The human rights situation has deteriorated enormously since September 2000 – the physical and mental well being of children in almost every area are being threatened. The daily phenomena of the violent Palestinian-Israeli conflict leave many children troubled and traumatized. If there is no forthcoming peaceful resolution of this conflict, generations of children will suffer from the fear and danger of suicide bombings and drive-by shooting of civilians by one side, and shooting at young people with rubber bullets and live ammunition by the other. The international community must be fully aware of this fact, and hopefully will help Israel and its neighbors reach a just and lasting peace.
Israeli Ambassador-at-large David Kimche said recently: “without the resumption of the peace process, Israel will be the continued victim of low-intensity violence and there will be more Palestinian suicide-bomber…the result will be catastrophic and signify its failure for the Jewish people to live in a normal existence in its own state”.31 We have reached a situation where by the time the Committee, in its 32nd session, enters a dialogue with the State Party, the situation will have deteriorated even further. The UN representative said in January, 2002 that we are on the “brink of the brink”. However, soon after the situation deteriorated further into a war-like situation with daily Palestinian suicide bombers in Israeli cities and IDF military action in Palestinian towns and cities.
The context in which the rights of children have to be implemented is an ongoing and intensifying conflict. Whoever the “winners” are, the losers are definitely the children of both sides. The present deterioration of the situation will have devastating long-term effects on children. They will look upon the other with suspicion and negative stereotypes will be in their minds. We fear that there may be a loss of ability to see the perspective of the “other.”
The Mitchell Committee reported:
“During our last visit to the region, we met with the families of Palestinian and Israeli victims. These individual accounts of grief were heart-rending and indescribably sad. Israeli and Palestinian families used virtually the same words to describe their grief.
When the widow of a murdered Israeli physician- a man of peace whose practice included the treatment of Arab patients, tells us that it seems that Palestinians are interested in killing Jews for the sake of killing Jews, Palestinians should take notice. When the parents of a Palestinian child killed while in his bed by an errant .50 caliber bullet draw similar conclusions about the respect accorded by Israelis to Palestinian lives, Israelis need to listen. When we see the shattered bodies of children we know it is time for adults to stop the violence.”32
Suggested Questions to the Government by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child:
Can the Government explain its difficulties with implementing the laws mentioned in the Initial Report in pages 28-30?
Why did the Report fail to include information on Palestinian children? Article 2 of the CRC requires information on “all children under the jurisdiction of the State Party.” Can the State provide additional information33 about Palestinian minors arrested for illegal entry and Palestinian minors who are deprived of their liberty in Israeli jails and prisons, particularly regarding how Israel’s Military Orders for the Occupied territories relate to children and adolescents?
II. General Measures of Implementation The Israeli government can ratify conventions, but they will not have the force of law until the Knesset enacts legislation that would incorporate them into the law of the land. There have been many proposals to enact legislation requiring incorporation but, unfortunately, these attempts have not had wide-scale support – a disappointment to those concerned with implementation. However some progress has been made in introducing the concept of children’s rights and protection into legislation on both national and local levels.
We must commend the Government for having ratified the Convention without reservations. According to many Alternative Reports of colleagues from other countries, a considerable amount of their efforts are dedicated to convincing governments to withdraw their reservations. At least we do not have this problem.1
A. ARTICLE 4 – IMPLEMENTATION OBLIGATIONS OF THE STATE Since 1995 several proposals were made to introduce a “Law of Implementation”, which would make the Convention on the Rights of the Child the first human rights convention fully incorporated into Israeli law.2The then Minister of Justice, David Libai, approved the proposal and promised to bring it to the Knesset. It was, however, “frozen” soon after.
In June 1997, a subsequent Minister of Justice, Tzachi Hanegbi appointed a “Committee to Examine Fundamental Principles Concerning Children and the Law and their Implementation in Legislation” thereafter the Rotlevy Committee, named after its chairperson Judge Saviona Rotlevy. The Committee’s task was to oversee possibilities for harmonizing existing laws with the Convention into a Children’s Rights Law, which would also include amendments of existing laws and additional legislation-proposals. However, four different privately initiated Knesset Members' proposals to raise the status of the Convention to the law of the land did not get approval from the Government Committee for Legislation.
We ask the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to appeal to the Israeli delegation to incorporate the full Convention as State law, which will guarantee minimum standards, and then to expand it with an issue-specific Children’s Rights Law. This will ensure that one can turn to the Supreme Court on issues pertaining to the Convention, and that the Court can interpret a problem in light of the Convention as the law of the land.
Structurally, the Committee is composed of several sub-committees that deal with different topics, making the overall work pace very slow; it may be years before a Children’s Rights Law and related proposals are implemented.
Perhaps because of the slow pace of the Rotlevy Committee, certain private member bills, initiated independently, have been passed, while the Committee itself has not produced new legislation. Nevertheless, the seriousness of the effort and the investment of the government in its work will help to advance children’s rights in Israel.
In addition, Yehudit Karp’s Committee on Legislation for Children in the Ministry of Justice has been extremely influential in Israel’s lawmaking.
MK Silvan Shalom, currently Minister of Finance, introduced the Pupil’s Rights Law, which was adopted in the year 2000; it takes the opinion of the child into account in certain matters pertaining to his/her education. While the law is a step forward, it does not cover all of the educational systems in the country. At the request of ultra-orthodox Members of Knesset, it excludes all private schools, including the private religious educational system, and some Arab and municipal schools. Such narrowly focused, independent legislation cannot compensate for the incapacity of the Rotlevy Committee to bring about a comprehensive incorporation of the Convention into Israeli law.
If there is political will, there is no political problem to incorporate international treaties into Israeli Law. In the year 2000, the Knesset adopted a Hebrew translation of the Hague Treaty on the sales of goods into Israel: law by a special law. Such a course of action could also be taken to incorporate the whole CRC but, apparently the political will does not fully exist.
Children’s issues can easily be put on the Knesset’s agenda, but few Members of Knesset are interested in this. In 2001, MK Tamar Gozansky, the Chairperson of the Knesset Committee for the Status of the Child, introduced a private member bill for mandatory child impact statements to be added to new laws. Child impact statements, which are already in force in various countries (Norway, for example) to anticipate the consequences of development on children, could help Israel maintain the spirit of the Convention by avoiding or modifying projects harmful to children. Yet a majority of the Knesset rejected the bill.
Hats off to MK Gozansky who in 2002 tried again, and in the preliminary reading, the proposal was accepted. (In order for the proposal to pass, she had to delete the word “statement,” because the Government did not want lengthy statements of fifty pages on every issue’s impact on children.)
Sometimes, even if there is a Supreme Court decision, rights are implemented inappropriately. For example the Regional Council for Unrecognized Negev Arab Villages won a case making the installation of electricity mandatory in schools for Bedouin children in unrecognized villages. The Ministry of Education indeed “installed” electricity, but with generators, which make a lot of noise (creating problems for students in understanding the teacher) and emit an unpleasant smell; additionally, this minimal compliance with the court’s decision exceeded the time frame called for by the Supreme Court.3 The Noar Ha’oved Ve’halomed organization (General Federation of Students and Young Workers in Israel), gives another example of how the government is not actively implementing the rights of children who are school dropouts and are neither in an educational framework nor employed. These children can be traced by truant officers or other government officials, but are largely ignored. The government should find solutions in order to bring them back to a normative framework.
The same organization4notes that the lack of information is a serious obstacle to implementation. While the organization tries to provide children with information on their rights, it is actually the responsibility of the government. Young workers do not know when they can take a break during work, or when they need to buy uniforms, (McDonald’s tried to oblige workers to buy uniforms until No’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed intervened). Children are not aware of the fact that the employer is required to provide rides home at the end of evening work-hours nor of the minimum wage law, nor what tasks are illegal for young workers (i.e. work with chemicals or overly-taxing physical work). There is a need for the government to be more active in providing information so that young people will know their rights.