Los Angeles Times Corrects Letter: No Palestinian Kids in IDF Prisons

CAMERA yesterday prompted correction of a letter-to-the-editor by Eitan Peled, a former programming director for Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA and a current fellow with UNICEF, for his false claim that there are “hundreds of Palestinian children in Israeli military prisons.”

Eitan Peled, former programming director for SJP at UCLA

Writing Nov. 15 in favor of the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest and sanctions) movement and SJP’s national conference at UCLA, Peled stated:

Boycotts are a time-honored tactic many progressive movements use to effect change. Our movement is no exception, with situations as dire as hundreds of Palestinian children in Israeli military prisons who were tried in a military court with a 99% conviction rate.

In fact, no Palestinians, minors or otherwise, are held in Israeli military prisons. According to B’Tselem, which is highly critical of Israeli policies, there are zero Palestinian minors being held by the Israeli military. As of August 31, 2018, 239 Palestinian minors were held by the Israel Prison Service (IPS). The IPS is independent of the IDF, and its prisons are civilian, not military.

Furthermore, Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch, who served in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps for 19 years, told CAMERA: “The IDF does not have prisons for Palestinians. At most, the IDF has initial detention centers. If at all, Palestinian minors are held in these center for no more than 24 hours.”

CAMERA relayed this information to Los Angeles Times editors, and they commendably published the following correction in yesterday’s print edition:

Palestinians: A Nov. 15 letter to the editor incorrectly said hundreds of Palestinian children are held in Israeli military prisons. In fact, Palestinian minors are not held in military prisons, but in facilities operated by the Israeli Prison Service, which is separate from the Israeli Defense Forces.

As for the 99 percent conviction rate in Israel’s military courts, a criminal prosecutor has an obligation to bring only those cases in which there is substantial evidence to support a conviction. As CAMERA’s Karen Bekker previously reported:

Indeed, according to a 2011 report discussing conviction rates in 2010 (the same year as the Haaretz data) the US military’s “conviction rate for all crimes is more than 90 percent.” This rate includes conviction for all crimes including sexual assaults; the sexual assault conviction rate was only 27%, bringing the total conviction rate down.

In US federal civilian criminal courts, the conviction rate is slightly higher. For fiscal year 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, 94.2 percent of criminal defendants in federal district courts either pleaded guilty or were convicted, and 91.8 percent of criminal defendants in federal magistrate courts either pleaded guilty or were convicted. [Defendants that were transferred, diverted to a probationary system, or had proceedings suspended by the court or dismissed other than by the court were omitted from this calculation.]

In Israeli military courts, however, the prosecutor’s obligation is even more stringent than in American civilian or military courts. …

Colonel Hirsch explained that, in the Israeli military system in the West Bank, a defendant who is acquitted is entitled to both damages and attorney’s fees. Such an award, of course, would be paid from the public purse, and would be in addition to the waste of public resources in the form of the prosecutor’s own time spent on a failed prosecution.

For this reason, IDF prosecutors are extremely careful about which cases they bring, and they only bring indictments in cases in which they have a high chance of success. Colonel Hirsch told CAMERA that during the time that he was in charge of the military prosecutors’ office, his instruction to his prosecutors was, “if you have any doubt, don’t bring an indictment.”