NGO Monitor exposes how UNICEF is being manipulated into putting Israel Defense Forces on UN’s list of child rights violators
ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Boko Haram justifiably appear on the UN’s list of grave violators of children’s rights in conflict zones. But UNICEF is also spearheading a campaign to have Israel’s military included on this blacklist, which could lead to Security Council sanctions if successful.
It’s preposterous that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) could be grouped among terror groups and militias from failed states, together with the planet’s worst offenders in terms of protecting children.
But the problem is that UNICEF has for years been partnering with a group of virulently anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who play an integral role in advancing this campaign to blacklist the IDF, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from UNICEF to do so.
These NGOs, some of whom reportedly have links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group, supply UNICEF’s Palestinian office (UNICEF-oPt) with a steady stream of inaccurate information and distorted claims about Israel’s justice system and the operations of its security forces.
This propaganda then becomes the basis for misleading and false UNICEF reports about the alleged mistreatment of Palestinian minors involved in violent attacks and who are subsequently arrested by the IDF.
Basically, UNICEF has allowed itself to become corrupted by a virulently anti-Israel and pro-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) agenda, which is now perverting its mandate of child protection and its guidelines of neutrality and impartiality, as documented in a 49 page report released last week by the watchdog group NGO Monitor, UNICEF and its NGO Working Group: The Campaign to Blacklist the IDF.
NGO Monitor’s New Report
Created in 1946 to promote the rights and welfare of children worldwide, UNICEF has done—and continues to do—an enormous amount of good.
This is true for the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on “Children in Armed Conflict” (CAAC). Aimed at combating the recruitment and use of child soldiers initially, today it focuses on a range of “grave violations” against children such as attacks on schools; denial of humanitarian access to children; and killing, maiming, raping and other forms of sexual violence.
Since 2001, the Secretary-General includes an Annex to the annual reports, listing specific states and non-state actors that are among the severest violators. In 2005, the Security Council established a monitoring and reporting mechanism (MRM) to provide timely, objective and accurate information on violations committed against children, but only for those listed in the Annex.
There’s no mandate under an MRM to monitor and report on Israel, which is why—for over a decade—anti-Israel NGOs have been lobbying to have the IDF inserted onto the Annex. As NGO Monitor notes, the groups are “hoping to harm Israel’s international image and perhaps even obtain sanctions against it” (p. 6).
For now though, “Israel/State of Palestine” gets discussed in the CAAC report because it’s on the Security Council’s agenda—so since 2007 UNICEF has headed a Working Group there to monitor and report on “grave violations against children”.
To do this work, UNICEF has been teaming up with nearly two dozen NGOs, many of whom are unqualified to collect or assess human rights violations and some of which have ties to U.S. and European-designated terror organizations.
As the new NGO Monitor report highlights, none of these organizations are neutral or impartial, as required under UNICEF guidelines. They work to advance a common goal: to gather up a sufficient amount of “data” so that the UN Secretary-General will deem it necessary to put the IDF on the “Annex” listing parties to armed conflict which engage in practices that systematically and grievously breach the rights of the child.
Among the ways they do this is by failing to report the context in which Palestinian minors might be harmed. For example, a UNICEF report covering October 2015 noted that 15 Palestinian children were killed during this time period. But what it left out was that 13 of these kids were perpetrating stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians, and were thus participating in hostilities when they were prevented from harming any more people (p. 8).
The NGO Monitor study is a meticulously documented overview of the complex UN framework under which UNICEF and its NGO partners are carrying out this sort of political advocacy against Israel:
UNICEF funding is channeled to NGOs, several of which are linked to Palestinian terror groups. In turn, the NGOs produce biased reports and feed the information into the UNICEF Working Group database. The problematic and unverifiable claims are then laundered by being published under UNICEF’s name. UNICEF’s reports are subsequently regarded as supposed evidence of grave violations committed by Israel, including in the context of the Secretary-General’s report.”
The report also provides a helpful breakdown of the funding:
What’s noteworthy here is that the UNICEF funding is clearly a cash-cow for the Palestinian-based groups involved in the Working Group and who serve as Implementing Partners. As the report notes, participating members are also well-aware that including Israel on the CAAC blacklist would mean even more funding to UNICEF-oPt and its NGO partners on account of it requiring an “upgrade of their official status” and the creation of an official UN-mandated country task force (p. 5).
So the campaign to blacklist the IDF isn’t just being advanced on principle. It’s also a way to fleece the international community.
The whole NGO Monitor report is worth reading.
But I think some of the most revealing parts are in Appendix VI (pp. 31-48), where NGO Monitor reprints some of the email and letter correspondence with donor states. It’s obvious from the answers provided that the funding governments don’t have a clue that their money is being using for anti-Israel advocacy targeting the IDF. Most donor countries who responded couldn’t specify what NGOs were partnering with UNICEF to provide the deliverables (p. 10).
For example, in an exchange with NGO Monitor this fall, the Canadian government actually put in writing that their funding was being used solely for humanitarian programming. The officials assumed the funding was “used for its intended purpose”: to train teachers, for counseling and psychological support, and for retrofitting schools.
In fact, the funds went to record cases of alleged IDF and Israeli Police intimidation, harassment and violence that impeded school attendance and to train volunteers to monitor it (p. 11).
UNICEF’s NGO Working Group and Partners – Even a Tamimi Connection
The new NGO Monitor report provides detailed information on 11 of UNICEF’s NGO partners (Appendix III, pp. 21-25). All of them are promoters of BDS and are active in lobbying for this agenda.
Some of the groups, including Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and Addameer, have links to the PFLP. As the report documents, their founders, current directors, or senior employees have been previously convicted on terror-related charges. At least one was reportedly denied a visa to the U.S. for this reason.
It’s worth scanning this section of the NGO Monitor report and perusing the many hyperlinks to get a sense of the distorted and one-sided version of the conflict that these groups espouse, the ways they ignore terror against Israeli civilians, and how they all demonize Israel.
I wasn’t surprised to find the West Bank’s Manal Tamimi pop up (p. 22). As we’ve noted in a prior post, she’s a member of the notorious terror-supporting Tamimi family, who routinely employs anti-Semitic and violently anti-Israel rhetoric and imagery on her social media accounts, Media should stop whitewashing Ahed Tamimi’s terror-supporting family.
According to NGO Monitor, she’s also an activist who works with Al Mezan, a UNICEF-oPt Working Group member. In 2016, Al Mezan saw fit to hail her as a “prominent human rights defender” in an NGO submission which it co-authored.
In addition to summarizing the programing of these 11 UNICEF affiliates, the NGO Monitor report also includes more in-depth coverage of DCI-P and EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).
Both have been vehement anti-Israel campaigners for years.
Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P)
Back in 2015, DCI-P launched a lobbying campaign “No Way to Treat a Child” which calls on government officials to “use all available means to pressure the Israeli government to end the detention and abuse of Palestinian children.”
The reality is that it’s a cynical campaign that abuses Palestinian kids for anti-Israel propaganda purposes and which is now emerging as a dominant theme in BDS activism, Ahed Tamimi case is about child exploitation by anti-Israel activists.
As NGO Monitor reports, “Despite claiming to advocate for child rights, DCI-P has not done any campaigning in protest to the Palestinian policy of exploiting children to carry out attacks on both civilians and security personnel—both of which are serious violations of international law.”
The NGO Monitor report documents how DCI-P makes claims that are self-incriminating and could constitute ethical violations and malpractice when DCI-P staff lawyers represent Palestinian minors in court—for example, claiming that Palestinian minors accused of involvement in violent crimes accept plea bargains even when innocent, or that their confessions were acquired through violence and torture.
The report links to a separate NGO Monitor study published back in September which details how DCI-P misrepresents international law and criminal law concepts in alleging “child abuse” by Israel’s security forces.
Most of the “data” it collects and feeds into the UNICEF database is in the form of anonymous complaints which were never actually submitted as formal complaints to appropriate Israeli civilian or military authorities, and thus can’t be verified.
These false claims are then repeated uncritically in UNICEF reports.
There’s clearly a cost that comes with the production of these biased UNICEF reports, which draw on the information and documents prepared and submitted by DCI-P—essentially an unvetted and rogue NGO operation. Recently a 2013 UNICEF report along with a DCI-P report and material on its website, became the basis for U.S. congressional legislation (HR 4391) introduced last month by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).
Basically, Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum was misled by UNICEF and DCI-P, the leading anti-Israel advocacy NGO in UNICEF-oPt’s ‘Working Group’. The bill she’s proposed is nothing more than a “recycled” version of DCI-P’s unverified claims (most of the bill actually copies DCI-P materials verbatim).
EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel)
EAPPI is a flagship project of the World Council of Churches, a virulently anti-Israel umbrella organization for hundreds of Christian denominations.
The EAPPI has brought nearly 2,000 volunteers to the West Bank to “witness life under occupation.” These non-professional, highly biased volunteers document allegations of IDF wrongdoing which are then uploaded onto the UNICEF-oPt database—even though they have no training in human rights reporting and minimal experience and knowledge of the conflict (pp. 14-15).
It worth noting that EAPPI endorses the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD), which calls for BDS, rationalizes and justifies terrorism, denies the Jewish attachment to Israel on theological grounds, and draws an explicit comparison between contemporary Palestinian society and the black townships of South Africa.
As we noted in a prior post, KPD is a hate-filled document that serves as the foundational basis for a global campaign of political, economic, and cultural warfare against the Jewish state, which it depicts as a “sin against God and humanity”.
Written back in 2009 by a group of 15 Palestinian Christians, several of the drafters and signatories of the KPD reportedly had ties to terrorist organizations; a number of others had reportedly enthusiastically supported and encouraged the Palestinian campaign of suicide bombings during the second intifada.
Over the years, the KPD has been condemned as a “massive lie” and a “factually, theologically and morally flawed” summary of the history of the conflict and roadmap for peace (for a list of critical statements, see here).
Many Christian organizations (e.g., Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East) and Jewish organizations (e.g., the Central Conference of American Rabbis-CCAR) have objected to the document’s echoes of supersessionist language, rejected by most mainstream Christian denominations.
According to the CCAR:
A close reading of Kairos reveals that it is anything but a document based on truth. Careful consideration of what it says and what it does not say, of the history it paints and the history it obfuscates, and other moral yardstick it applies to Israel yet compromises in the face of Palestinian violence, reveals a morally inconsistent and theologically suspect document that speaks only part of the truth, and not always that. Sadly this document also rejects or ignores more than a half century of Jewish-Christian rapprochement and takes its place among other Christian documents which, throughout history, have intended to delegitimize the Jewish people’s continuing Covenant with God, particularly arguing that our Covenant has been superseded by Jesus and Christianity”.
False Accusations Alleging ‘Child Abuse’ by Israeli Security Forces
Israel’s security forces are widely acknowledged to comply with the laws of armed conflict in terms of protecting civilians during military operations. It’s justice system in the West Bank is also guided by the requirements of international law.
Thus, for example, the Fourth Geneva Convention obligates Israel, as an occupying power, to “ensure and restore public order and safety” and to create Military Courts in which to prosecute Palestinians, including minors (as NGO Monitor rightly notes, domestic civilian law can’t be applied to Palestinian minors, as UNICEF’s NGO partners demand, because this would violate the Oslo Accords, would be akin to an annexation of territory, and would be outside international law’s “occupation paradigm”).
The NGO Monitor report discusses a number of other distorted and misleading “facts” documented by UNICEF’s NGO partners which attempt to suggest that the Israeli military justice system fails to conform to international juvenile justice standards with regard to rules of evidence, procedure, and standard of proof.
The reality is that Israel not only adheres to these safeguards but in many cases exceeds them.
For example, Israel separates minors from adult detainees as a way to protect—not harm—children, even though the UNICEF-affiliated NGOs incorrectly terms this as “solitary confinement”. The NGOs also decry that Israel is denying minors access to parents or legal counsel during interrogations. But under Israeli law, Israeli minors under arrest don’t have a right to have a parent or a lawyer present during their interrogation—the same applies to Palestinian minors.
Claims by the UNICEF-oPt’s Working Group that Israel is unjustly arresting high numbers of Palestinian minors are also false.
As noted by NGO Monitor, an average of 85 children are arrested each month out of a total population of one million minors in the West Bank. By comparison, in England and Wales authorities arrested a total of 90,000 youths ages 10-17 in 2015-2016 (about 7,500 per month), and that’s not in the context of situations where young people are being incited to take to the streets with knives, rocks, and firebombs. (Another way to break down these numbers: 0.055% of Palestinian minors are arrested annually; in contrast, in the U.S. more than a million, or 1.42%, of all juveniles are arrested each year).
These statistics simply don’t show Israel as unreasonably targeting Palestinian minors.
As far as I can tell from the descriptions of the reporting and monitoring by the various UNICEF partners, none of them take up the issue of the obstacles that Israeli children face as a result of illegal rocket attacks.
Recent studies note that some 40% of Israeli children who have lived for years within range of Hamas missile fire suffer from anxiety disorders and PTSD.
However, this isn’t the kind of data that appears in the reports of the Working Group members, or that gets inputted into the UNICEF-oPt database.
Ignoring Palestinian Incitement of Children to Violence
One of the central findings of NGO Monitor’s report is UNICEF’s compromised ability to assist exploited children in the West Bank and Gaza.
A key component of UNICEF’s Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) mandate is to end the manipulation and use of children as combatants and child soldiers. Palestinian armed groups—including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad—routinely employ children in this way, but NGO Monitor found “little evidence” that UNICEF-oPt funding was devoted to either exposing or putting a stop to this practice:
In contrast to the focus on Israel, it does not appear that UNICEF and the NGO members of the Working Group are making the same concerted effort to list Palestinian terror groups that clearly breach international law in violating the rights of the child (both indiscriminate targeting of Israeli minors and the use and recruitment of Palestinian minors in armed conflict) on the Secretary General’s Annex (p. 9)”
Examples of child recruitment and the use of children in armed conflict in Gaza are not difficult to find. Hamas’ use of children as human shields and its incitement to violence through its educational and cultural programming is well documented, as depicted in these videos and images (there are hundreds more on the internet):
— Anarcho-Zionist (@AnarchoZionist) January 6, 2018
Yet despite the fact that many operate in Gaza, UNICEF-oPt’s Working Group affiliates claimed that they weren’t “in a position to document cases of child recruitment and use of children in armed conflict” due to “security and protection risks related to collecting comprehensive and detailed information”.
Apparently, the Working Group’s member NGOs also find themselves unable to carry out the core mission of the UN mandate in the West Bank too.
There, as we’ve documented in numerous posts, the Palestinian Authority routinely incites young people to violence and glorifies violence and terrorists in its official media channels and educational curriculum
- Palestinian “child” convicted in murder of Dafna Meir
- What kind of person would want this small child to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers?
- “Israeli security forces kill boy, 16”
- New Palestinian Authority textbooks teach “martyrdom as a life goal”
But this information isn’t put into the UNICEF databases either.
As we’ve highlighted in dozens of posts, BDS is an insidious movement. Whether its Black Lives Matter, international organizations, university student governments, or mainline church denominations, leading BDS groups and activists are always trying to hijack institutions from within. Once inside, they then proceed to dominate agendas, crowding out other voices and worthwhile issues and causes, and never giving a single thought to the impact on the credibility and long-term viability and health of the organizations that get so corrupted.
When it comes to UN agencies, it’s really no different.
In the case of UNICEF, as a new NGO Monitor report meticulously documents, its Palestinian office and NGO affiliates have effectively monopolized the humanitarian agenda for children’s rights in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. They’ve thereby prevented an open and honest assessment of the use of child terrorists; how Palestinian leaders violate international legal obligations and prohibitions on the recruitment of children in armed conflict; and the kinds of state-building reforms that are needed to rectify this shameful situation.
Bottom line: in the case of UNICEF, as in all other cases, it’s the Palestinian people—those who BDS professes to care so much about—who lose the most.
Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElmanDONATE
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