Keep a Child Alive
5 Main Street, Suite 617
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Dear Ms. Keys:
As Global Ambassador of the organization Keep a Child Alive (KCA), it is clear that you display a commitment and deep sensitivity to the basic needs and inherent rights of children, particularly those who are most vulnerable and disenfranchised. Through your work, you choose to uphold justice and promote KCA’s mission, “that every person has the right to health care and that allchildren deserve a future.” As two leading Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, we are writing to explain that your planned concert in Israel will provide significant support to the Israeli government, which actively denies the very rights of Palestinian children that you and KCA have pledged to uphold. Therefore, Defence for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine) and Health Work Committees (HWC) urge you to cancel your scheduled July concert in Israel and to speak out against Israel’s oppressive military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, and its systematic discrimination against Palestinians.
Palestinian children have lived under Israeli military occupation for over 46 years. Since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, Israeli forces are responsible for the deaths of 1,397 children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including 1,031 in Gaza. From December 2008 to January 2009, in the offensive known as Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed at least 353 children, including 26 kids in or near schools. At the end of 2012, during the most recent offensive in Gaza, 33 children were killed.
Despite universal non-discrimination and equality guarantees in international law, Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subjected to a discriminatory legal regime that has been described as separate and unequal by Human Rights Watch. Every day they are denied basic human rights and protections.
Military law, imposed on Palestinians in 1967, empowers soldiers to arrest children as young as 12 without warrants and with no oversight. Over the past decade, around 8,000 children have been arrested and prosecuted in a system where ill-treatment of Palestinian children is widespread and systematic. Nearly 80% of Palestinian children experience some form of physical abuse during their arrest, transfer or interrogation. Israel is the only country in the world where children are automatically charged in military courts.
Since 2008, DCI-Palestine has documented 73 cases where Palestinian children have been held in solitary confinement, sometimesfor periods up to 29 days. They are repeatedly subjected to coercive interrogations and are denied access to their parents and legal counsel. Confessions or statements obtained by coercion or force, and in some cases written in Hebrew, are rarely excluded in the Israeli military courts, which maintain nearly a 98 percent conviction rate, according to DCI-Palestine evidence.
The detrimental psychological and physical effects of detaining persons in solitary confinement are well documented and include panic attacks; fear of impending death; depression, including clinical depression; social withdrawal; a sense of hopelessness; unprovoked anger; short attention span; disorientation; paranoia; psychotic episodes; self-mutilation and attempted suicide.
For these reasons, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Juan Méndez, called for a complete ban on the use of solitary confinement for children. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Professor Richard Falk, has shared similar concerns.
The Israeli government frequently denies Palestinians their right to health care by imposing a permit regime, similar to the “Pass System” in Apartheid South Africa, which severely restricts movement of Palestinian patients and health professionals. The World Health Organization reported in 2013 that
Palestinian patients depend on access to East Jerusalem’s six non-profit Palestinian hospitals for specialized health services. Patients are referred for critical medical interventions, made more necessary as a result of the blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, and restrictions on movement of people and goods from Gaza and West Bank, including restrictions on physicians’ access to continuing training.…Obtaining a permit is complicated and difficult, and the uncertainty and last-minute nature of the Israeli response makes the process more stressful for patients and their families….Gaza patients can be called for security interviews before or during the crossing.… Delays and denials of access violate patients’ right to access and may lead to a deterioration in their health status.
In Gaza, over half the 1.6 million residents are children under the age of 18. Israel’s six-year blockade of the Gaza Strip has led to a manmade humanitarian crisis and is the single greatest contributor to the endemic and long-lasting poverty, deterioration of health care, infant mortality, disease, chronic malnutrition and preventable deaths of children. Palestinian children in Gaza lack access to clean water, health care and are scarred by repeated Israeli military offensives and the constant fear of impending attacks.
Israeli officials and agencies often use international artists such as you to promote a positive image of Israel that completely ignores the human rights violations that Israel inflicts on a mass scale against Palestinians. Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has reportedly been working with the producers of your concert in an effort to promote Israel as a tourist destination.
As Palestinian organizations concerned with health and children’s rights, we strongly encourage you to serve as a voice for truth and justice. Israel’s occupation and discriminatory polices have tragic and oppressive impacts on Palestinian children, depriving them of basic human rights and human dignity. As an advocate for human rights, we ask you to demonstrate that your commitment to the rights to health care and to children’s futures applies to all people, including Palestinians. Cancel your show in Israel and echo the same truth and conviction you show for KCA’s mission.
Rifat Kassis, Defence for Children International Palestine, www.dcipalestine.
Shatha Odeh, Health Work Committees, www.hwc-pal.org
cc: Leigh Blake, Cofounder, Keep A Child Alive
Peter Twyman, Chief Executive Officer, Keep A Child Alive