Israel ‘breaching UN convention on children’s rights’
June 27, 2012
A delegation of senior lawyers in the UK have protested saying Israel is clearly violating children’s rights by having children tried in the same military court has adults.
Israeli military law is applied to Palestinian children detained by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank because it is under military occupation.
However, Israeli children - including those living in Jewish settlements on occupied land in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law - are subject to Israeli criminal and civilian law.
Currently, the maximum period an Israeli child can be detained without charge is 40 days. For a Palestinian child the period is 188 days.
“If you thought immigrants in the U.S. have it bad, imagine the plight of countless superhumans and mutants a generation ago, as they navigated the Kafka-esque world of Marvel’s draconian Registration Acts.
For fans and non-fans alike, the controversy over the Mutant Registration Act and Super-human Registration Acts is a complex case study in the balance between liberty and control for communities endowed with special powers.”
According to the legislative annals of Marvel Database, the backstory stems from the perennial dilemma of civil liberties versus state power. The MRA arose apparently in response to a prophetic vision related by Kitty Pryde after she “travels back in time from a dystopian future to the present” and warns that the X-Men must act to preempt the future passage of a Mutant Control Act, which would unleash an anti-mutant crackdown:
When the Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional the government responded by reactivating their robot Sentinel program so that they might police the mutant race. The Sentinels interpreted their mandate in such a way that they decided to forcibly take over the government of the country and instituted a harsh regime where mutants were severely persecuted.
Ultimately, a seemingly less draconian compromise measure emerged in the form of the Mutant Registration system. However, the Big Brotherish policy remained controversial, as it would potentially compromise secret identities and raised similar constitutional and civil liberties tensions, with serious consequences for the noncompliant:
Government agent Val Cooper and the mutant terrorist Mystiqueformed Freedom Force a government sanctioned superhero team (mostly comprising former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). Freedom Force sought to enforce the MRA by arresting unregistered mutants such as members of the X-Men, X-Factorand the New Mutants.
Even superheros were not immune to the tense national security climate. But the Super-human Registration Act met with more controversy over political feasibility as well as ethical implications:
In his testimony and in evidence he presented to Congress, Reed Richards argued that a Super-human registration Act was unnecessary as Super-humans had been largely effective and trustworthy in their actions and government regulation would only stifle their ability to protect the world. He argued that those individuals who were likely to act irresponsibly with their powers were also likely to be super-villains and thus would not be candidates for registration anyway.
Wikipedia has an extensive crowd-sourced historiographyof the Mutant Registration Acts and similar legislation. Eco-comics has anoverview of Metahuman Regulation. And The Onion hasfollow-up coverageof the Obama Administration’s response. Needless to say, you might notice an uncanny resemblance with the real-life analog in U.S. history: the1940 Alien Registration Actand other“registration” policies after 9/11.
Is this life imitating art or vice versa? Keep in mind that the registration subplots emerged on the pages of Marvel comics in the mid-1980s–way before the post-9/11 Homeland Security hysteria, before the recent spikes inmass deportationsandanti-immigrant legislation in the states. But comic narratives have historically reflected the political turbulence of the Cold War and the changing relationship between the individual and the state. According to Marvel database:
The issue has generally been portrayed in broad terms as being a debate between the rights of the individual (to freedom of action and expression etc.) on one side versus the rights of society at large (to safety from danger or harm) on the other. Does the super-powered individual (mutant or otherwise) have an absolute right to their abilities or does society have a right to constrain or at least monitor them and their expression of those abilities?Debate on the topic of the registration of super-heroes or mutants as presented in Marvel Comics has generally tended to be slanted in favor of the anti-registration argument, due to the fact that the protagonists of the comics are the powered individuals — the people whose freedoms might be compromised by any such law.
As such the issue has most often been explored in a civil rights context, with the various Acts portrayed as persecutory measures seeking to legislate against a minority group whose minority status is basically innate – an obvious parallel with the struggle of many minority groups against prejudice.
Fans may continue to debate the allegorical significance of the Registration Act subplots. But the metaphor rings as true as ever today, especially under an increasingly restrictive and arbitrary immigration policy regime, in which the day-to-day terrors faced by undocumented immigrants and their communities seems at times stranger than fiction.”
AHHHHHHHHHHH why can’t comics be more consistent on human rights and social justice issues? So good on this, but then on LGBTQ, race, and women’s issues, not so good.
A Jewish man participates in a demonstration in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Friday, July 16, 2010. The Palestinians have warned U.S. envoy George Mitchell that it will be difficult to revive peace talks if Washington cannot stop Israel from demolishing Palestinian homes and building illegal settlements in east Jerusalem, their chief negotiator said Friday. (AP Photo)
Remember children, anti-Zionism and antisemitism are two very different things. You can be one without being the other.
I find it interesting how the U.S. harps on China about human rights violations, but doesn’t in the case of Israel. Jewish exceptionalism is closely tied to and closely parallels American exceptionalism; how Jews became white in America is partly due to the intertwining of the two narratives. America’s allyship with Israel is not only because of military convenience; the bond is also forged through shared cultural narratives.
Today In History
‘Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, author, and engineer of the Underground Railroad, led Union Army guerillas into South Carolina and freed nearly 800 slaves on this date June 2 1863. Tubman was the first woman in U.S. history to command an armed military raid.’
“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” - Harriet Tubman
(photo: Harriet Tubman)
- CARTER Magazine
“The war on drugs has helped make the U.S. the world’s largest incarcerator.
America’s criminal justice system should keep communities safe, treat people fairly, and use fiscal resources wisely. But more Americans are deprived of their liberty than ever before - unfairly and unnecessarily, with no benefit to public safety. Especially in the face of economic crisis, our government should invest in alternatives to incarceration and make prisons options of last – not first – resort.”
For those asking what you can do to help, please link to visiblechildren.tumblr.com wherever you see KONY 2012 posts. And tweet a link to this page to famous people on Twitter who are talking about KONY 2012!
I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.
KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m notalone.
Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them,arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.
Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.
As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”
Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.
Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.
Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.
If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.
~ Grant Oyston, email@example.com
Grant Oyston is a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. You can help spread the word about this by linking to his blog at visiblechildren.tumblr.com anywhere you see posts about KONY 2012.
1. Why should humans have rights?
2. Why should some rights be unalienable and others not be? What determines a right to be unalienable? (e.g. Why should the right to control your own body be unalienable and defended by the government, but not eh right to own guns regardless of your criminal history?)
3. Why should a government extend the rights of its citizens to everyone who lives in its borders?
4. The debate surrounding undocumented people can be framed as the right of an individual to live where (s)he chooses. Is that framing fair? If so, then why should that be an unalienable right? If not, then why?
How would you answer these questions without your answers being contingent upon a) practicality, b) historical lessons, and c) the idea that our government is a representative democracy that reflects the will of the people and the power of our government is bestowed by the people?
In light of the discussion occasioned of yesteday’s post about why it seems Rick Santorum doesn’t understand rights, I thought I might say just a little bit more. In particular, it’s important to note that Santorum isn’t alone when it comes to misunderstanding what the language of rights actually means.
I’m reminded of the beginning of Mary Ann Glendon’s book Rights Talk from the early 1990s, in which she highlights the idiosyncratic way that Americans think about their rights and what it does to political discourse:
Consider the lively discussions that took place in the wake of the Supreme Court’s first controversial flag-burning decision in June 1989. On the day after the Court ruled that burning the American flag was a form of expression protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Today show invited a spokeman for the American Legion to explain his organization’s discontent with that decision. Jane Pauley asked her guest what the flag meant to the nation’s veterans. He gave a standard reply: “The flag is the symbol of our country, the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Jane was not satisfied. “What exactly does it symbolize?” she wanted to know. The legionnaire seemed exasperated in the way people sometimes get when they feel there are certain things that should not have to be explained. The answer he came up with was, “It stands for the fact that this is a country where we have the right to do what we want.” Of course he could not really have meant to espouse a principle that would have sanctioned the very act he despised. Given time for thought, he almost certainly would not have expressed himself in that way. His spontaneous response, however, illustrates our tendency, when we grope in public settings for the words to express strong feelings about political issues, to resort to the language of rights.
To speak in this careless fashion is not without consequences; in fact, it sets us up to fail twice over—first, by cheapening or betraying our own meaning (The flag “stands for the fact that this is a country where we have the right to do what we want”), and second, by foreclosing further communication with those whose points of view differ from our own. For, in its simple American form, the language of rights is the language of no compromise. The winner takes all and the loser has to get out of town. The conversation is over.
In the case of California’s Prop 8, Santorum felt that Californians have the right to vote for a discriminatory ballot initiative because he happens to agree with it. On the flip side, he feels that other Californians have no right to be treated equally — in this particular case, they have no right to get married — because he doesn’t believe that they are equal.
This baffling position nicely mirrors the flag burning discussion from Glendon’s book. What underlies it is the very obvious point — though not so obvious to everyone, it seems — that rights often come into conflict. To pretend that they don’t and to use the language of rights as a bludgeon is to entirely discount the rights of others, to ignore the complexity of living in a pluralistic society, and to presume that one’s own beliefs and preferences are always going to be held by a majority.
“Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products. Tuesday,Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales. Its sales would have been even higher, executives said, if overseas factories had been able to produce more.”
Oh yay money and products »»»> people