Children of Palestine Tormented by Israel

Moammar Mashni from Australians for Palestine makes some excellent points on Israel’s heinous treatment of Palestinian children under the illegal Occupation at The Drum:

Thus the prospects of peace could be fleeting or imminent, depending on which Israel decides to turn up to any future negotiations. In what can only be described as a blatant act of aggression, Israel has approved more settlement construction in September and October, thus the future of an independent Palestinians state is all but out the window upon examination of any map, particularly this most recent one from the UN.

Contrary to the often regurgitated myth that Palestinians use their children as human shields, it has never been proven – not once. Yet in October 2010, two Israeli soldiers were convicted of using a 9-year-old boy as a human shield during the infamous Operation Cast Lead of 2008/9. There are at least 15 other documented cases of children being used as human shields since 2004, with only the aforementioned case of the 9-year-old ever having been investigated.

Analysing the statistical data of child mistreatment by Israel is a horrific mission. The average number of Palestinian children in Israeli detention over the last 12 months is 212 – that is children aged 12 to 18 locked up on for the most minor indiscretion as Israel creates specific military orders that criminalise any form of opposition to the occupation.

Without doubt though, the statistic that should trouble any person of good conscience is the data relating to child fatalities. From 2000 to 2009, 1,329 children were killed by Israel. In real terms that means a Palestinian child was killed every three days, of every week, of every month, of every year, for 10 long years. How can this possibly be justified?

The international community has a moral obligation to hold Israel accountable for these crimes. Without the rule of law, and in this case we are talking about International Law and International Humanitarian Law, how can we possibly expect that the state of play will ever change?

Whether we like it or not, it is an undisputable fact that every single one of the 12 or so million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (historic Palestine) are under Israel’s rule. Is it therefore acceptable, that in the 2011 we still have a system that deliberately privileges one people over another in the same land? Or should this current spawn of apartheid be also discarded to the annals of history in the same way it was for South Africa in 1989.

Israel’s use of Palestinian children as human shields is highlighted. The comments following the post which support zionism nearly all blame Palestinian children for their own incarceration. Yet are Israeli children who throw stones at Palestinians and others collectively punished or incarcerated by the Israeli state? No.

Related Links

Distressing 2010 Report from Save the Children on Child Rights in the OPT

Palestine / Israel Links

Announcing the Official Launch of Punks Against Apartheid!
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat talked with Aaron David Miller about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the current state of the negotiations, U.S. policy, and future prospects for Arab-Israeli peace.

Aaron David Miller asks Erekat 10 questions about the peace negotiations back in November 2010, followed by questions from the audience.

Erekat reveals lots of interesting points from behind the scenes, including Hamas position that they have never challenged the authority of the PLO.

Most negative thing for negotiating for Palestinians was the US insisting on Palestinians recognise Israel without it defining its borders.

Do we have someone in Israel willing to engage in decisions?

“The state of Israel was recognised by us [in September 1993] … then they changed the wording to recognise Israel as the Jewish state. I will not become zionist, I will not.”

How Israel fails to protect the rights of Palestinian children – Day 4

From the UN Children and armed conflict: Report of the Secretary-General (A/64/742–S/2010/181) of April 13 2010:

Developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

99. At the close of 2009, the effects of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead”, from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, were still being felt across the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Gaza residents, including children, are still living in alternative or temporary accommodation and many schools, health facilities and parts of vital water and sanitation infrastructure networks have not been rehabilitated or repaired. The ongoing blockade by Israel and the resulting lack of necessary materials in Gaza make such repairs and rehabilitation difficult.

100. A total of 374 Palestinian children were killed and 2,086 were injured during the reporting period, including at least 350 killed and 1,815 injured in Gaza alone during “Operation Cast Lead” by Israeli forces. The Israel/occupied Palestinian territory working group on grave violations against children confirmed 12 cases of Palestinian children who were killed while bearing arms and acting as combatants during “Operation Cast Lead”. The working group also confirmed one case of recruitment of a 16-year-old boy by the armed group Ezz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The actual number of cases is believed to be higher and there had been other reported incidents of children being trained and/or used by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Community members are, however, reluctant to provide information on this practice.

101. The working group confirmed reports of seven Palestinian children used by Israeli soldiers as human shields in three separate incidents during “Operation Cast Lead.” The office of Israel’s Military Attorney-General is investigating those incidents, although the United Nations is unaware of the actual process under way or the outcome of the investigations to date. On 11 March 2010, the Military Advocate for Operational Affairs brought criminal charges against two Israel Defense Forces staff sergeants who ordered a nine-year-old Palestinian child to open bags and suitcases suspected of being booby-traps. The criminal investigation of this case was launched in June 2009, following the report of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. The indictment was filed with the District Military Court for offences of excessive authority that endangers life or health and of unbecoming conduct.

102. Since the end of the offensive in January 2009, 24 children were killed and 271 were injured in incidents involving Israeli gun and tank fire in the Gaza buffer zone as a result of unexploded ordnance, and in settler-related incidents in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. One Israeli child was killed during the reporting period and three Israeli children were injured in two separate incidents in the West Bank. The working group was able to verify three incidents of Palestinian inter-factional fighting during 2009, resulting in the injury of six children and the deaths of two others. The two children, allegedly affiliated with the Jund Ansar Allah group, were killed in armed clashes between Hamas-affiliated security forces and members of the Jund Ansar Allah group in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

103. No children were harmed as a result of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israeli communities in adjacent areas. However, attacks and the threat of attacks are known to cause high levels of prolonged anxiety among Israeli children residing there and among Palestinian children in Gaza.

104. In 2009 the working group documented at least five children who were requested to become informers for the Israeli intelligence while being subjected to violent interrogation by the Israeli authorities. The actual figure is suspected to be much higher, but as testifying puts the lives of the concerned children at risk, the United Nations does not actively seek information on this practice.

105. The number of Palestinian children arrested and detained by Israeli military authorities rose sharply at the beginning of 2009, immediately after the start of “Operation Cast Lead”, but has decreased steadily since then, although remaining systematic and widespread. As of December 2009, 305 children were being detained. There are serious concerns regarding the rise in the number of young children, from 12 to 15 years of age, being detained, with 42 children in that age category being held in Israeli detention in December 2009 compared to 30 in December 2008. The United Nations has documented over 87 reports of ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children during the reporting period, including 6 reports of threats of rape and sexual assault against the children to elicit confessions or in some cases collaboration from child detainees. Israeli authorities stress that the Israel Security Agency operates in strict compliance with Israel’s Supreme Court ruling (HCJ 5100/94), which states that investigations are free of torture, cruel inhuman treatment and any degrading handling, and absolutely prohibits the use of “brutal or inhuman means” in the course of an interrogation. Israeli authorities also stress that note should be taken of Israel’s commitment to investigate any allegation, irrespective of the source, and of Israel’s concern that more information should be provided in order to enable the appropriate authorities in Israel to investigate and respond substantively, where appropriate.

106. On 29 July 2009, the Israeli military commander in the West Bank, Major General Gadi Shamni, issued a new military order (Military Order No. 1,644) establishing a juvenile military court in the West Bank. This attempt to incorporate juvenile justice standards within the military court system was met with concern by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child during its session in January 2010. Since the order came into effect on 1 October 2009, lawyers have observed that the military court judges, who adjudicate on juvenile matters in the West Bank, also continued to preside over cases involving adults. However, unlike previously, children under 16 years of age are now tried separately from adults and are brought into the courtroom individually, but are still taken to the courts from the detention facilities with adults.

107. In Gaza, 18 schools were destroyed and more than 260 were damaged, including 5 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, by Israeli forces during “Operation Cast Lead”. In some cases, the Israel Defence Forces forcibly entered school compounds and used schools as interrogation centres. The lack of materials for reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools, coupled with chronic shortages of educational supplies as a result of an ongoing blockade forced thousands of students to learn in overcrowded schools operating on double shifts and often under unsafe and unsanitary conditions. To date, very few of the destroyed or damaged schools have been rebuilt or repaired. In addition, discrimination and neglect by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem and Israel-controlled area C of the West Bank have also jeopardized children’s right to education. Inadequate structures, including tents, shacks and crude cement structures, are being used as schools owing to the difficulties in obtaining building permits needed to expand and upgrade existing schools and build new ones to accommodate the student population in area C, while in East Jerusalem, each year large numbers of Palestinian children are denied admission in the municipal schools run by the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Education owing to a shortage of over 1,000 classrooms.

108. Almost half of Gaza’s health facilities were damaged or destroyed during “Operation Cast Lead” and Gaza’s health-care system is currently unable to provide adequate responses to children’s health-care needs. As a result, some patients must seek treatment outside Gaza — in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Egypt, Jordan and Israel — for a wide range of medical assistance. During the reporting period, while 1,407 of 1,648 applications for children who sought to obtain medical assistance outside Gaza were approved, nine children in Gaza died while waiting for the appropriate permits to travel outside Gaza. In 2009 there was also an increase in the number of interrogations at Erez crossing, including the interrogation of children leaving Gaza for medical treatment.

109. Throughout 2009, the continuing high rate of settler violence against children was registered. Palestinian children continue to be shot, beaten and threatened while walking to school, grazing their livestock or playing outside their homes. According to reports, it has been revealed that a new pattern of violence has emerged since 2009, which suggests that Israeli settlers undertake attacks against Palestinians and their property in response to attempts by the Israeli authorities to dismantle “unauthorized” settlement outposts, raising additional concerns regarding the protection of Palestinian children. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has documented at least two such incidents, in which 11 children were attacked by settlers. It is suspected that there are many more incidents that remain unreported. Perpetrators are never held accountable. This underscores the need for greater enforcement by the Israeli Government of the rule of law where violent settlers are concerned.

The Palestinian Campaign for Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel is trying to get UNICEF to comply with the boycott for the upcoming conference organised by the Minerva Centre for Human Rights at the Hebrew University, jointly with the Van Leer Institute.

In essence, this conference establishes a false symmetry between the Palestinians under occupation and the Israeli occupiers and totally ignores the vastly divergent contexts in which children’s lives are embedded. The conference omits, in fact covers up, the fundamental source of the vulnerability and suffering of all children in this “conflict” zone: Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land and multi-tiered oppression of the Palestinian people. By inviting Israeli “security personnel” — the very same people who devise and execute policies that indiscriminately target Palestinian civilians, killing and maiming hundreds of children, as was done in the Gaza massacre — this conference not only gives them a credible and ‘respectable’ voice, but goes further than most in attempting to whitewash Israel’s atrocities in Gaza, its accelerating colonization of the West Bank and its gradual ethnic cleansing of entire Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev).

War Crimes Against Children : UN Reports

Gaza Blitz

Crimes committed against children by Israel and Palestinian militant groups are highlighted by the UN.

Jerusalem, 6 February 2009 – “Despite the Gaza ceasefires, children continue to suffer and remain in a precarious state of insecurity”, stated Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, after her four-day visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and southern Israel. She was in the region to assess first hand the situation of children.

In Gaza, where 56% of the population is below 18 years old, grave violations against children were committed such as killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access. During the recent hostilities, there were no safe spaces for children and the crossings out of Gaza were, and remain, virtually sealed.

One third of Palestinian casualties are reported to be children. Many children have witnessed unspeakable violence against their family members and are severely distressed. The extensive destruction to homes, hospitals, schools and power, water and sanitation networks also has a devastating impact on children. The damage or destruction of hospitals and schools including the American International School, Palestinian Authority-administered, and UNRWA schools – considered protected spaces — was particularly shocking. “Reconstructing the schools and ensuring that children can go back to their classrooms and feel secure again is essential to their recovery,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy.

“There is no doubt that children live in constant fear of missile attacks in Southern Israel. The need for psycho-social support has increased recently,” she said on her visit to Ashkelon. “The indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas is clearly a grave violation of international humanitarian law and should not be neglected simply because they are lower in scale”, she added. The Special Representative urged Hamas and other affiliated groups to immediately stop the rocket attacks on Israel, stating that this only feeds the cycle of violence.

In both Gaza and southern Israel, children expressed anger and despair as a manifestation of their desire for accountability. It is imperative that independent and impartial investigations are conducted and justice is done. The lack of accountability only contributes to a sense of impunity. “The children want answers and the international community must deliver”, declared the Special Representative.

Children in Gaza are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including the restoration of basic services and the immediate reconstruction of schools and hospitals. “Rehabilitation services for the disabled and psycho-social support programs for the tens of thousands in distress are critical. Education is a basic right, an emergency need and a development imperative. It must be prioritized in any emergency response,” said the Special Representative.

Ms. Coomaraswamy reiterated calls by the international community for Israel to open all crossings for regular, sufficient and facilitated humanitarian access and said the amount and kinds of supplies allowed into Gaza must be significantly expanded for any real improvement to occur. The Special Representative emphasized that humanitarian agencies must not be hampered in assisting the population and their workers authorized easy access into Gaza. The Special Representative stated that Hamas must respect that humanitarian aid cannot be diverted.

“Even though they bear the brunt of the conflict, children remain strong advocates for peace,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy. “Every child has the right to live in safety and security. Children from the region have suffered enough. They deserve a better future,” she concluded.

Gaza childFurther UN report:

NEW YORK, USA, 5 February 2008 – The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, is in Gaza and southern Israel this week to assess the situation of children and advocate for their protection.

In Gaza, Ms. Coomaraswamy, accompanied by a team from UNICEF, visited a community centre, a school and a hospital – all in the north, in and around Gaza City. She repeated calls for the territory’s borders to be opened and access by humanitarian aid organizations to be expanded.

“The children want answers and the international community must deliver,” declared Ms. Coomaraswamy.

Losses on both sides

During her four-day stay in the region Ms. Coomaraswamy also met with residents in the Israeli town of Ashkelon, which suffered from rocket attacks fired from Gaza.

She said that children on both sides of the border had expressed anger, despair and a need for accountability.

At a school that Ms. Coomaraswamy visited in Zaitoun, a neighborhood east of Gaza City, Almaza Hilmi Al Samuni, 13, was attending a counselling session held by a UNICEF partner organization, the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution. Almaza said she wanted the Special Representative to meet the children who, like herself, had lost their mothers.

“They died right before my eyes. There was nothing I could do to save them,” she said of her family members.

Ms. Coomaraswamy noted that Israeli children were also still living in fear, and called for an end to the indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas.

Education as a basic right

In Beit Lahiya, Gaza, Ms. Coomaraswamy visited the Omar Ben Al-Kathab school – which is now operating on double shifts to accommodate an additional 400 students from a nearby school that sustained heavy damage in the recent violence.

More than 160 schools across Gaza were damaged during the conflict. All UN Relief and Works Agency schools were reopened on 24 January after being closed for a month.

“Reconstructing the schools and ensuring that children can go back to their classrooms and feel secure again is essential to their recovery,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy. “Education is a basic right, an emergency need and a development imperative. It must be prioritized in any emergency response.”

UNICEF is providing essential education equipment and materials, including School-in-a-Box kits, pens, pencils and exercise books, recreational kits, and math and science kits for children in all six districts of Gaza.

Creating a protective environment

Even before the recent conflict, the children of Gaza suffered from years of conflict, blockade, lack of adequate social services, and poverty. Coping mechanisms of communities had already been eroded prior to the conflict. Access to basic needs and the creation of a sense of security and a safe environment is essential for the well-being of children.

“UNICEF is calling for regular, sufficient and facilitated access of humanitarian goods and aid workers into Gaza,” said UNICEF’s Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Patricia McPhillips, who accompanied Ms. Coomaraswamy during the mission. “This includes educational and recreational supplies … to provide a sense of normalcy for children who have experienced severe levels of distress.”

The Special Representative is mandated by the UN General Assembly as an independent advocate for children in armed conflict. UNICEF is a leading member of the international coordination group working to monitor and report on grave violations of child rights in conflict situations.

410 children killed by Israel in Gaza

Anthony Cordesman from the Centre for Strategic & International Studies releases a draft report claiming no war crimes were committed by Israel in Gaza. His report is sourced mainly from IDF and other Israeli sources and ignores political factors leading up to the conflict including the two year siege on Gaza and the 60 year history of Israeli brutality and occupation.