengthening Enforce- ment in Offenses of Stone Throwing (ACRI 2016). 29 July 2015: Enactment of the Penal Code (Amendment No. 119), 5775 2015, which added the offense of throwing stones/other objects at a police officer/police vehicle, an offense incurring a penalty of up to five yearsimprison- ment; the offense of throwing stones/other objects at vehicles, an offense incurring a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment; an offense of throwing stones/other objects with the goal of hitting a passenger or a person in his vicinity, an offense incurring a penalty of up to 20 yearsimprisonment. Penalty Law, Amendment 119 , July 2015, 20_lsr_313581.pdf (accessed 6 March 6, 2017). 12 October 2015: The Knesset proposed Amendment 24A to the Youth Act (Trial, Punishment and Modes of Treatment), entitling the court to impose a fine on the minor as part of the verdict, and allowing the court, follow- ing conviction and in addition to punishment, to require a letter of commitment from parents holding them accountable for the minor s future behaviour and obligating them to pay a fine to the person hurt by the offense or to cover trial expenses. A Bill Proposal for the Youth Act (Trial, Punishment and Modes of Treatment), Amendment 20 , October 12, (accessed 9 January 2017). 2 November 2015: Enactment of the Youth Act (Trial, Punishment and Modes of Treatment),


638 B. KOVNER AND N. SHALHOUB-KEVORKIAN Amendment 20, 5776 – 2015, enabling the state to impose


Amendment 20, 57762015, enabling the state to impose a fine, legal expenses and payment of compensation to any injured party upon the parents of a convicted and sentenced minor.

18 November 2015: Legislative memorandum: Youth Act (Trial, Punishment and Modes of

Treatment) (Amendment) (Means of Punishment), 57762015, proposes custodial sentences for children as young as 12 who are convicted of nationalistic-motivated violent offences under Israel s civilian legal system. The actual serving of sentences would be deferred until the child reaches the age of 14. In serious manslaughter offenses, it would be possible to imprison minors who are sentenced before they reach the age of 14 (ACRI 2016).

61. Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Palestinian Children as Tools for Legalized State Violence ”’ ; Shal- houb-Kevorkian, Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear .

62. Prof. Dorit Roer Strier, Prof. Mona Khoury-Kassabri, Prof. Leslie Sebba, and one of the authors.

63. Prof. Mona Khoury-Kassabri, Prof. Leslie Sebba, Dr Roni Factor and Dr Badi Hasisi.

64. Ali Abunimah, Video: Heavily Armed Israeli Occupation Soldiers Arrest Jerusalem Girl , Electronic Intifada , 3 January 2014, heavily-armed-israeli-occupation-soldiers-arrest-jerusalem-girl .

65. Patrick Strickland, Israeli Interrogator Threatens Sexual Assault, Home Demolition, Says Palestinian Child , Electronic Intifada , 21 March 2014, patrick-strickland/israeli-interrogator-threatens-sexual-assault-home-demolition-says .

66. Sarah Levy, Palestinian Parents Tell Israeli Police to Stop Harassing Jerusalem Children , Electronic Intifada , 12 February 2015,

67. Budour Youssef Hassan, When Israel Turns Houses into Jails, Electronic Intifada , 3 Febru- ary 2016, .

68. Nir Hasson, Police Arrest Four East Jerusalem Boys for Suspected Gas Station Arson , Haaretz , 14 September 2016, =&ts=_1490768904070 .

69. Amira Hass, East Jerusalem Residents Feel They Have Nothing Left to Lose , Haaretz , 26 September 2015, .

70. For reasons of political sensitivity, we keep full names of interviewed professionals confidential.

71. Charlotte Silver, Number of Palestinian Children in Israeli Prisons Doubles , Electronic Inti- fada , 8 December 2015, palestinian-children-israeli-prisons-doubles .

72. Abunimah, Video: Heavily armed Israeli Occupation Soldiers Arrest Jerusalem Girl .

73. Ryan Rodrick Beiler, Palestinian Teen Faces Indefinite Israeli Detention , Electronic Intifada ,

74. Nir Hasson, Palestinian Boy, 13, Loses Eye Apparently from Border Police Bullet, Haaretz , 6 April 2015,

75. Nir Hasson, Israel Police Arrest 9-year-old East Jerusalem Boy Suspected of Stoning Bus , Haaretz , 30 April 2015, .

76. Nir Hasson, Palestinians Protest to UN Over Detention of 9-year-old From East Jerusalem , Haaretz , 4 May 2015, .

77. Mary Robinson, The World Summit on Sustainable Development Plenary Session(State- ment by Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Johannes- burg, South Africa, 29 August 2002), htm (accessed 20 April 2017).

78. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, The Political Economy of Children s Trauma: A Case Study of House Demolitions in Palestine , Feminism and Psychology 19, no. 3 (2009): 335 42.

79. Stephen Sedley et al., Children in Military Custody: A Report Written by a Delegation of

British Lawyers on the Treatment of Palestinian Children under Israeli Military Law (London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2012), http://www. (accessed 17 October 2016).


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80. Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Childhood .

81. Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear .

82. Razack, Stealing the Pain of Others .

83. Shalhoub-Kevorkian et al., Funding Pain .

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.


This work was supported by The Israel Science Foundation [grant number 1019/16].

Notes on contributors

Bella Kovner is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Criminology Faculty of Law, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ms Kovner holds an MA in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University and is a counter-trafficking and child protection specialist. For the past decade, she has been working in Nepal, China, Albania, Uganda and Cambodia on EC, USAID, USDOL, UNICEF, WFP and Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) funded projects aimed at combating trafficking in human beings and exploitative child labour.

Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law- Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew Univer- sity of Jerusalem. She is a Palestinian feminist activist and the director of the Gender Studies Program at Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa. Her research focuses on law, society and crimes of abuse of power. She studies the crime of femicide and other forms of gendered violence, crimes of abuse of power in settler colonial contexts, surveillance, securitisation and social control, and trauma and recovery in militarised and colonised zones. Shal- houb-Kevorkian s previous book is titled: Militarization and Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones in the Middle East: The Palestinian Case Study published by Cambridge University Press, 2010. Her newly published book is titled: Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear , published by Cambridge University Press.