Children (file)
Children (file)Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved Sunday for legislation a bill submitted by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) called "Parents and their Children."

The law would make Israel the first country in the world to take away parents' rights as legal guardians of their own children.

It would hand over vast power to social workers, who will be able to initiate proceedings against parents who, in their opinion, fail to respect a list of ten "children's rights" enumerated in the bill.

These rights include the right "to physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development and to develop their talents and personal abilities" as well as "the right to be educated to a life of responsibility in society and respect for the basic rights of all people regardless of race, sex, religion, nationality or origin."

In addition, the children will have the right "to freedom of thought, expression, conscience and religion."

All these and more will be enforced by social workers. Parents who fail to uphold their children's rights, in their eyes, will face court proceedings that could take away the already limited parental rights they enjoy as part of their "parental responsibility" – which is the term that will replace legal guardianship.

Proceedings against parents will be initiated by one parent against the other, by the child himself, or by the state.

The law will also require parents not to solve disputes with their children through excessively authoritative means. Rather, disagreements are to be resolved peacefully, and if need be, a third party such as a psychologist or mediator should be involved to mediate the conflict. There is no minimum age for children to be able to take legal action against their parents.

The bill will be brought before the Knesset for a preliminary vote. Meanwhile, the government will prepare its own version of the bill, and is expected to submit it in two months' time. 

The anti-family aspects of the bill are rarely mentioned by its advocates. Rather, it is touted as a bill that would give men and women more equal custody rights in divorce. And yet, this part of the bill is a minor one, and is also the one least likely to pass, because of opposition from women's groups.

Pro-family activists claim that Israel already has one of the world's highest rates of removal of children from their homes. Distancing orders against parents, usually fathers, are issued by courts and police without the need for evidence of wrongdoing, and the practice of forcing children to meet their parents in supervised "contact centers" is said to be six to ten times as common as it is in the US and average OECD states.

Israel has a powerful "children's rights" lobby which critics see as reflecting a totalitarian perception of family vs. government rights. The Knesset's Children's Rights Committee was established by MK Tamar Gozhanski, a communist, during the Rabin government in 1995.