The cruel reality of a child's life under occupation

The cruel reality of a child's life under occupation
Comment: Israeli soldiers have shot and killed Palestinian children with no recourse - it is a cruelty that no one should accept, says Sally FitzHarris.
3 min read
28 Apr, 2015
Children are the victims of Israeli occupation [AFP]

Ten years ago, the PLO's chairman Yasser Arafat declared that 5 April would honour Palestinian children.

This year, throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians celebrated Palestinian Child Day. Four weeks of child-friendly activities were organised by UNICEF, in co-operation with local agencies.

"The Palestinian Child Day is a message to all that the children are our source of happiness, and their joy and wellness is our priority," said a spokesperson for a festival in Nablus.

It was only in 1989 when a UN convention was made on the rights of the child. This stipulates that children have the right to "the best possible health", clean water, and the right to play.

"Children should be arrested, detained, or imprisoned only as a last resort and for the shortest time possible. They must be treated with respect and care [and] keep in contact with their family," the article continues.

In 1990, Israel signed the convention, and this makes it responsible for guaranteeing these rights for Palestinian children in the occupied territories.

According to the If Americans Knew website, 2,060 Palestinian children have been killed due to military operations in the occupied territories since September 2000. This includes 541 children killed in 2014.

Statistics from the ministry of information in Ramallah show that between September 2000 and April 2013, Israel killed one Palestinian child every three days.

Defence Child International said that in February 2015, 182 Palestinian children under the age of 12 were in Israeli military detention.

But statistics alone never show the whole picture. Hence the enduring popularity of The Diary of Anne Frank. In Palestine there are stories of children suffering, too.

Anyone who has not grasped the reality of daily life for Palestinian children under occupation should visit the DCI-Palestine website. Here are two examples.

Fadel Abu Odwan, a 11-year-old Palestinian boy, was wandering through Gaza's "buffer zone" last March looking for his father's goats.

     Soldiers made no efffort to provide Odwan with medical attention, and he was left to bleed for three hours.

He was shot in the leg and the groin by Israeli soldiers, and collapsed. Soldiers made no efffort to provide Odwan with medical attention, and he was left to bleed for three hours. 

Odwan was discovered by his brothers and taken to Khan Younis hospital. There, surgeons found it necessary to amputate his testicles.

May 2013, Attah al-Sabah, a 12-year-old boy, was playing by Jalazoun refugee camp with his friends in the Ramallah district. 

Sabah's friends stole his satchel and an Israeli soldier retrieved it, telling him to return the next day to collect it. 

When he returned the following day, he approached the soldier but ran away scared. The soldier shot him in the stomach with an exploding bullet which exited through his spine. It damaged his internal organs, liver, lungs, pancreas and spleen.

When Attah discovered that his paralysis from a damaged spinal cord would be permanent he attempted, unsuccessfully, to kill himself.

There appear to have been no consequences for the Israeli soldiers.

Israel's deputy ambassador to the UK was sent details of Attah's case in February 2014. In a letter requesting that the soldier who shot Attah be identified, stand trial, and the family be compensated for the victim's injuries, the diplomat never even replied.

The website for the Israeli army says that their servicemen and women "act in a judicious and safe manner in all they do, out of recognition of the supreme value of human life".

When Yuval Diskin, a former director of Israel's security service Shin Bet, commented during a documentary on the situation of children being victims of violence, he said: "We have become cruel." He wasn't joking.

Cruelty - particularly towards children - is abhorrent to most. Those in the West who support Israel should think on that.