The Children of Gaza Have Names

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I wake up in the middle of the night to go check on my child. She breathes, she makes little sleep-noises. I leave the room. Again, half-an hour later I go back to check if she is alright. If she still breathes. I go back again and again through the night because instead of sleep­ing I have been watching the news com­ing in from Gaza. This is the sev­enth day of bomb­ing in Gaza, ten chil­dren are dead and 140 wounded. I refuse to call them “chil­dren”. They are not “chil­dren” to be com­pressed into a com­mon noun by the west­ern press: they have names, they had toys, they also once cried in their sleep while their par­ents went up to check on them.

Let us call out: Jumana and Tamer Esei­fan. Jumana and Tamer were killed by an Israeli mis­sile in the town of Jabaliya. They were not yet four. Let us call out: Iyad Abu Khoussa. Iyad was killed when another Israeli mis­sile hit his home. He was one. 10 mem­bers of the al Dalu fam­ily were killed in an Israeli air­strike while they were sleep­ing in their beds. Let’s call out some of their names: Sara was 7, Jamal was 6, Yusef was 4, and Ibrahim? he was 2. The New York Times reporter, Jodi Rudoren, described the funeral for the al Dalu chil­dren as an exer­cise in “pageantry”. Accord­ing to Rudoren los­ing ten fam­ily mem­bers in one day was no excuse for for­get­ting your man­ners and weep­ing in public. Jumana and Tamer. Iyad and Sara and Jamal. Yusef and Ibrahim. Let’s remem­ber they have names. Let’s remem­ber they also had toys.

When the bombs star­ted to fall why didn’t their par­ents flee? Mohammed Omer, a Palestinian journ­al­ist based in Gaza, tells us why.

Gaza does not have bomb shel­ters, and with the bor­ders closed, the shoreline block­aded and many of the tun­nels des­troyed, no one can leave. The Palestinian edu­ca­tion min­istry and the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have shut all schools in this coastal enclave. Mosques and churches are not safe. The sta­dium is not safe. Media offices are not safe. Gov­ern­ment build­ings are not safe. Homes are not safe.

There is nowhere to go. But when the bombs stop fall­ing what will life be like for those who remain in this ‘open air prison’ that is Gaza? What does child­hood in Gaza smell of when there are no airstrikes?

Accord­ing to the UN, Gaza will be unliv­able by 2020. Israel’s block­ade ensures that right now there is a short­age of food, hous­ing, schools, hos­pit­als and clean drink­ing water. By 2020, how­ever, accord­ing to the UN, the region will col­lapse under the weight of this crisis. This is the future the chil­dren not killed by air­strikes have to look for­ward to. And if this is their future, their present is marked by routine every­day viol­ence from Zion­ist settlers.

Defence for Chil­dren International-Palestine Sec­tion (DCI-PS), an organ­iz­a­tion that works in Palestine, states in their 2008 report that almost all Israeli sol­diers “kick or oth­er­wise mis­treat [Palestinian chil­dren] out of bore­dom, want­ing to ‘have some fun’.” In 2001, appear­ing on NPR’s Fresh Air, the New York Times reporter Chris Hedges described an aver­age day for a Palestinian child:

And I walked out towards the dunes and they were … [there] over the loud­speaker from an Israeli army Jeep on the other side of the elec­tric fence they were taunt­ing these kids. And these kids star­ted to throw rocks. And most of these kids were 10, 11, 12 years old. And, first of all, the rocks were the size of a fist. They were being hurled towards a Jeep that was armor-plated. I doubt they could even hit the Jeep. And then I watched the sol­diers open fire. And it was?—?I mean, I’ve seen kids shot in Sara­jevo. I mean, snipers would shoot kids in Sara­jevo. I’ve seen death squads kill fam­il­ies in Algeria or El Sal­vador. But I’d never seen sol­diers bait or taunt kids like this and then shoot them for sport. It was—I just—even now, I find it almost incon­ceiv­able. And I went back every day, and every day it was the same.

Act­iv­ists and human rights agen­cies work­ing in Palestine report how set­tler chil­dren are sys­tem­at­ic­ally taught viol­ence by their par­ents, remin­is­cent of sim­ilar prac­tices from the era of Slavery and Jim Crow in Amer­ica. Report­ing on a par­tic­u­lar school dis­trict in Hebron one report from 2008 states:

Set­tler school­chil­dren … routinely verbally har­ass, chase, hit and throw stones at Palestinian school­chil­dren under the watch­ful eyes of Israeli sol­diers. Their par­ents and other adults engage in sim­ilar beha­vior, block­ing the school steps with their cars to make it dif­fi­cult for stu­dents to pass or set­ting their dogs loose to chase and ter­ror­ize young children.

While routinely shoot­ing Palestinian chil­dren for sport, Israel also ensures that any act of self-defense is either crim­in­al­ized or smashed outright.

Since 2000, around 7,500 Palestinian chil­dren from the occu­pied Palestinian ter­rit­or­ies have been detained, inter­rog­ated and imprisoned by Israel. Accord­ing to non­gov­ern­mental organ­iz­a­tions, as many as 94 per­cent of Palestinian chil­dren arres­ted in the West Bank are denied bail. Once arres­ted this is the grid­lock of their “rights” under Israeli law:

Min­imum Age to Receive a Cus­todial Sentence Right to Have a Par­ent Present Dur­ing Interrogation Aver­age Time Till Brought Before a Judge Num­ber of Days One Can be Leg­ally Detained Without Charge
Palestinian Child 12 No Right 8 days 188 days
Israeli Child 14 Par­ent can be Present 24 hours 40 days

The report, which com­piled these stat­ist­ics, was fun­ded and sup­por­ted by theUK gov­ern­ment. In its con­clu­sions, the report noted that Israel’s blatant refusal to obey inter­na­tional law with respect to Palestinian chil­dren stemmed “from a belief, which was advanced to us by [an Israeli] mil­it­ary pro­sec­utor, that every Palestinian child is a ‘poten­tial terrorist.’” Palestinian chil­dren ter­ror­ize Israel while play­ing soc­cer, while sleep­ing in their beds, while try­ing to turn two years old.

When I ask my 4 year old to draw a pic­ture, she pulls out her cray­ons and draws rain­bows and cats, her two favor­ite sub­jects. I vis­ited the Palestinian refugee camps of Shabra and Shat­ila in Lebanon last winter and had the honor of meet­ing the chil­dren there who read­ily shared their works of art with me. What do you say to a five year old who knows how to draw clouds rain­ing blood? Can you com­fort a seven year old who can draw a corpse?

But those of us who have them, and those of us who know them, know this: chil­dren are resi­li­ent. They can stand up after they have fallen, they can ball their fin­gers in a fist. Some of them can draw the con­tours of free coun­try with cray­ons. Oth­ers can pull down walls. It is our duty to ensure that they live, in order to do so. And maybe many years from now, they will also draw rainbows.


Repos­ted from Rais­ing­Cain­Do­tOrg via Critical Legal Thinking

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