No Child’s Play: NBC’s False Figures for Detained Palestinian Minors

Earlier this month, Lawahez Jabari, a producer for NBC, failed to correctly report the number of luxury hotels in the Palestinian West Bank. (She said there was just one, when in fact there are several.) So when it comes to the much more complex and important subject, like the number of Palestinian minors in Israel jails, it’s apparent that she’s in way over her head.

In her report yesterday entitled (“Palestinian kids swept up in wave of Israel arrests“), Jabari errs on several counts, writing:

According to Defence for Children International (DCI),an independent non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, since the beginning of this year there has been a 17 percent increase in arrests of Palestinian children. An average of 198 children were arrested each month in 2012; that average has risen to 232 arrests during the first three months of 2013, DCI reported.

First, let’s start which the source for the statistics, which Jabari identifies as “Defence for Children International (DCI), an independent non-governmental organization based in Geneva Switzerland.” She also provides a helpful link to the report in question, pictured below.

A quick glance at the document reveals that contrary to Jabari’s claim that it was produced by the international, independent Geneva-based DCI, it is actually a product of the Defence for Children International/Palestine Section, an independent Palestinian NGO affiliated with the similarly named international organization. The DCI Palestine Section, based in Ramallah, sets its own agenda. As the DCI-Palestine site explains:

Each national section and associated member is an autonomous entity affiliated to the movement by pledging to follow the broad mandate of promoting and protecting the rights of children according to international standards. Thus each national section adapts its vision, mission and strategies to the particular context in which it is operating. Consequently, DCI-Palestine develops its own programs according to Palestinian children’s needs and priorities.

Thus, though Jabari tells her readers that her source is an international organization, it is actually a Palestinian NGO, one which NGO Monitor has described as “highly politicized.” NGO Monitor documents, for instance, how DCI-Palestine Section promotes the “Jenin massacre” myth and advocates BDS, and its director, Rifat Odeh Kassis is also the coordinator and spokesman for the vitriolic Kairos Palestine document.

As for the numbers themselves, Jabari doesn’t even faithfully report the Palestinian NGO’s figures. Jabari claims that, according to the DCI document, “an average of 198 children were arrested each month in 2012, that average has risen to 232 arrests during the first three months of 2013.” But the DCI-PS does not say that an average of “198 children were arrested each month in 2012.” Nor does it says that there was an average of 232 arrests per month in 2013. Rather, as demonstrated in the chart below, the average 2012 (198) and 2013 (232) figures represent the “Total number of Palestinian children in Israeli detention at the end of each month” — not the number of arrests per month. (Emphasis added.) Given that some minors are held for more than one month, clearly less than 198 children were arrested on a monthly basis.

Indeed, if Jabari were correct that on average 232 children were arrested each month from January through March of this year, then there would have been approximately 690 arrested children in that time. But there weren’t. According the government-controlled Palestinian WAFA news agency:

Israel arrested 1070 Palestinians since the start of this year, including 234 children, Palestinian researcher specialized in prisoners’ cases Abdulnasser Farwana said Tuesday.

He said in a report that the 234 children were arrested during the past three months, while 200 children were arrested during the same period of time for last year. (Emphasis added.)

Likewise, if Jabari were correct that an average of 198 children were arrested per month in 2012, then a total of some 2,400 children would have been arrested last year. But, as the DCI-PS report notes: “Each year, approximately 500-700 Palestinian children, some of them as young as 12 years old, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system.”

The numbers-challenged Jabari herself notes this figure further along in her article, when she states:

Reports of this spike in arrests come on the heels of a UNICEF study released in February which estimated around 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 are detained each year. Over the past decade, the report said, around “7,000 children have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system – an average of two children each day.”

Even if we accept the higher figure of 700 Palestinian children arrested per year, that works out to a monthly average of 58, just over a quarter of the exaggerated fi
gure (198) that Jabari cites.

Children Under 8 Being Held?

Jabari also misleads readers when she writes:

Human rights groups say that in Hebron in particular – where Ahmed was detained – there are clear violations of international law on a daily basis, with children as young as 8 being held for violations ranging from throwing stones to being in restricted areas illegally. On March 20 alone, Israeli soldiers arrested 27 children in Hebron.

Jabari falsely implies that the detainment of children as young as eight is an everyday affair. It is not. With regard to the widely reported March 20 incident, 27 minors were detained after a crowd of boys — some of them appearing to be in elementary school — were throwing rocks at security forces. The Israeli army posted footage of the boys throwing rocks:

Jabari does not give even the slightest hint that the detained boys were involved in any violence. B’Tselem reported about the incident:

On the day of the incident B’Tselem wrote to the Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria, the Legal Advisor of the Israel Police and to the spokesperson for the Judea and Samaria Division regarding this issue. The officials confirmed that, further to a stone-throwing incident earlier that morning, the military apprehended 27 minors, including at least 14 under the age of 12. Later, the military released 20 of the minors to the custody of the Palestinian Authority. The other seven minors were questioned by the police.

The brief detainment or questioning of children under the age of 12 hardly occurs “on a daily basis,” as Jabari writes. Both aforementioned UNICEF study and the DCI-PS report, both of which she cites, do not discuss the detention of children under the age of 12, because there are none.

Ahmed Jawabreh, 14

As for the featured personal story of Ahmed Jawabreh, 14, of al-Arroub north of Hebron, reportedly arrested in early April for 18 days, and then released to house arrest, very little could be confirmed about him one way or another. There is surprisingly little information available about him, either from media reports or NGOs. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, (PCHR), which publishes detailed reports of Palestinian casualties, incursions, and arrests in the West Bank and Gaza refers to an April 2 incident involving a 16-year-old with the same name:

At approximately 02:00, the Israeli forces moved into al-‘Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron.  They patrolled the streets and raided a number of houses.  They arrested 4 civilians and transported them to an unknown destination.

1. ‘Abdul Hakim Abdul Nasser, 18;
2. Fares Wa’el ‘Ajarma, 26;
3. ‘Ahmed Zain ‘Atta Jawabra, 16; and
4. ‘Ezz Edddin Mohammed Abu Maria, 18.

The Applied Research Institute (ARIJ), another Palestinian NGO which also publishes detailed reports about casualties, incursions and arrests, also reports the April 2 arrests in al-Arroub, but names only the three men (there are variations in the names, which is common for Arabic names), and does not mention Jawabreh, or any minor. The ARIJ report cites the Al Quds newspaper:

The Israeli Occupation Army (IOA) arrested three Palestinians after storming and searching their houses in Al Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron city. The arrestees were identified as: Az Al -Diyn Mohammad Abu Raya (20 years), iras [sic]Wael Ajarmih (23 years) and Abd An]Nasir Muhdi Badawi (19 years). The IOA [sic — Israel Occupying Army] transferred the arrestees to unknown location. (Al Quds 2 April 2013)

So, while at this point many of the facts about Ahmed Jawabreh are uncertain, this much is clear: NBC must correct its grossly exaggerated figures for arrested Palestinian figures. And Lawahez Jabari still can’t count luxury hotels.

Whether NBC journalists miscount luxury hotels or detained children, the network has a professional responsibility to set the record straight.

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