The Weekend Australian/4 Corners one-sided investigation. What can YOU do?
by Gabsy Debinski
Many of you will have come across two articles written by John Lyons in this week’s The Weekend Australian. These featured as part of a joint-campaign between The Weekend Australian and ABC’s Four Corners on the Israeli justice system and its alleged mistreatment of Palestinian ‘children.’
The first article, ‘Israel in U-Turn on child justice’ featured on page three while the second, ‘Palestinian children pawns in an unjust system’ featured as a huge spread in the Inquirer.
Unfortunately, these are only the prelude for what’s likely to come. Tonight (February 10) The ABC’s Four Corners will continue the expose in a segment titled ‘Stone Cold Justice’. The show’s blurb reads as follows: “John Lyons travels to the West Bank to hear the story of children who claim they have been taken into custody, ruthlessly questioned and then allegedly forced to sign confessions before being taken to court for sentencing.”
The issue at the heart of Lyons’ investigation is that “Israel enforces two legal systems for children in the West Bank: one for Palestinian children and one for the children of Jewish settlers. A Palestinian child accused of a crime is brought before Israel’s military court while an Israeli child appears before a civilian court.” You can find an interview with John Lyons on his investigations here…you’ll quickly get the gist of it.
Lyons’ makes repeated reference to a UNICEF report published last year which concluded that ill-treatment of Palestinian children appeared to be “widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”
But this evidence is far from new or refreshing. Back in 2011 Lyons launched this same personal investigation publishing a feature piece in The Australian Magazine. Close comparison reveals that no new information or interviews have been added to the repertoire this time around. Rather, the same misinformation has been rehashed with a bang.
It is reasonable to assume that these two articles offer a preview of what is to come on Four Corners this evening. We encourage all community members to tune in at 8.30 pm on ABC1 and see whether this issue is handled neutrally and suitably. It is safe to say that the previews suggest otherwise.
We have also been told that this story will possibly feature on Drive with Rafael Epstein on 774 ABC Melbourne radio this afternoon (3-6pm), as well as on ABC’s The Drum.
We have put together some core talking points that we hope will make it easier for the community to stand up and rebuff the inaccuracies and biases that have been circulating around this issue.
1. Palestinian “children”
Lyons repeatedly laments the cruel arbitrary arrest of “Palestinian children.” But who are the Palestinian children to which he refers? 16 year olds? Any person below the age of 18? It is hard to believe that of the 700 + Palestinian youth to which Lyons refers, a majority are five and six year olds. The emotive images suggest the children are very young however most of those arrested for crimes are predominantly youths aged 17 and 18. They are engaged in serious terrorist activity and carry out the same heinous crimes as those Palestinians who are legal adults.
2. Understanding the need for 2 judicial systems
Lyons makes a grave error in his comparison of the legal proceedings for “Jewish children” and “Palestinian children.” Contrary to Lyons’ positioning, the two legal systems are divided between Israeli citizens (including Jews, Arabs, Christians and others) living and offending in Israel and non-Israeli citizens in the disputed territories. As Honest Reporting explains “this is not a division based on race, ethnicity or religion but on the legal status of the disputed territories.” The Israeli justice system cannot be applied to Palestinian youth in the West Bank as it is still a disputed territory. To apply Israeli civil law to this region would signify annexation, undoubtedly causing international outcry and accusations of breach of international law. What’s that they say about damned if you do, damned if you don’t? The legal status of the settlements is complex and Lyons should acknowledge this outright rather than filtering out facts that spoil his version of the story.
3. Why arrest the perpetrators at night?
This investigation has gained traction largely due to its highly emotive undertone. The arrest of Palestinian youth at night-time is portrayed as aggressive, immoral and inhumane. However, were Israeli soldiers to enter Palestinian villages in the West Bank during the daytime, the prospect of riots and armed conflict would be great. Arresting Palestinians during the night minimizes the chance of dangerous confrontation and reduces potential casualties on both sides. Minimizing injury for Israelis and Palestinians is something Israel strives for. Is this method desired? Absolutely not.However, it surpasses potential disastrous alternatives.
4. Enlisting children and youth for terror activities is child abuse
The question that needs to be raised unequivocally is why are Palestinian ‘children’ in the streets throwing stones rather than in school? Indeed, it is not the Israeli justice system that plays Palestinian youth as pawns, but rather Hamas, the PA and the Palestinian leadership that recruit their own youths as puppets in their game of armed conflict. Palestinians know the deadly repercussions of rock throwing and the potential legal implications. Yet, they continue to exploit their children in their own violent pursuits rather than foster sentiments of mutual coexistence.
By the same token children as young as five are recruited as ‘assistants’ for suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks that have killed many innocent civilians. Unfortunately, Lyons ignores the dilemma of the Israeli courts to deal with the very challenging problems posed by Palestinian “child terrorists.”
5.”Stone throwing” is terror, not child’s play
Lyons’ shows his contempt for balance when he continuously plays down the lethal repercussions of stone throwing. There have been countless fatalities and serious injuries caused by Palestinians throwing rocks at passing cars and civilians. Lyons’ makes fleeting reference to Adele Biton, a three year old Israeli girl who was still in hospital with head injuries four months after Palestinian youths threw rocks at her car. However, he quickly changes the tone to imply (without direct quotation) that the child’s mother, Adva, “says the law should be the same for Palestinians and Jews.” This is clunky journalism at best, malicious distortion at worst.
Gerald Steinberg, President of NGO Monitor based in Jerusalem touched on this back in 2011 when the first spate of propaganda surfaced. He wrote most aptly: “Attempts to minimise or erase the severity of these crimes works against an enduring solution and perpetuates the exploitation of Palestinian youth, as well as adding to the toll on Israeli children.”
I am not going to recount examples of Palestinian youth committing grave crimes. Many case studies are linked in the articles above; horrific examples of 16, 17 and 18 year olds engaging in terrorist activities resulting in loss of innocent life.
Honest Reporting has prepared a fantastic piece debunking these distortions. Please read Rock Solid Reporting Down Under? and send it around.
WHAT YOU CAN DO? BE AN ADVOCATE…
To be effective in setting the record straight we cannot rely merely on our communal leadership to pave the way. It is up to every single one of us to rally strong; take to Facebook, Twitter and challenge the main media outlets for the sake of balance, reason and so the death of countless Israeli terror victims is not in vain.
Engagement in social media will be powerful in the coming days. Of course we will be posting and commenting on our FB page (like us atwww.facebook.com/ZionistFederationAustralia ) – please add your comments, “like” and share to expand reach exponentially.
The Zionist Councils of Victoria and NSWwill also be updating their FB pages regularly.
Also please check our website for regular updates as the issue evolveshttp://www.zfa.com.au/.
If you have not done so already, please follow the ZFA on Twitter @ZionistFedAus and retweet our comments or make your own.Remember to hashtag 4 Corners or the relevant media outlet in your Twitter comments so that people following the issue will see your comments as well.
Below you will find contact details for the various programs mentioned above. We implore you to make your voices heard.
774 ABC Melbourne (Radio)
SMS comments to 0437 774 774
ABC’s The Drum
or participate in the 4 Corners letter forum here:http://www2b.abc.net.au/tmb/Client/MessageList.aspx?b=37&t=1&te=True
Online: Lodge a complaint
Email: Send your complaint
Call: 139 994