Saturday August 2nd 2014

Orlev Fights Uphill Battle for Children’s Rights

by Eitam Abadi

Member of Knesset Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home), who chairs the Knesset Committee on the Rights of Children, accused the defense ministry on Tuesday of refusing to cooperate with efforts to minimize harm to children in endangered Jewish villages.

Orlev, the only parliamentarian attending the meeting on children of families confronted with house demolitions, demanded that government ministries work together on regulations as to how to deal with forced expulsions.

Should they refuse to do so, the lawmaker said he would draft legislation on the matter.

Orlev explained that the public security ministry asked to delay Tuesday’s discussion, but he refused unless all house demolitions were delayed until the treatment of children was properly regulated.

No defense ministry representatives were present at the committee meeting.

Noa Weinstock Asis, representing the public security ministry, said that her office views the issue as important but that the defense ministry refuses to cooperate, despite the fact that forced expulsions and house demolitions are the military’s responsibility, while police officers are often called in to disperse and arrest resistance activists.

Orlev responded to Asis that it sounds like her ministry, rather than seeking to adopt solutions, is attempting to avoid blame for police brutality against minors.

Villagers from Migron, where three homes were destroyed by government forces in September, described for the committee the damaging effects the event had on their children.

Avital Gefen of Migron told the committee that her two-week-old son stopped breastfeeding after their home was demolished, her three-year-old went back to using a pacifier and her older children regressed to wetting their beds.

Although the military does not publicize when expulsions or house demolitions are to take place, the information is usually leaked to the victims, explained human rights activist Orit Strook, adding that it would make more sense for the IDF to tell villagers in advance, rather than come into their homes in the middle of the night.

Strook suggested that better communication between security forces and endangered communities would allow grandparents the opportunity to pick up the children so they would not have to be pulled from their homes by soldiers.

At the end of the meeting, Orlev said the public security and defense ministries must accept the “Beit El Regulations,” which were presented by the Beit El Local Council to relevant police and military officials in 2009.

At the time, the police agreed to adopt the regulations for a trial run.

The “Beit El Regulations” explain that officers and soldiers should not forcibly remove children from their homes or separate babies and toddlers from their parents during an expulsion. In addition, they should avoid violence when children are nearby.

The document also lists symptoms of trauma in children, who should be observed and treated by social workers following demolitions.

Should ministries refuse to accept the “Beit El Regulations,” Orlev threatened to turn them into a bill with cooperation from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and heads of coalition parties.