I attended a meeting in Hampstead Town Hall on the evening of March 1st. It was organised by Yachad and was full of a good number of mainly concerned young London Jews. It felt strange being close to my old stamping ground of Golders Green and my Sat Nav took me even closer on the way back to Hampshire.
Kids Court in Conflict
Yachad’s statement:We are a group of young Zionist leaders from across the religious spectrum in the UK. We want to see Israel thrive as a sanctuary for the Jewish people that stays true to the democratic, tolerant and peaceful ideals it was founded upon.
Join us on Sunday March 1st for an evening with Nery Ramati, an Israeli lawyer whose inspiring work as defence counsel for Palestinian children illustrates how we in the British Jewish community can contribute to strengthening the rule of law and access to due process under Israel’s military justice system in the West Bank. Nery will be in conversation with Danny Friedman QC, a member of the Yachad board
Nery Ramati is a lawyer at Gaby Lasky and Partners law firm. Gaby Lasky Law and partners specializes in defending human rights both in Israel and in the occupied territories. The organisation represents Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists, and protects their freedom of expression and freedom toprotest. Alongside this their lawyers represent Palestinian minors in the Military Courts.
Danny Friedman QC
Danny is a barrister practicing at Matrix Chambers who specialises in human rights, international humanitarian law and national security issues. He is a member of Alyth Gardens Synagogue and is married with three children
It was both an interesting and informative meeting and the following notes need to be read in conjunction with Day 3 of this Blog.
We were told that most Israelis know nothing about the military courts and nor does the Jewish diaspora in the UK and no doubt elsewhere. 800,000 Palestinians have been through them and almost every family has at least one member who has been caught up in them. Israelis are more interested in the housing crisis in Israel, not surprisingly.
The courts deal not just with security offences, which only take up a third of cases, but local crime such as traffic offenses and theft as well as illegally entering Israel for work without a permit. In Areas B and C of the West Bank the Palestinians live in a legal vacuum, with no redress for crimes within their communities and little against settler crime against them. Instead they live under a military law that is designed solely for Israel to protect Israelis and cares little about day to day crime against ordinary Palestinians. In fact the military laws are arbitrary and invented to suit the situation for Israel. The few West Bank Israeli settler cases that go to court are held in West Jerusalem, so in effect the military legal system is just for the Palestinians and no one else. What is more they are held in Hebrew and under an Israeli flag.
Even Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are taken to the West Bank courts, whereas Israelis living in East Jerusalem and all Settlers are treated as Israeli citizens and sent to the Civil courts in West Jerusalem.
So the legal principle of equality is entirely lacking. Where children are concerned the difference in treatment of Israeli as opposed to Palestinian children is even starker. Children are taken from their beds at night (not allowed for Israelis) by the military, not the police, who treat the children like adults and take them to Israeli settlements for interrogation where the Palestinians cannot even enter. So their parents cannot follow. The interrogations are only recorded where the interrogator cannot write in Arabic and the Arabic used in the interrogation is usually very poor. The children sign confessions in Hebrew which they can’t read.
Children as young as 12 or 13 are interrogated on their own, having been traumatised and deprived of sleep. They will confess to anything just to please their captors. When they, rarely, get legal representation, then they have a much better chance and so a fund has been set up to try to ensure that as many Palestinian children as possible can receive some representation, hence Kids Court in Conflict.