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MPs attack Israel for 'ill-treatment' of Palestinian children

Politicians also used the debate to criticise the Palestinian Authority’s incitement of children to carry out acts of violence against Israelis.

    Sarah Champion opens the Westminster Hall debate
    Sarah Champion opens the Westminster Hall debate

    Dozens of MPs have criticised Israel over the military detention of Palestinian children.

    Leading a debate on the issue in Westminster Hall today, Sarah Champion said Israel’s ill-treatment of children in the military detention system was widespread and institutionalised.

    The Rotherham MP said children were mistreated “through the process from arrest until the child’s prosecution, conviction and sentencing”.

    She said very little had been done by Israel to bring the process in line with basic international standards.

    “The empirical evidence is clear, half a decade after Unicef and UK lawyers’ reports were published with dozens of recommendations to bring Israel’s military system in line with basic international standards, there has been limited implementation,” Ms Champion said.

    As part of her opening statement, the Labour backbencher described instances of Palestinian minors being arrested at night and forced to sign documents in Hebrew.

    She said Palestinian children were regularly not informed of their right to silence and “forced into” confessing to crimes by aggressive Israeli interrogators.

    The debate was also attended by pro-Israel MPs who criticised the Palestinian Authority’s incitement of children to carry out acts of violence against Israelis.

    Joan Ryan, a Labour MP and chair of the party's Friends of Israel group, said the debate was evidence of Parliament’s disproportionate focus on Israel.

    While she welcomed the debate and said Israel should be held to high standards, she pointed out “we have not debated the treatment of child prisoners in Iran or indeed Egypt”.

    Ms Ryan said the UK must make clear “its deep and continuing concern at the Palestinian Authority’s policy of inciting violence.

    “We see it in the way schools are named after terrorist and we see it in the way children are asked to count the number of martyrs in a Palestinian uprising as part of a maths question.

    “We must reiterate our concern that Palestinian leaders attempt to recruit children into acts of violence.”

    Louise Ellman, Labour MP, said: “The failure of Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict has resulted in the situation we have today.”

    She criticised Palestinian leaders for encouraging incitement among children.

    “If young people are repeatedly told that murderous terrorists are heroes it is no surprise they want to emulate them,”

    Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, led the response to Ms Champion’s claims by saying he had visited a family whose young son was arrested in the middle of the night.

    He raised the issue of indefinite detention of children without charge.

    “Israel has started using administrative detention, detention without charge, and that must be wrong on any basis,” he said.

    Ms Champion said: “Night-time raids by Israeli military personnel causes’ distress to children and families.

    “Inevitably night raids on any civilian population by any military have a tendency to terrify these communities, and after 50 years this can become hugely debilitating.”

    Desmond Swayne, Conservative MP for New Forest West, told the debate that an Israeli soldier had told him night arrests “were to be carried out in such a brutal manner” in order to intimidate.

    Martin Whitfield, Labour MP for East Lothian, criticised Israel for not applying the same rules to Palestinian children as it does to Israeli children under civilian code.

    He said: “Under the civilian code applied to Israeli children there is a requirement for a parent to attend during interrogation and they do not occur at night.

    “The same isn’t reflected in the military rules.”

    Many of the MPs raised the case of Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian girl who was arrested after she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier.

    The teenager remains in custody after being detained on December 19.

    Ms Champion said: “I think it’s important to recall that Ahed is just one of over 800 children arrested each year according to the most recent data.”

    Kate Hollern, Labour MP for Blackburn, said the treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli military courts was “appalling”.

    She said: “You must accept that any form of human rights abuse is abhorrent and should not be condoned in any way.

    “As a grandma and a mum, it shocks and disturbs me that people, never mind children, are being treated in such an appalling way."

    Alistair Burt, Middle East Minister, closed the debate.

    He said: “Israel and the Palestinian Authority need to prepare their populations for peace and coexistence.”

    Mr Burt said encouraging incitement to violence “makes it more difficult to achieve peace”.

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