- The Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations
is a Beirut, Lebanon-based organization engaged in "strategic and
futuristic studies on the Arab and Muslim worlds, (emphasizing) the Palestinian
issue." In July 2010, it published the latest in its "Am I Not
a Human?" series titled, "The Suffering of the Palestinian Child
under the Israeli Occupation," saying:
- Palestinian children grow up "under the Israeli
occupation, surrounded by cruelty, oppression, killing, starvation and
destruction." Yet, like all children, they dream of playing and living
normally and safely. Instead, their father may be dead or in prison, their
brother killed, their home destroyed, and their mother forced to give birth
at an Israeli checkpoint, risking her and the newborn.
- Palestinian children grow up differently from most others,
their development "distorted by an occupation," destroying their
innocence, dreams and well-being. They live in constant fear, forced to
grow up while still a child. "Actually (they are) grown up, for (they
challenge) the toughest circumstances," helping their families, replacing
a parent when lost, and confronting Israeli incursions. "Amazingly....Palestinian
child(ren set) the example to mature people," even when very young.
- They live when "we think that the world has become
(more) civilized" without cruel colonizations, when global leaders
defend human rights, dignity, democratic freedoms, and peace rhetorically,
yet are indifferent to oppressed Palestinians, children always the most
vulnerable, yet they persist and endure despite enormous hardships and
obstacles, what Western children can't imagine.
- From September 2000 (the start of the second Intifada)
through 2007 alone, 1,400 children were killed, 230 under age 12. What
about others under occupation, with no father, injured or handicapped,
hungry, impoverished or in prison? Still more who've lost friends and relatives,
who live in fear and can't sleep, who feel helpless when Israelis attack,
and unprotected under a ruthless occupation, ongoing for over 43 years,
affecting them physically, emotionally, and economically, making them feel
isolated, helpless, and unaided, world leaders indifferent to their plight
and their families.
- Palestine is a young society, children comprising the
majority. In its June 2007 annual report, the Palestinian Central Bureau
of Statistics (PCBS) said 2.1 million are under age 18, representing 52.2%
of the West Bank and Gaza, distributed as follows:
- -- 17% below age five;
- -- 15.4% from five - nine;
- -- 13% from 10 - 14; and
- -- 6.8% from 15 - 17.
- They're Palestine's future, their development and regeneration
hope for liberation, pursued courageously until achieved, but at a huge
- From September 29, 2000 - December 31, 2008, children
witnessed around 5,900 killings, over 35,000 injured, about 7,500 of their
parents and relatives imprisoned, and the destruction of nearly 78,000
buildings through April 30, 2007.
- A British study found that Palestinian children during
the Intifada displayed higher political awareness levels. They know names
of destroyed villages, especially where their parents were born, are knowledgeable
about the conflict, and show commitment to resist it.
- A separate report on Lebanese refugee children reveals
extreme hardships under poor conditions in crowded homes without clean
water, air, electricity, playgrounds, or job opportunities for their parents.
In addition, children under age three experience a high rate of birth defects
and respiratory diseases. In northern Lebanon, it's 44.5%. Yet their Lebanese
Baccalaureate passing rate is 73.9%, showing a commitment to achieve.
- Palestinian Children: Their Rights and Violations
- Israel repudiates children's rights and welfare, treating
them harshly like adults, in violation of the UN Declaration of the Rights
of the Child, its Principle 1 saying:
- "Every child, without exception whatsoever, shall
be entitled to (fundamental human and civil) rights, without distinction
or discrimination on account of race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth
or other status, whether of himself or of his family."
- They're entitled to special protections and opportunities
to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually, and socially in
a healthy normal way under conditions of freedom and dignity - including
their right to life, an adequate standard of living, healthcare, education,
leisure, safety and peace, what Israel has denied them for over four decades.
- Wounded and Killed Children
- Aya Fayyad's story reflects others, her death a tragedy
other parents face, her mother Fatima saying her daughter's loss on August
31, 2003, the eve of her school year, left her dazed and unable to imagine
her nine-year old was dead.
- She'd gone out to play, riding her bike when tank shells
exploded. Other children escaped, but not Aya, struck by bomb shrapnel
- On June 10, 2004, Iman al-Hams, a 13-year old girl, headed
for school with two of her classmates. Nearing the Girit military post,
they heard shooting. Iman ran to escape it and was shot dead by 20 "machine
gun bullets that settled in her tiny body." Not satisfied, three soldiers
and their commander approached her, shot her multiples times to be sure,
claiming her school bag contained explosives, later admitting there were
- Hundreds of similar incidents claimed other lives and
thousands wounded or disabled. PCBS' April 2008 annual report cited 959
deaths from September 29, 2000 - February 2, 2008 - 384 in the West Bank,
another 573 in Gaza and two in Israel, the number injured (including many
seriously) totaling 28,822, the total disabled about 2,660, according to
the Palestinian Ministry of Health (PMH).
- PMH also reported that 31.4% of killed children were
shot in the head, another 32.5% in the chest, showing intent to kill, soldiers
often firing at close range and committing murder - part of their training
and indoctrination from kindergarten to be warriors and Arab-haters, Amnesty
International (AI) responding in a press release saying:
- "The majority of Palestinian children have been
killed in the Occupied Territories when members of the IDF responded to
demonstrations and stone throwing incidents with unlawful and excessive
use of lethal force. Eighty Palestinian children were killed by the IDF
in the first three months of the Intifada alone."
- AI also mentioned Sami Fathi Abu Jazzar, shot in the
head by Israeli soldiers on the eve of his 12th birthday in the aftermath
of a stone-throwing demonstration, injuring six other children with live
fire, AI representatives witnessed it firsthand, concluding soldiers' lives
- In 2001, AI reported that Palestinian children were killed
by "random" IDF firing, shelling or bombarding residential neighborhoods
"when there was no exchange of fire and in circumstances in which
the lives" of soldiers weren't at risk. "Others were killed by
(targeted) assassinations when the IDF destroyed Palestinian houses without
warning, and by flechette shells and booby traps used (in) densely populated
- Other children were killed at checkpoints, by settlers,
and by being prevented from reaching hospitals when their lives were in
danger - cold-blooded murder by other means.
- Children in Detention and Custody
- In its April 2008 report, the Palestinian Ministry of
Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs said over 7,000 children had been arrested
since the start of the second Intifada, 360 still in detention, some as
young as 10, treated harshly like adults, in violation of international
law requiring special treatment for children.
- Of these, 145 have been sentenced, 200 still await trial,
and 15 are administratively held without charge. The report also explained
that about 500 other prisoners were arrested as youths, turning 18 in prison.
- Other data confirmed around 75 children ill, not being
treated, nearly all tortured by being beaten, hooded, painfully shackled
and deprived of sleep for several days in the shabeh position - hands and
legs bound to a small chair, at times from behind to a pipe affixed to
the wall, painfully slanted forward, hooded with a filthy sack, and played
loud music nonstop through loudspeakers.
- Most children were arrested at home (77%), some at play,
others at demonstrations. Most are students, some waiting over two years
for a trial, becoming ill from poor food, hygiene, and lack of healthcare.
- The Ministry's 2007 report said about 220 were arrested,
many still detained "under very bad conditions, receiving harsh treatment
and prevented from pursuing their education or having any prospect of a
- One 16-year old youth was arrested heading to school
for failing to have his ID card. Afterward, he was beaten, sent to Etzion
detention camp, handcuffed, blindfolded, and beaten again brutally to get
him to confess to stone-throwing and reveal names of other children with
him at the time. During interrogation, his head was immersed in cold water,
then hot, then the toilet. Later moved to Adorim camp, he was again beaten,
tortured, held in solitary confinement for 34 days, then judicially-ordered
held on "restrictive order" and transferred to Telmond Prison,
in violation of Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- "No child shall be subjected to torture or other
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment....
- No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully
- Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with
humanity and respect.... (and)
- Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have
the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance...."
- CRC also mandates detention as a last resort for the
shortest possible time. Israel does it preemptively, repressively, and
irresponsibly to harass, abuse, inflict bodily and emotional harm, torture
or kill - legalized by authorities decades ago, including harming children
- -- bad food and unsafe water;
- -- poor healthcare or lack of it;
- -- bad sanitation and hygiene;
- -- insect infested cells;
- -- cramped and crowded conditions;
- -- inadequate air and light;
- -- insufficient clothing, blankets and other protections;
- -- no play or recreation;
- -- isolation from the outside world;
- -- no family visits;
- -- the absence of counselors and specialists;
- -- detention with adults, some violent;
- -- solitary confinement;
- -- verbal, physical and sexual abuse; and
- -- no education.
- Torture is official Israeli policy, explained in this
writer's August 2008 article, accessed through the link below:
- Nothing is too brutal or extreme, including against women
and children, one 15-year old saying he was stripped naked, forced into
an extremely painful position, then burned by lit cigarettes to make him
confess. Others are tortured to collaborate. A 10-year old said "They
beat me on various parts of my body with plastic hoses. I had to have a
surgical operation to have a platinum transplant in my arm. They kept me
naked for a whole night, handcuffed and blindfolded; and I was not allowed
to go to the toilet for two days!"
- The Palestinian Prisoners Club reported that 95% of children
are tortured, 85% to confess under duress and sign Hebrew documents they
can't read or understand.
- Health Status
- Harsh occupation causes health problems, physical and
psychological from witnessing violence, mainly against loved ones and friends.
"These conditions raise the death rate among children," soldiers
often obstructing ambulances and medical workers from reaching casualties
and the sick, and they prevent deliveries of vital equipment and materials,
especially to Gaza.
- Even seriously ill adults and children can't access proper
medical care abroad or in East Jerusalem in hospitals equipped to help
them. They've also been isolated and denied proper nutrition, 64% of children
becoming anemic from lack of sufficient sustenance.
- UNICEF reported that one baby in three risks death because
of Gazan medical shortages, and the Separation Wall and checkpoints cause
a 20% West Bank death rate - 61 births from 2000 - 2004 occurring at them
because soldiers obstructed passage, 36 dying immediately.
- Israel also prohibited the distribution of special nutritional
meals to about 20,000 Gazan children under age five, most never having
had them in their lives, and suffer anemia, stunted growth, and general
body weakness from malnutrition and extreme poverty - compounded by the
- Mental health is also impacted, a 2004 PCBS survey showing
8.8% of children experience horrible accidents firsthand, most are intimidated
by air raids, bombings, shellings, incursions, and the constant threat
of more. UNICEF said about one-fifth of children are exposed to family
violence from daily pressure, including poverty, unemployment, and lack
of essential services and support networks.
- A Gaza Community Mental Health Program study found 94.6%
of children witnessed bombings and killings. Another Israeli Adler Research
Center one showed 70% of West Bank children suffer from post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD).
- As a result, the National Plan of Action for Palestinian
Children said 93% of children are insecure, living in fear of being attacked,
and 52% believe their parents can't help. As a result, they experience
an array of psychological symptoms, including:
- -- panic, fear and stress;
- -- anxiety, sadness and depression;
- -- forgetfulness and poor memory;
- -- hyperactivity and violence;
- -- fainting;
- -- digestive disorders and loss of appetite;
- -- involuntary urination and headaches;
- -- insomnia or excessive sleep;
- -- disturbed sleep or nightmares;
- -- feelings of helplessness with no safe haven, even
at home; and
- -- hatred toward their occupier, instilling a spirit
- The Socio-Economic Situation
- "Child rights agreements state that every child
has a right to special care and assistance, and a right to a proper environment
that fosters his growth, well-being, self-respect and dignity in a good
- Palestinian children, however, are impeded under occupation,
and an environment designed to be threatening and unsafe. This reality
"denies them the joy of living an innocent childhood," and for
some, the inability to become adults.
- Yet Fourth Geneva's Article 27 states:
- "Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances,
to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their
religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They
shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially
against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and
- CRC's Article 16 states:
- "No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful
interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor
to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation."
- For decades, Israel has spurned international law and
dozens of UN resolutions condemning or censuring its actions, deploring
it for committing them, or demanding, calling on, or urging it to end them.
Israel never did and continues defying the rule of law, even its own, including
High Court rulings authorities won't accept, and actions like the following:
- An Israeli military court ordered a seven-year old girl
named Farah, whose father was assassinated five years earlier, to pay an
1,850 shekel fine in one month, without explanation, saying appropriate
legal measures would be taken for refusing.
- Another ruling prevented the parents of two-and-a-half
year old Ahmad and nine-and-a-half year old Sawsan from accompanying their
children through the Erez crossing for two urgently needed heart operations.
They had to go alone on foot, Haaretz calling it "one of the most
horrible and cruel scenes broadcast daily (and) a shameful stigma to Israel."
- Other socio-economic negatives include deteriorated home
environments, lost homes, jobs, and mass impoverishment - 56.1% in the
West Bank, 82% in Gaza, and 24% of children living in abject poverty, according
to PCBS figures.
- As a result, they have to leave school to help out, tilling
fields, selling miscellaneous items on streets, anything for a few shekels,
especially in fatherless households, a situation not conducive to proper
- "Israel works on hindering the education of Palestinians."
Besides violating their basic right, it jeopardizes a new generation, UNRWA
commissioner-general, Peter Hansen, saying:
- "Imagine the political fallout if every schoolchild
in London had missed a month's schooling last year because teachers could
not get to their classes," or if children, heading to and from school,
were endangered by tanks, checkpoints, and soldiers - a daily reality in
Occupied Palestine, under the harshest conditions facing unimaginable obstacles
and disadvantages, impacting education like everything else, affecting
a proper environment for teaching and learning.
- Yet Palestinians consider education vital to protect
and sustain, the 2007-08 UN Development Program Report showing the Occupied
Palestine Education Index at 0.891, the highest of all Arab states, followed
by Libya at 0.875, Lebanon at 0.871 and Kuwait at 0.868 - the Index measuring
the rate of children who attend school. The overall Arab average is 0.687.
- Final Comments
- For over six decades, over four under occupation, Israel
has pursued a ruthless, violent, racist policy of slow-motion genocide
against millions of Palestinians, especially children, to cripple new generations
physically and emotionally, to crush their spirit to resist, to harden
a ruthless colonial agenda in violation of fundamental international humanitarian
law with respect to basic human freedoms, self-determination, and the right
of people to live freely on their own land in peace.
- The "parties involved in this cause, including the
Palestinian Authority, the media, (global activists) and human rights organizations,
(must) work hard to expose (Israel's) brutality....in international forums,
in particular the UN General Assembly, to condemn (its) occupation to the
world community, to accuse and prosecute it in international judicial institutions
for committing the most horrific and inhumane crimes," especially
against children, representing hope and regeneration.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays
at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs
are archived for easy listening.