[P6382] Problematizing Child Rights: Researching Palestine/Israel Beyond and Against the Child Rights Discourse

Created by Hedi Viterbo
Thursday, 12/02/21 11:30 am


Palestine/Israel is often described as a place lacking in child rights. Palestinian children, critics argue, are denied their rights and, as a result, their childhood. If only these rights were implemented, so the assumption goes, then Palestinians would be much better off. This panel seeks to problematize this prevailing narrative – to think beyond and, in some respects, even against the child rights discourse. How does this discourse contribute, inadvertently or not, to the harm and violence experienced by Palestinians? What does it overlook, downplay, and misrepresent? What alternative discourses and ways of being does it marginalize or preclude?

Tackling all these questions, this panel sheds critical light on the ways in which child rights, as a praxis and discourse, frame and affect the situation in Palestine/Israel. To this end, the panel brings together several theoretical frameworks and methodologies, including fieldwork with children and adults in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as critiques of the conduct and rhetoric of both state and human rights actors.

Using these complementary lenses, the papers in this panel look at the meaning(s) of agency in the Palestinian-Israeli context and the varied ways in which children in Palestine develop and exercise political agency, both in relation to the Israeli regime and to Palestinian social hierarchies. Brought to light in this panel is Israel’s increasing co-optation of the child rights discourse as a means of legitimizing and honing its violence against Palestinians – as well as the unwitting complicity of the human rights community in this trend.

A common thread throughout the papers is the role of the child rights discourse in this regard: its romanticization of childhood, its promotion of an adult-centric worldview, its association of Palestinian children with trauma and vulnerability, its individualization and decontextualization of the issues facing these children, and, consequently, its denial or misrepresentation of these children’s agency and voice. Across these themes, the presenters bring to the fore different gaps and tensions: those between dominant images of childhood and the lived experiences of Palestinians; those between Israel’s child rights rhetoric and its use of these rights as a tool of oppression; and those between abstract rights and the specific political context.


Association of Middle East Children and Youth Studies (AMECYS)


Socio; Socio




Heidi Morrison

(University of Wisconsin, La Crosse)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Mohammed Alruzzi

(University of Bath)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Bree Akesson

(Wilfrid Laurier University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Hedi Viterbo

(Queen Mary University of London)
Dr Hedi Viterbo is Lecturer in Law at Queen Mary University of London. Previously, he was Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at SOAS, University of London, a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, and a visiting...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;