Statement by Ambassador Gabriela Shalev, Permanent Representative of Israel at the UN Security Council Debate on "Children and armed conflict"
At the outset, allow me to congratulate you on your stewardship of the Council this month and thank you for convening this important debate. I also wish to thank Her Excellency Secretary of Foreign Relations Patricia Espinosa for her presence earlier today, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Atul Khare, and the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Hilde Johnson, for their informative statements and for their commitment to this important issue.
I also wish to commend the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict for its important work, and you, Mr. President, for your able guidance as Chair of the Working Group. Finally, I also wish to offer my personal thanks to Manju Gurung for appearing before this Council and sharing her experience with us. Your testimony awakens us all to the necessity to act decisively on the issue of children in armed conflicts.
Since this Council last debated this issue, significant advances have been made in the protection of children in situations of armed conflict, including the adoption of resolution 1882, expanding the scope of the annexes of the Secretary-General’s reports. Additionally, for the first time, a Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict is coordinating activities of the United Nations on this issue.
The recent report of the Secretary-General highlights progress in other areas, as well. In nearly every region affected by conflict, scores, hundreds, and even thousands of children conscripted into armed groups have been released. In many other situations, action plans have been developed; these should be implemented without delay.
Unfortunately, for the hundreds of thousands who remain trapped in armed groups, valuable time is being lost. All those who exploit minors in armed conflict must cease this practice, and release immediately the children in their ranks. We further urge sustained international support for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration efforts, so that children can hope for a future outside of combat. In addition, the increased deployment of child protection advisers to peacekeeping missions could serve as another tool for monitoring and defending the interests of children.
Israel follows with interest the important work of Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. The attention paid by her to children in specific situations of conflict, as well as by the Council’s Working Group, through its reports and communications, has the potential to reign in the most egregious practices of armed groups.
We note the report’s reference to Israel’s concern that more information should be provided in order to enable the appropriate authorities to investigate and respond substantively where appropriate. However, the continued reliance on allegations lacking supporting details continues to undermine the credibility of the report.
We therefore urge the Office of the Special Representative to give greater attention to the invaluable process of carefully documenting and vetting the various sources of the information it receives and uses in her reports, especially those aspects which rely heavily on uncorroborated allegations.
While we hope and work towards peace, our region remains filled with dangerous threats from terrorists and extremists against children. We welcome the mention of Israeli children who have been victims of armed conflict, a sad reality that Israeli children have lived with.
We also take note of the instances of child exploitation and their use as human shields by the Hamas terrorist rulers in Gaza. Given the abundance of accounts and documentation of such incidents, we strongly encourage that future reports of the Special Representative will further elaborate on this aspect, rather than mentioning it in passing.
One such well-documented incident took place just weeks ago when approximately 30 gunmen attacked and set fire to UNRWA recreational facilities dedicated for use by children. The attack not only undermines the work of UNRWA and was condemned by the Secretary-General, but the director of UNRWA stated that it was "an attack on the happiness of children." In addition, one abhorrent practice by Hamas is to gather civilians – notably children – to the location of a pending strike by the IDF on terrorists or weapons facilities, with the knowledge that Israel will refrain from intentionally attacking civilians.
While these incidents that I have just described require the attention of this Council, the broader context in which children are used in armed conflict by terrorists must also be addressed. In this respect, the incitement of children is no less dangerous than terrorism, as hateful education fans the flames of conflict. Let me be clear: inciting children today provides them with the foundation to be the terrorists of tomorrow.
Because of this, the international community has a duty to prevent such incitement in schools, camps, houses of worship, the media, and elsewhere. Generation after generation of Palestinian children, in particular, and many children across the region, have been taught to deny Israel’s legitimacy and to hate and kill Jews. Such incitement is only one element in a determined effort by many in the region to indoctrinate children to take up arms.
Examples abound, though I wish to share one with this Council. A Hamas magazine for children reads: "Oh, our Aqsa [Mosque], we shall return; we are soldiers of God’s religion. We will rejoice at the victory and kill the Jews by the sword."
We tend to focus our energies primarily on the conscription and the use of children in hostilities. It is no less important that we effectively and more comprehensively deal with the brainwashing of children who are taught to glorify terrorism, martyrdom, and anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, hatred and violence are taught to children. Yet we can, we must un-teach such destructive ways so that all children will become contributing members of a global, tolerant society.