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Domestic CP - January 2000


The Boston Globe, USA, 27 January 2000

Israeli Supreme Court bans parental force

By Barak Barfi
Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The next Israeli to hit their child could end up in court. In a landmark decision here, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that parents may not use physical force as a way of educating their children.

Following the lead of some European countries that have banned corporal punishment, a three-judge panel rejected an appeal Tuesday by a woman who was convicted of beating her daughter with a vacuum cleaner and punching her son so hard that he broke a tooth. The children are ages 5 and 7.

"There are a number of parents who use physical force which is not excessive in their opinion, such as a slap on the wrist," Judge Dorit Beinisch wrote in the majority decision. But the court would not compromise even in those cases: "Permission for moderate violence is likely to spiral into severe violence."

Beinisch wrote that, even when "the parent wholeheartedly believes that he is acting within his right to educate his child, the use of violence is forbidden and distances us from our aspiration for a violence-free society."

A district court had sentenced the mother to a suspended one-year sentence and an 18-month period of supervision by a welfare officer.

The lone dissenter on the panel was Judge Yitzhak Englard, who wrote that the legal definition of abuse was "a brutal and humiliating act which causes terrible suffering." That standard would not include spankings.

The judges ruled that parents who hit their children may be prosecuted even if the child is not injured.

Judge Beinisch said that even though not all of the woman's beatings could be defined cruel, their consistency and the atmosphere of terror which existed in the house "was contemptuous and disrespectful."

The ruling also extends to nonviolent behavior, including frightening or humiliating the child. It exempted parents who use physical force to protect the child when his life is in danger.

Other nations, including Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, have recently enacted legislation curtailing the use of physical abuse with children.

Earlier this month, Britain's parliament began considering restrictions on corporal punishment after a man who cited an ancient law of "reasonable chastisement" was acquitted of abusing his 9-year-old stepson, whom he had repeatedly beaten with a cane.

There were mixed reactions to the Israeli ruling. "We want the public to receive a clear message from the Supreme Court: children and violence don't go together," said Yitzhak Kadman, director of the National Council for the Child.

Others questioned its effectiveness.

"It will be very difficult to enforce the ruling," said Motti Scherzer, the chairman of Educational Counselors. "After all, we are speaking of intervening in the basic family relationship."

Scherzer claimed that some children welcomed corporal punishment. "Some children even see it as a way of receiving attention from their parents."

Copyright© 2000 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing, Inc.

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