Jerusalem24 – Initially instituted in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day, states worldwide now celebrate World Children’s Day each year on 20 November, aiming to “promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.”
The date marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly in 1959, as well as the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 30 years later.
On World Children’s Day, we take a look at some basic children’s rights as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN in 1989, and provide a snapshot of the situation for Palestinian children in occupied Palestine in 2022.
The right to education
Article 28 of the Convention stipulates all children have the right to an education “on the basis of equal opportunity”.
On the occasion of World Children’s Day, the Palestinian Ministry of Education has highlighted a number of issues faced by Palestinian schoolchildren in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.
In East Jerusalem, Palestinian families have been fighting for their children’s right to study the Palestinian curriculum rather than the Israeli-imposed one which they say “distorts and omits historical facts”. Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem which refuse to teach the Israeli curriculum face discrimination in funding and may see their permanent teaching licenses revoked.
Half a dozen schools also currently face imminent demolition or threats of demolition while another 50 are at risk in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Ein Samiya school north of Jerusalem, which serves around 40 students with no other school nearby, faces demolition by 31 December 2022 after the Jerusalem District Court dismissed on 30 October the residents’ petition to freeze the demolition order. In Masafer Yatta south of Hebron, where around 1,200 residents face forced displacement, a total of four schools are currently threatened by an Israeli Supreme Court ruling which paves the way for their demolition.
In addition to threats to institutions and access to education, Palestinian schoolchildren have also been experiencing an increasing number of physical attacks on schools and students by both Israeli settlers and the military, with students regularly suffering from tear gas inhalation, cuts and bruises from physical assaults, and daytime military raids on classrooms.
The right to housing
Article 27 recognizes “the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development”, particularly “with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.”
In the first 10 months of 2022, 409 children were displaced due to home demolitions in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.
Palestinian-owned homes and structures in occupied East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control as per the 1994 Oslo Accords, often face demolition under the pretext they lack building permits nearly impossible to obtain from Israeli authorities, even if the homes are built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
Children in occupied East Jerusalem are disproportionately affected by demolitions and displacement, with over a third of the total number of displaced children hailing from the occupied city and its surrounding villages.
According to a study by the Child Protection Center, 33% of the children affected by home demolitions suffer from severe psychological trauma, 60% suffer moderate trauma, and nearly 80% suffer from moderate or severe symptoms of PTSD.
In Gaza, 97 families collectively housing hundreds of children have been internally displaced after their homes were severely damaged or completely destroyed during Israel’s three-day bombing campaign on the Strip at the beginning of August. A further 1,800 homes suffered varying levels of damage.
The right to medical care
Article 24 guarantees “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health.”
Over 15 years of blockade imposed on Gaza by both Israeli and Egyptian authorities, as well as four wars between 2008 and 2022, have had a devastating effect on Gaza’s health sector and many seriously ill children must seek treatment in East Jerusalem hospitals.
In order to travel to East Jerusalem, both the child and an accompanying parent or guardian must obtain permits from the Israeli authorities. Between 2008 and 2022, an average of 31% of children have seen their application for permits denied or significantly delayed, endangering their health and compromising their chances of recovery.
The proportion of permits denied also doubled between 2020 and 2021, with 17% rejected in 2020 and 32% in 2021, according to Physicians for Human Rights – Israel.
Accompanying family members also frequently see their permits denied or delayed, resulting in over 40% of children having to travel and receive treatment alone or with someone other than a parent.
Three children from Gaza have died in 2022 after being denied permits for medical treatment in East Jerusalem.
The right to protection from torture and arbitrary detention
Article 37 stipulates that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, nor “be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily”, with prison only used as “a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”.
Over 750 children have been arrested by the Israeli military so far in 2022, around 160 of which remain in detention. Around 50,000 children have been arrested by Israeli forces since 1967, including over 9,000 in the past seven years alone.
Currently, at least seven children are being arbitrarily detained without charge or trial and without knowing what evidence is held against them, according to “administrative detention” orders lasting up to six months at a time and indefinitely renewable.
Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank are systematically tried in military courts and are subject to military law, while Palestinian children from occupied East Jerusalem are subject to Israeli civilian law.
While a significant percentage of the total number of detained children usually live in occupied East Jerusalem, this year Jerusalemite children constituted an outright majority of the arrests. Jerusalemite children are often subjected to house arrest, particularly younger children as Israeli law does not allow the imprisonment of children under the age of 14. Around 130 Palestinian children in Jerusalem are currently under house arrest.
Despite this law, Jerusalemite Palestinian Ahmad Manasra was detained at the age of 13 in 2015 and imprisoned at the age of 14 for nine and a half years. Now aged 21, he has spent the past year in solitary confinement and his lawyer and doctors say his mental health situation is “critical”.
The conditions of arrest and detention of Palestinian children by the Israeli military and police are “no different from the conditions imposed on adults”, according to the Commission for Detainees’ and Ex-Detainees’ Affairs. A 2016 report by Defense for Children International–Palestine found that 75% of detained children suffered physical violence during their detention, 69% were strip-searched, 97% were interrogated without the presence of family members or a lawyer, 88% were not informed of the reason for their arrest, 33% were made to sign documents in Hebrew, and 15% were held in solitary confinement for over 48 hours.
Israel is the only state in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military courts, with an over 99% conviction rate.
The right to life
Article 6 recognizes every child’s inherent right to life.
According to documentation collected by Jerusalem24, in addition to the three Gazan children who died after being denied permits for medical treatment, 54 Palestinian children have been shot and killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers or following Israeli military intervention in the West Bank and Gaza so far in 2022, the latest of which was 14-year-old Fulla Ramzi Masalmeh who was shot in the head and chest while sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle around 4AM on 14 November. According to Fulla’s mother, she was autistic and often wandered away from home in the middle of the night.
These figures also include 6-year-old Rayyan Suliman, who suffered cardiac arrest and died after Israeli soldiers gave pursuit to local schoolchildren in the village of Tuqu’ near Bethlehem on 29 September.
With 35 casualties, 2022 has been the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2003 at the height of the Second Intifada, when 56 children were killed by Israeli fire.Both Israel and the State of Palestine are signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.