11 February 2014
Comment from ZFA President, Philip Chester, on 4 Corners/ The Weekend Australian investigation on the Israeli justice system.
The Four Corners program aired on ABC was highly emotive and one-sided. It only depicted the allegations in line with the Palestinian position but made absolutely no attempt to report the facts presented to the court or the difficult legal realities on the ground.
The disputed territories have many legal, social and moral complexities with which Israel is continually trying to grapple. John Lyons and Four Corners did not acknowledge these difficulties in dealing with Palestinian “child terrorists” who are caught throwing rocks. Lyons’ attempt to belittle the lethal repercussions of this terrorist activity proves that this investigation is partial.
The issue of the treatment of Palestinian juveniles in the military court system raises a more fundamental question of child abuse. Why have these teenage boys been recruited to participate in armed conflict? Should they not be attending school, instead of being exploited to use rocks as dangerous weapons, often with deadly repercussions? A Palestinian elder recruiting their own son in terrorist activities signifies abuse of the highest order.
A special juvenile military court operates in the West Bank as until the final status of this area is determined, it is subject to Israeli military jurisdiction. Contrary to Four Corners 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. This is not a division based on race, ethnicity or religion but rather, 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 a breach of international law. The Australian’s editorial today stresses that the dual legal systems are an administrative and legal requirement rather than any sort of racism.
Contrary to Lyons’ allegations the system in place is independent and open presided over by professional judges. The fact that Lyons has access to these courts demonstrates the openness of the system.
It is important to note that Israel takes these issues seriously and analysis of the Israeli version of events would have shown this to be the case. After consultation with bodies like UNICEF Israel implemented vast improvements and this was even noted in the organization’s most recent report issued in October 2013. A special juvenile court has been established to ensure appropriate care of youth in custody. These are important developments that have been excluded from Four Corners’ expose.
If it is objectively established that youth in detention are not being appropriately treated then Israel should improve its practices. This is something the Israel justice system is emphatically committed to.
It is important to emphasize that neither the information nor interviews presented are new, but are simply recycled from an old campaign and in particular an article Lyons wrote for The Australian newspaper back in 2011.
The program has presented disturbing images, selectively juxtaposing Israelis with extreme views who represent a very small minority with the testimonies of youth who have allegedly been the subject of mistreatment. In ignoring the context, the violence perpetrated by these youths and those who recruit and incite them, the program severely lacks integrity and balance.