The following was published at CAMERA
The false accusation that Israel maintained a longstanding practice of caging Palestinian children outdoors was repeated in several media outlets before being corrected by those outlets and repudiated by multiple sources. Yet it continues to gain new life as one Israeli media outlet steadfastly refuses to set the record straight.
The media charges began with a news article on Dec. 31 in the Jerusalem Post, “Livni halts practice of placing detained Palestinian children in outdoor cages.” The story cited an NGO, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), to allege that there was a “longstanding” Israeli policy of torturing Palestinian children by caging them outdoors. The following day, a London-based newspaper, The Independent, published a similar article entitled “Israel government tortures Palestinian children by keeping them in cages, human rights group says.” Two subsequent Ha’aretzarticles also mentioned the Israeli practice allegedly targeting Palestinian children.
PCATI, the original source of the false allegations, wrongly conflated the holding of Israeli detainees in outdoor prison cells (referred to as “cages”) with general accusations of ill-treatment targeting Palestinians. Referring to “caging” as an example of the alleged torture of Palestinian children, the NGO linked to an earlier Hebrew-language statement from the Office of the Public Defender, which in turn was based on interviews with Israeli detainees at a prison transit facility. (There was no mention here of any Palestinians.) Those detainees reported being held temporarily in outdoor cells during severe weather as they awaited transfer to their court hearings. The Public Defender’s Office gave the report to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who contacted the Minister of Public Security and the commissioner of the Israel Prison Service. The practice, which had been in place for several months, was immediately stopped. From the start, this was a domestic issue related to conduct by the prison system toward Israeli detainees of whatever background that was distorted into an allegation of torture and abuse targeting Palestinian children.
After CAMERA pointed out the discrepancy between PCATI’s accusation and the statement to which it was linked, the NGO acknowledged that Palestinians were never mentioned in the Public Defender’s report and posted a clarification to that effect on its website. CAMERA also contacted The Independent and Ha’aretz, who similarly corrected their stories.
CAMERA and its affiliates gathered additional evidence from multiple sources, including statements from the Public Defender’s Office, the Justice Ministry, the Israeli Prison Authority, as well as remarks about the matter by the Minister of Public Security at a Knesset session following the release of the Public Defender’s statement, the Knesset Public Petitions Committee session that was referenced in the Jerusalem Post article and Hebrew-language reports about the matter, all of which made it undeniably clear that the short-term practice of temporarily holding detainees in outdoor holding cells, or “cages,” was never directed at Palestinian children or Palestinian adults.