We are concerned that basic rights (such as social rights, equal opportunity, the right to education, minority rights) have no constitutional protection in Israeli law (because Israeli law is not based on a constitution). However there is an important Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom; this is a quasi-constitutional doccument.
The Coalition is concerned that law proposals by Members of Knesset to make the CRC, in its totality, the law of the land are blocked by the government. We also recommend that all military orders oriented towards the Palestinians be brought in line with the CRC.
The text of the CRC (in Hebrew and Arabic) is not sufficiently disseminated nor available. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice subsidize NGO (The Adam Institute, the National Council for the Child, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Arab Association for human Rights, DCI-Israel and others) for distribution of the CRC and their development of educational programs in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.
2. Definition of the Child
We are concerned that military orders do not coincide with the CRC’s definition of the child, meaning that Palestinian children are considered by the IDF adults at age 16.
3. General Principles
A. The Right to Non-Discrimination
In different areas (alternative care, health-and welfare services, education and special education) we found that children of the Arab-Israeli minority were discriminated against. This manifests itself in the fact that more budgets are spent on alternative care, education and special education for Jewish children than for Arab-Israeli children. An instance in which one can most clearly see discrimination is that of children of unrecognized Arab-Bedouin villages. Equal educational opportunities for boys and girls are absent in the field of technology where girl-pupils are not sufficiently encouraged, and textbooks as well as curriculum include gender stereotypes that reinforce traditional gender roles. Children of foreign workers are also discriminated against even though Art 2. of the CRC clearly outlines that the CRC should be applied to each child within the jurisdiction of the State Party “without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parents or legal guardian’s…national, ethnic or social origin…birth or other status”. The State discriminates against Palestinians, for instance, in regard to residency rights in East Jerusalem and uses it as a way of unethical pressure discouraging parents and children to live in Jerusalem.
Research presented in this NGO Report, (under Article 5) showed a strong relationship between social/ethnic origin, poverty and results on the matriculation tests. The government is not taking effective steps to give all children an equal opportunity.
The best interests-principle is widely used by judges, welfare officers, etc. However, the principle is applied paternalistically often and the link with art.12 is often not made. The best interests principle seems on a general level to be violated by everyone, but the tragedy is that hardly anybody realizes this; not the parents of the children in settlements close to Palestinian towns, not Palestinians who glorify violence in which their children participate, not the Israeli army which does not think about the best interests of the child when the only answer they have to violent demonstrations is tear gas, rubber coated bullets or live ammunition. Political and nationalistic interests have taken the upper hand, but everybody thinks they do it for the better future of their children.
C. The Right to Life
The government has not taken all steps possible to protect lives of Palestinian children and has not shown enough accountability when violations occur leading to fatal consequences.
Traffic accidents are the second highest cause of death of children in Israel. The struggle against traffic accidents and the requirements of children to wear safety belts are not given enough priority.
D. Respect for the Views of the Child
As in many countries, the best interests of the child principle, interpreted in a paternalistic way, did not leave much room for the views of the child. Slowly, modern times are also bringing changes to Israel and new ideas are incorporated in the law, such as the Family Court Law where the child can submit his or her position and have his or her independent lawyer, and the Youth Trial, Punishment and Modes of Treatment Law (allowing the judge to appoint an independent representative for the child). However, in practice, the judge often talks with the child in his/her chambers, tells the child what he/she thinks should happen and then writes in the file that the child agrees with the decision. The Decision Committees (dealing with care plans for children in need) and Placement Committees (to special education) do not yet, as a matter of standard procedure, listen to the child’s point of view. The option of having the child’s lawyer accompanying the child has hardly been explored. Another concern is that rabbinical courts rely on traditional religious legal reasoning; little progress has been made to extent rights to children.
4.Civil rights and freedoms
It is interesting to note that the Israeli government appointed a committee (The Roth-Levy Committee) to arrange a Children’s Rights Law, but the larger constitutional context is not dealt with.
A. The Right to a Name and Nationality
Unfortunately, fear (of demographic numbers of Palestinian children) has led to the fact that Art.7 has not been kept out of the political arena. Palestinians in East Jerusalem fear registering their child with the Ministry of the Interior. In East Jerusalem, procedures and rules seem to be made in order to make Palestinians in East Jerusalem so miserable that they will leave. We are concerned Israeli authorities use this article as a weapon in a battle against Palestinians, and rights of the child are no consideration at all.
Israel stopped the egregious administration, deportation and denial of residency rights of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem. It is still failing to provide any stable status to the Palestinian children in East Jerusalem continue to be stateless, with no prospect of having a nationality in the near future.
Israel’s battle against non-eligible immigrants coming into the state, as well as children and families who’s status is questioned and do not get their citizenship rights leads to the practice (in violation of the CRC) of not promptly recording children in the population registry.
B. The Right to Freedom of Conscience, Thought and Religion
Adolescents in the community of ultra-orthodox Jews find heavy pressure if they do not want to lead this lifestyle. Also, children of secular Jewish families who opt for an ultra-orthodox Jewish lifestyle face difficult decisions as there is no civil marriage and divorce within the ultra-orthodox community.
The child’s right to freedom of religion is curtailed by the State’s decision to accept only Jewish orthodox institutions as valid legal institutions. Thus, non-orthodox Jewish conversions are not truly recognized. This also affects adopted children and their families. Recent court decisions granted un-orthodox conversions of adopted children the same status as other conversions, but there are already attempts to legislate further restrictions on freedom of conversion in Israel.
C. The Right not to be Subjected to Torture
At the time of ratification of the CRC, the situation was worse than it is now. A State Committee permitted the Security Services (Shin Beth) to apply physical and psychological pressure during terrorist interrogations. Later, the Supreme Court ordered this practice stopped. However, teenage Palestinian suspects are routinely lifted from their beds at night and interrogated. The routine of beating under interrogation in order to get confessions is well documented as are other “techniques” and is very worrying indeed. It brings shame on a State which claims to be law-abiding.
5. Family Environments and Alternative Care
Although Supreme Court Justice Beinis has now revised a 1953 court decision on the definition of abuse stating that continuous slapping by a parent is not an educational measure, this is not yet backed by legislation. The mandatory reporting law and NGOs bringing the issue to the attention of the public via the media, have raised awareness of the phenomenon of child abuse. However, even if cases are diagnosed and reported, follow up therapy is hardly available because of lack of budgets.
Family reunification is taking place much too slow for the 10,829 Ethiopians still waiting in Addis Abeba or Gondar to come to Israel, and many among them are children. The Israeli government seems not to take firm action to bring these people, waiting in difficult circumstances, quickly into Israel. Family reunification is not granted to Palestinian children promptly or humanely, but only grudgingly after intolerable delays and unreasonable administrative procedures.
Foster family care is in Israel much less developed than residential care. As the State Comptroller pointed out in 1998, there is a lack of supervision of foster families. It is possible that the change in policy which came into effect in May 2001 which gave three NGOs the responsibility of running and developing foster family-care, will, hopefully, bring an improvement thus leaving the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in the role of supervising the care. However, to develop this sector in a serious way, much more needs to be invested in the training of foster parents and in upgrading of their payment. A bad sign is that no association of foster parents than can do self-help and be a partner to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs presently exists.
Dr. Eyal Gross1 of Tel Aviv University has pointed out that:
“social rights are suffering from decreased status precisely at that point in time when they can and should be playing an important function as a ‘safety-net’ in the era of market economy, privatization and globalization: the era of employer privatization as well as a period in which many government social services are de facto being increasingly privatized; when enjoying the benefits of these services is becoming increasingly dependent on the ability to pay for them. The current dominant trend is to reduce government responsibility for welfare and to transfer it to the fringes of the universal welfare state.” We are concerned that the major achievement of universal healthcare is being undermined by the allowance of health funds (kupot holim) to ask contributions for visits to specialists and medications, in contrast to the position that existed formerly.
The unrecognized Bedouin villages do not have the necessary number of well-baby clinics.
The patients-rights law has not made specific provisions for children. In the mental health field, the child guidance clinics cannot provide long-term psychotherapy. Suicide-prevention programs are not being made available to children and adolescents.
Parents of children with disabilities are required to deal with multiple bureaucratic structures and various government agencies to deal with, which drains energy they need for the children. Care for children with disabilities after-school hours is hardly available.
In the Arab-Israeli minority, where because of consanguinity (marriage amongst family members –which is still very much present) the percentage of children with disabilities is relatively high, facilities and more services should be available.
The worst violations of children’s rights have occurred during periods of ‘closures’ when the IDF has not allowed Palestinian children to move between towns in the West Bank and Gaza when they need to visit a clinic or need to go to therapy. Also visits (sometimes even in ambulances) are delayed and unnecessarily prevented. The coalition is not against inspection of ambulances by the IDF, but holding them up unnecessarily or not letting them through after inspection is unacceptable.
7. Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities
The government has unfortunately not succeeded in narrowing the gap in achievement between the center of the country and the periphery (development towns in the Negev for instance).
The educational system has not been able to provide equally motivated and skilled teachers in development-towns. After 3 or even 4 generations there remains a strong correlation between low educational achievement and Jewish children from North African descent. The educational system, which was expected to solve the problem, did not do so.
Matriculation is a ticket to higher education and a good job, but many Israeli young people do not matriculate.
This is a major failure of the school-system in a society where matriculation is central. In 1998, 61.5% of Israelis aged 17 could not be admitted to University, due to failure to complete the high school matriculation exams. The drop-out rate of Jewish pupils aged 16-17 is 10%, and 40% among Arab students.
The lack of means provided to the Bedouin educational system is especially worrying. Many schools do not yet have electricity or water or permanent buildings which are not temporary structures, meaning that the minimum-conditions for a learning-climate are not present. Recently the High Court of Justice directed the authorities to provide these facilities. There is a severe shortage of preschools and high schools within the Bedouin sector.
8. Special Protection Measures
The situation in the jails (where children wait before trial) is worrying because of lack of education and recreation. The Prison Service has now improved facilities in the Ofek youth-prison near the Sharon prison, but the condition of Palestinian security-prisoners, still in the Sharon prison has deteriorated. Which conditions call for Palestinian minors to be sent to the Megiddo military prison and which conditions call for them to be sent to the Sharon prison is not clear, and we hope that with the opening of the new Ofek-prison complex this will change. The fact that Palestinian minors, although in very low numbers, are in administrative detention is highly undesirable. Closures and siege make family members’ visits impossible, even if they go in ICRC busses. The civil administration authorities should make exceptions for visits by family members of minors in prison. Special measures should be taken to solve the problem of visits during times of security tensions.
More lawyers should be involved in procedures that decide if minors will be committed to psychiatric hospitals.
9. Optional Protocols
Although the Optional protocols to the CRC are signed, they are not yet ratified. The Knesset and the CRC Committee need urgently to be informed by the office of the Military Judge Advocate General if minors who are volunteers (17-18 year old) are still being placed in action, or only in training.
10. Dissemination of Reports
Although the State has sent the Hebrew version of the State report to many NGOs, we recommend that the concluding observations of the CRC Committee be translated into Hebrew and Arabic and sent to them as well. The concluding observations of this NGO report and of the CRC Committee should be part of the debate in the Knesset. The government should use its obligation to use its budgets to disseminate the CRC or provide more budgets to NGO’s to do this with accompanying educational programs.
XI. Appendices Appendix 1: List of Members of the Israeli Children’s Rights Coalition Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Advocate Jamil Dakwar
Adam Institute for Human Rights Education
PO Box 3353
Director: Ms.Ukki Marushek
Hisman Street 1
Ramat Efal, 52960
Director: Orna Robberman
Akim-Israel (National Association for the Habilitation of the Mentally Handicapped)
69 Pinhas Rosen Street
Tel Aviv 69410
Assiwar, Arab Feminist Movement in Support of Victims of Sexual Abuse
PO Box 44803
Nahed Dirbass, Coordinator
E-mail: email@example.com Alut, National Association for Children with Autism