Letter from Israel Ambassador Yaakov Levy to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights

Mrs. Mary Robinson
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Geneva, 26 March 2001

Dear Madam High Commissioner,

I am writing to you once again regarding the on-going exploitation of Palestinian children by the Palestinian leadership in the last six months of violence in the West Bank and Gaza. As you will recall, I have addressed you on this matter in the past, in writing as well as orally, most recently in response to your report regarding your visit to the area, voicing concern about the constant misuse of young children, many of which are under the age of 15. Instead of taking the responsible measures for ensuring that these children do not take part in the violence, the Palestinian leadership continues to encourage the involvement of young children in the violence, placed at the forefront of the hostilities initiated against Israel by lynch mobs, armed militias and other paramilitary terrorist groups and gunmen. These children are being manipulated and endangered by the Palestinian leadership for its own political gains.

As you are no doubt aware from news reports and from our conversations on this subject, Israel has experienced several major terrorist attacks and suicide bombings during recent months. In fact, since September 2000, seven suicide bombings have taken place:

  1. On 2 November 2000, two women were killed in a car bomb explosion near the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack;
  2. On 22 November 2000, two people were killed and 60 wounded when a powerful car bomb was detonated alongside a passing bus on Haderas main street, when the area was packed with shoppers and people driving home from work;
  3. On 22 December 2000, three soldiers were injured in a suicide bomb attack at the Mehola Junction roadside café in the northern Jordan valley. The terrorist, who detonated a belt of explosives strapped to him, was killed in the blast;
  4. On 1 January 2001, a car bomb exploded near a bus stop in the shopping district in the centre of Netanya. About 60 people were injured, most lightly. One unidentified person, apparently one of the terrorists involved in the bombing, died of severe burns. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack;
  5. On 1 March 2001, one person was killed and 9 injured when a terrorist detonated a bomb in a Tel Aviv to Tiberias service taxi at the Mei Ami junction in Wadi Ara;
  6. On 4 March 2001, three people were killed and at least 60 injured in a suicide bombing in downtown Netanya.
  7. On 21 March 2001, a car bomb was discovered in Jerusalem and was dismantled before it exploded. (See enclosed press photo)

Rather than categorically deploring the abhorrent terrorist attacks and suicide bombings carried out in recent months, it is evident that the Palestinian leadership continues to incite and encourage the involvement of children in the violence. They are being indoctrinated in the art of suicide bombings and martyrdom, in flagrant violation of basic norms and principles of humanity.

An article appearing in the Saturday-Sunday, 17-18 March 2001 edition of a major newspaper, the International Herald Tribune, entitled "Children Play Adult Roles in Palestinian Resistance", reports about the indoctrination of young children below the age of ten through the staging of plays highlighting suicide bombings in Israel, with the coaching of adults. The article describes what we have suspected and known for a while: that not only are young children sent to hurl stones during riots from within armed militias and adult gunmen, thus being exposed to all the dangers that entail, but it is also apparent that they are being systematically brainwashed and trained through role-playing to be future suicide bombers in terrorist attacks directed against Israeli citizens. The article quotes by name a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader supporting the concept of enrolling small children and sacrificing them for political goals. The article also describes a rally attended by 2,500 Palestinians in the city of Nablus, in which assault rifles were pressed into the hands of several children who were hoisted on their fathers shoulders.

While Israel stresses its regret and concern over the loss of life, both Israeli and Palestinian, and especially of children, little consideration, if any, has been given to the question of why Palestinian children have been frequently exploited and exposed to such dangers in the first place. Children are truly blameless victims of conflict. They are particularly vulnerable and must stand apart from any political campaign regardless of the perceived justness of a cause. This tragic practice, whereby children are encouraged, often even compelled, to become mythical heroes, not only causes devastating damage to the children, but also greatly undermines any hope to pursue a peaceful solution in the region.

I am, therefore, appealing to you within your capacity as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as an expert on this subject and as a moral authority on behalf of the rights of children, to do everything in your power to convey a clear message to the Palestinian leadership to immediately put an end to this cruel and illegal practice. Queen Silva of Sweden, one of the leaders who initiated the convening of the World Summit for Children, was among the first voices of conscience outside Israel, to raise concern and criticism against this horrific abuse of children on the Palestinian leaders.

Please find enclosed herewith, a copy of the article from the 17-18 March 2001 edition of the International Herald Tribune. Also enclosed is an article from the 18 March 2001 edition of the Jerusalem Post entitled "Children take center stage in Palestinian rallies", which includes photographs of young Palestinian boys marching with assault rifles and holding grenades.

I will also simultaneously be communicating with other heads of agencies, including UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies about this matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Yaakov Levy
Permanent Representative


 Letter from Israel Ambassador Levy to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights-19-Mar-2001
 Letter from Israel Ambassador Levy to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights-19-Mar-2001
Suicide and Car Bomb Attacks in Israel Since the Declaration of Principles (Sept 1993)
 Letter from Israel Ambassador Levy to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights-19-Mar-2001
Participation of Palestinian children in violence