UNICEF to investigate abuse of children’s rights in Israel

Marianne Azizi writes:

There are many international treaties and conventions that Israel has either not signed or not ratified.

It is the only state in the Middle East not to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has not signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention either. It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

But one convention it has actually signed and ratified is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

While the media in the West have shown little interest in reporting the abuses of children’s and parents’ rights in Israel, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is duty bound to ensure that Israel is respecting its commitments under the UNCRC.

Thus, last week Israeli human rights representatives held a meeting with Jonny Cline, the head of UNICEF in Israel, during which Mr Cline agreed to investigate some of the issues they raised.

Eli Daniel (left) with Jonny Cline

Israeli human rights campaigner Eli Daniel (left) with Jonny Cline, the head of UNICEF in Israel. Mr Daniel runs a website called Yeled Va Shem (Children of the New Holocaust) and is currently fighting attempts to close it down

The following are just a selection of the UNCRC articles ignored by Israel, a fact that is tantamount to a major violation of human rights.

Article 9.1: States… shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child…

In Israel, children are taken from their parents against their will, and their best interests are not taken into account. Unofficial figures indicate that 85,000 children are currently in institutions by decisions of social workers against the will of the parents.

Article 9.3: States… shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.

Worldwide, it would be difficult to find a child who didn’t want contact with both parents. Sadly, in Israel the system is biased against the father, who is seen as a financial provider – not a source of emotional support.

Women are generally exempted where their salary is concerned in family breakdown, leaving the father financially crippled and unable to provide emotional support to his children.

It is not in the gift of the child to demand the right to see both parents. Israel does not recognise any inherent legal or natural right of a father to see or access his own children. Visitations wholly depend on whether the mother consents to visitations. If the mother withholds consent, there will be no child access.

After months without access a father may be allowed by a social worker appointed by a judge to see his children in a supervised visitation centre, known as a Contact Centre. These are prison-like facilities where a father may see his children for four hours a month and must undertake in writing to abide by instructions while inside the Contact Centre, must not take photographs of his children, must not bring gifts for his children and must not be accompanied by other family members.

Even if consent by the mother is given, or if a divorce agreement is signed, this is worthless. A woman can revoke the consent anytime, even if it is guaranteed in a notarised divorce agreement.

Moreover, in Israel only the male has the financial obligation to pay child support regardless of his income and without any contribution from the wife – even if she is wealthier – and child support is about four times higher than in the US, Australia and Canada. Arrest orders for non-payment of child support are issued ex parte, without a right to counsel. Men can be arrested any time, solely upon the allegation of the woman that she is “fearful”. Also, a woman can forbid the man’s right to exit (ne exeat) Israel anytime she desires. In short, in Israeli divorced men (or men in the process of divorce) are treated as a financial resource, without the right to continue to give the emotional support a child needs.

Article 10: In accordance with the obligation of states… under Article 9, paragraph 1, applications by a child or his or her parents to enter or leave a state party [to the convention] for the purpose of family reunification shall be dealt with… in a positive, humane and expeditious manner. States… shall further ensure that the submission of such a request shall entail no adverse consequences for the applicants and for the members of their family.

Article 10.2: A child whose parents reside in different states shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis, save in exceptional circumstances, personal relations and direct contacts with both parents. Towards that end and in accordance with the obligation of states… under Article 9, paragraph 1, states… shall respect the right of the child and his or her parents to leave any country, including their own, and to enter their own country. The right to leave any country shall be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and which are necessary to protect the national security, public order… public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others and are consistent with the other rights recognised in the present convention.

Article 11.1:States… shall take measures to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad.

Article 11.2: To this end, states… shall promote the conclusion of bilateral or multilateral agreements or accession to existing agreements.

Articles 10-11 are regularly and blatantly violated in Israel. Recently, a father who had joint custody of his children suffered the horror of his children being taken out of Israel without his consent. To add insult to injury, he was then issued with a temporary travel ban to prevent him leaving the country to find his children. This is a flagrant breach of Article 11. Foreign nationals outside Israel have been unable to return to the country and see their children.

To highlight the tragedies unfolding in Israel, here is the story of just one child. It is heart-breaking to read, so be warned.

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