Child rights in Palestine: a look ahead

Viking Theater was host to human rights lawyer Brad Parker on Wednesday, Sept. 2, as approximately 70 people gathered for a presentation on human rights abuses against Palestinian children. The event was co-sponsored by the Political Science Department, the Middle Eastern Studies Department, Oles for Justice in Palestine and the Political Awareness Committee PAC.

Parker outlined the hidden injustices surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of incarcerated youth, and he concluded his presentation with a call to action.

“Occupation is about control. This has been going on for over 45 years; it’s unique in modern military conflict,” said Parker, referring to the long and complex struggle between Israeli occupiers and Palestinian citizens. Parker, as a human rights lawyer, provides services to Palestinian minors arrested in what he claims is systematic targeting and ill-treatment.

“The [United Nations] principle is the ‘best interest of the child.’ Detention should always be the last resort. In Israel it’s the default. It’s the only country in the world that automatically, systematically detains.”

According to research by his employer, Defense for Children International-Palestine DCI-Palestine, the majority of arrestees are 13 to 15-year-old males, and 74 to 75 percent of arrests involve physical violence. The crimes are generally throwing stones, which carries up to a 20-year maximum sentence.

“You don’t need a warrant,” Parker said. “The only justification a soldier has is he can arrest anyone he suspects of breaching a rule. There is little accountability.”

If this information is new to the student body, Parker is not surprised. He claimed there is a media blackout on this issue in the U.S., which has continually supported Israel throughout the occupation. Most of the funding for DCI-Palestine comes from European countries.

“He shed light on something we never really hear about in the media,” PAC coordinator Rachel Palermo ’15 said. “And the audience had really good questions that facilitated the conversation.” The informative presentation was initially organized by Professor of Political Science Kris Thalhammer, who then reached out to PAC, Oles for Justice in Palestine and the other sponsors in order to help raise funds.

“I found out about the speaker through…the National Lawyers Guild,” Thalhammer said. “The NLG was sponsoring a speaking tour by Bradley Parker and wanted to include St. Olaf as a venue for his presentation.”

Thalhammer said that she hopes Parker’s talk was meaningful to students on a broader level as well.

“I hope that visits of human rights advocates to our campus inspire more students and faculty members to advocate for human rights…student organizations including Amnesty International and SOLAS offer great opportunities to support human rights right now,” she said.

Oles for Justice in Palestine leader Asil Jamal Abuassba ’15 agrees that this is an important topic for Oles to know about.

“American students should feel the responsibility of learning more about what their government does on their behalf,” she said. “College students need to become more aware and engaged in global affairs, especially since the U.S. has played a huge role in supporting Israel and the continuation of the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian Territories.”

Students interested in this topic can attend an event sponsored by Northfield residents and Oles for Justice in Palestine featuring Miko Peled, an Israeli general’s son and advocate of Palestinian rights. The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 in Tomson Hall. Contact Abuassba for more details.

PAC will also sponsor a number of events in the future to foster political engagement. Besides PAC’s weekly meetings, there is a Women in Leadership presentation on Oct. 17, and their Fall Speaker will be in the Lions Pause on October 23.

“This college strives to incorporate a global perspective to education which extends outside the classroom,” Abuassba said. Parker agrees about the importance of having these conversations.

“You walk away and talk about it,” he said. “That’s what really makes the change.”