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Palestinian teenage terror – Inherently illegal, but does anyone care?

By Amb. Alan Baker
web posted March 13, 2023

The recent resurgence and preponderance of acts of terror committed by incited Palestinian teenagers should be ringing alarm bells throughout the international community. This is especially among an international community that purports to show extreme concern for the abuse of children in any context, but even more so when it comes to their deployment in armed conflict and committing acts of terror.

Regrettably, such alarm bells are not ringing, and the international community seems to be deliberately or naively turning a blind eye to such Palestinian teenage terror. Why?

Recent Teenage Acts of Terror

Recent acts of terror committed by Palestinian teenagers include the January 2023 shooting and seriously injuring of an Israeli father and son by a 13-year-old Palestinian boy in Jerusalem and a fatal terror attack in February 2023 by a Palestinian teenager carried out during a routine bus inspection outside the east Jerusalem refugee camp of Shuafat.

This alarming resurgence comes at a time of concentrated mass of psychological propaganda and incentives to violence to which Palestinian youngsters are being subjected, principally through various social media platforms to which they have access, but also at home and school.

“Arts and Crafts�? in a Hamas summer camp, 2021. (Hamas)
“Arts and Crafts” in a Hamas summer camp, 2021. (Hamas)

Journalist Yoni Ben Menachem, in a recent article entitled “The Phenomenon of Palestinian Teen Terrorists," lists the causes that serve as the pretext for this recent resurgence of teenage terror. These include social network incitement through “Tik Tok,” “Instagram” and other platforms that permit graphic video footage, accentuating Israeli military actions against armed terrorist groups in Palestinian towns, including the demolitions of illegal houses. Such videos deliberately and artfully glorify those terrorists as role models for Palestinian teenagers.

By the same token, video footage of Israelis visiting the Temple Mount area as part of the agreed “status quo” is presented as Jews “storming” the al Aqsa mosque – a provocation and justification for outrage and riots by Palestinian teens. These teens are incited to believe an age-old canard, employed whenever various interested parties, including the Jordanian leadership, seek to generate unrest and violence, falsely alleging that Israel seeks to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Such riots, in turn, generate the need for Israeli police action to restrain such unrest, and restore and maintain order.

All this complements the already delicate fabric of co-existence and governance of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem.

Ben Menachem also notes the incitement in Palestinian social society and especially in homes, schools and mosques in which children are instilled with hatred of Israel from the earliest of ages and encouraged to glorify the culture of death by celebrating the “martyrdom” of every child and teenager:

The religious leaders in eastern Jerusalem support this phenomenon, and the public leaders there and PA officials refrain from removing children from the circle of terror. For them, all means are acceptable to fight against Israel: the children are brainwashed with a broad and warped social consensus and religious legitimacy. They cross the barrier of fear with false promises that they will reach heaven.

Further causes of teenage terror include official incentivization by the Palestinian Authority, the official implementation agency established by Israel and the PLO under the Oslo Accords to administer those West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria transferred by Israel to Palestinian control. Such incentivization includes provision of monthly stipends to Palestinians jailed in Israel for terror attacks as well as compensation for families of dead terrorists. In 2021, the Palestinian Authority paid out an estimated $157 million as part of its “pay for slay” policy.

International Norms Prohibiting the Use of Children

One would think that the international community would show the utmost concern for this phenomenon of Palestinian teenage terrorism, based on widely accepted and acknowledged norms and principles of international humanitarian law and norms of humanity to which most countries are party.

Such norms and principles specifically prohibit the placing of civilians, especially women and children, at the forefront of violent demonstrations, and their usage as human shields to conceal the presence of terrorists, and to attack Israelis.

Such usage is a violation of universally accepted international treaties protecting children and prohibiting their involvement in warfare.

Such instruments include:

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child

While this convention was opened for signature and accession by sovereign states only on April 2, 2014, the Palestinian Authority, falsely and fraudulently, represented itself as a state, and in clear violation of its obligations pursuant to the Oslo Accords to refrain from conducting international diplomacy, was permitted by the United Nations, acting as the official depositary of the convention, to accede to the convention.

Whether such accession by the non-state Palestinian entity was in order or achieved fraudulently, in effect the Palestinian leadership, of its own volition, placed itself within the aegis of the international obligations to protect children.

The Palestinian leaders’ encouragement, support, and incentivization of teenage terror therefore directly violates the Palestinian Authority’s international obligations.

Article 36 of this convention requires Parties to protect the child against all forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of the child’s welfare. Article 38 obliges States Parties to “respect and to ensure respect for rules of international humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts which are relevant to the child,” including the obligation to “take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.”

This provision prohibits states from “recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces” and requires states to “take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.”

2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Similarly, the Optional Protocol to this convention, dated May 25, 2000, to which the Palestinians also acceded, deals with the rights of children involved in armed conflict. In its eleventh preambular paragraph, it expresses “gravest concern at the recruitment, training and use within and across national borders of children in hostilities by armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a State,” and recognizes the responsibility of those who recruit, train, and use children in this regard.

The protocol prohibits the recruiting or use, by armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State, any persons under the age of 18 years and requires states to take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices.

In the Palestinian letter of accession dated April 2, 2014, the Palestinian leadership declared that their “minimum age for recruitment of persons into Palestine’s national armed forces is 18 years.”

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) June 8, 1977

The prohibition on the recruitment of children also appears within International Humanitarian Law, and specifically in Article 77 of the above-noted Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, sub-paragraph 2 of which states:

The Parties to the conflict shall take all feasible measures in order that children who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities and, in particular, they shall refrain from recruiting them into their armed forces.

As with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Palestinian leadership also became party to the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions in April 2014, under the fraudulent guise of its being a state, as well as in violation of its obligations under the Oslo Accords. This was accepted by the Swiss government which served as depository of the Geneva Conventions.

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Similar to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Additional Protocol of 2000, the Palestinian leadership has acceded to the 1989 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, this, again, despite the fact that the Statute is open only to genuine sovereign states that are the only entities having the ability to provide jurisdiction to the Court.

According to article 8(2)(b) of the ICC Statute, which lists serious violations of the laws and customs applicable within international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, subparagraph (xxvi) lists as a war crime:

Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities” is a “serious violation of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict within the established framework of international law.

Here again, the Palestinian leadership has, justifiably and even cynically, nevertheless obliged itself to this solemn obligation not to encourage, assist, or facilitate the use of children in armed conflict.

Paris Principles on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

A detailed study carried out in 2007 by the UNICEF entitled “Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups,” defined such children as “any person below 18 years of age who is or who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys, and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, spies, or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities.”

These guidelines recognize that, in situations of armed conflict, states and armed groups are the primary actors responsible for the protection of civilians in their effective control. However, if they are unable or unwilling to meet all of their humanitarian responsibilities directly, they are charged with enabling the “provision of humanitarian action by impartial actors.”

This would imply acknowledgment of a clear responsibility on those elements in the international community to take the requisite humanitarian measures of intervention in order to prevent the irresponsible and violative use of children in armed conflict.

One wanders why such acknowledgment appears to have been ignored in the context of the Palestinian violations of their obligations in this context.

International Criticism of Palestinian Deployment of Children for Armed Conflict Amnesty International

In a public statement issued in 2005 entitled “Israel/Occupied Territories: Palestinian armed groups must not use children,Amnesty International called Palestinian armed groups to put an immediate end to the use of children in armed activities:

Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly shown total disregard for the most fundamental human rights, notably the right to life, by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and by using Palestinian children in armed attacks. Children are susceptible to recruitment by manipulation or may be driven to join armed groups for a variety of reasons, including a desire to avenge relatives or friends killed by the Israeli army.

“Terrorism and Political Violence” Article

In an article dated June 4, 2010, published in the journal “Terrorism and Political Violence” entitled “Education, indoctrination, and incitement: Palestinian children on their way to martyrdom,” Dr. Daphne Burdman, a physician, pathologist, and psychiatrist discusses the methods and effects of a campaign to indoctrinate Palestinian children to an ideology of self-sacrifice, (martyrdom) by official organs of the Palestinian Authority:

Children are incited to participate in stone-throwing and suicide-bombings against the Israeli Defense Forces, and told that if they die, they will become martyrs. The campaign has induced profound effects on the psychology of Palestinian children and will persist even if the violence stops. Specially devised programs will be needed to counteract these deleterious and dangerous effects.

NGO Monitor

Similarly, a recent article published by “NGO Monitor” dated December 15, 2022, entitled “Excuse and Disregard: Palestinian NGOs on Teens’ Involvement in Terror Attacks and Violent Clashes,” criticizes the hypocritical approach by Palestinian NGOs regarding children’s rights:

On the one hand, they claim to champion children’s rights and allegations of their abuse feature prominently in NGO campaigns against Israel. Yet, NGOs ignore the recruitment and use of Palestinian children by terrorist organizations, as well as the indoctrination of children to engage in violence.

[T]error-tied Palestinian NGOs – including Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and Al-Haq – regularly distort the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Palestinian minors in terror incidents. They ignore or minimize the violent attacks perpetrated by the minors that precipitated their deaths and blame Israel for deploying self-defense measures to protect the victims of such attacks. In situations where the minors died during clashes with Israeli forces and violent rioting, the NGOs erase this essential element of the incidents. In addition, they make factual claims that conflict with reports from media outlets and official accounts.

Palestinian Media Watch

In a detailed submission dated February 2020 by “Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)” to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), entitled “How the PA weaponized Palestinian children against Israel,” experts Maurice Hirsh and Itamar Marcus exposed the Palestinian Authority’s abuse, weaponization, and recruitment of the Palestinian youth to act as child terrorists and soldiers against Israel and Israelis, referring also to the PA’s rewarding the child soldiers, both monetarily and socially, for their acts of violence and terror.

In its submission, PMW called on UNICEF to recognize and directly attribute to the policies of the PA the participation of Palestinian children in widespread and systematic acts of violence and terrorism against Israel and Israelis.

Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party broadcasts stories of mothers telling their children, “My son, we were not created for happiness. In my eyes, you are meant for Martyrdom! … Jerusalem is ours, our weapon is our Islam, and our ammunition is our children. And you, O my son, are meant for Martyrdom.

The PA schoolbooks teach the Palestinian children to emulate the Palestinian “heroes” who include mass murderer, Dalal Mughrabi – a terrorist responsible for the murder of 37 Jews, among them 12 children.

Summer camps organized by Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and the Palestine Liberation Organization teach the children to admire mass murderers such as Khalil AL-Wazir (Abu Jihad), who according to PA sources is responsible for the murder of 125 Jews.

Teenage murderers are immediately transformed by the PA from nameless teenagers into heroes.

UN Watch

In a written submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Forty-sixth session dated February 22 – March 19, 2021 devoted to the subject of “Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to development” and the issue of “Palestinian Child Soldiers,” the NGO “United Nations Watch” expressed serious concern with regard to the practice of the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terror organization in their recruitment and use of Palestinian child soldiers in violation of the various instruments of international law.

According to this submission:

Both the PA and Hamas routinely indoctrinate Palestinian children to aspire to martyrdom through armed confrontations with Israel. According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), “the PA operates a systematic and institutionalized policy and program to recruit child soldiers/terrorists.

In its reports to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on this issue, PMW accused the PA of indoctrinating Palestinian children to admire and emulate terrorists and noted, “The PA openly admits, that the child terrorists are not acting in a vacuum, but rather they consider them to be the PA’s soldiers who the PA has sent to carry out a mission.

Obliviousness of the International Community

Clearly, the well-documented fact that Palestinian teens are encouraged to be involved in acts of terror, receive support and inducement from the Palestinian leadership, Palestinian social society, as well as from their homes and schools, is all indisputable.

Similarly, the fact that the Palestinian leadership has committed itself to abide by international norms and principles prohibiting the use of children in armed conflict has been accepted and acknowledged by the UN, the government of Switzerland, and the international community, as a whole.

Given these facts, why does the international community choose to ignore Palestinian violations of international laws and norms, and why do Western states choose to mollycoddle the Palestinian leadership in the naïve hope that this will encourage moderation and reduce their penchant for terror?

Such a glaring double standard runs contrary to logic and good sense. It is hoped that the international community will realize that their naivete and obliviousness will not encourage moderation, but rather will be interpreted as giving license and carte blanch to terror against Israel. ESR

Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.


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