On 15 June 2017, a gang of Zionist fanatics from the Itamar Occupation settlement, near Jenin, assaulted a handicapped eight-year-old Palestinian boy, Bashar Abdel-Latif Ghazal Malitat, and abducted him to their settlement. There, they tortured him, smearing his handcuffed body with hot molten plastic. Bashar was hospitalised after a search that took several hours. The boy, who is unable to speak, was lucky to have escaped with his life. In previous cases, settlers have tortured and burnt to death Palestinian children, such as Mohammed abu-Khdeir (16) who, in 2014, was kidnapped and burnt alive [see more details below]. About 550,000 Israeli colonists have been imposed upon some three million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Around 15% of the settlers are from the US. These armed Occupation settlements bring with them racist, Jewish-only roads, reinforced by military checkpoints and other barriers that inhibit freedom of movement for Palestinians and keep local communities apart from each other and from their farmland.
In support of the settlers, the Israeli Army brutally imposes Zionist rule over a defenceless population in a manner that exemplifies the ethnocentric fanaticism of Israel’s founding ideology. Children are very much among the victims of this military regime and Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) has released a report, entitled No way to treat a child, that reveals something of the cruelty. Terrified youngsters are often interrogated in isolation (97% had no parent or legal counsel present during interrogation) and coerced into signing confessions written in Hebrew, which they cannot understand. Captive children, 88% of whom were seized and abducted without their parents being advised, would often be forced into agonising positions and subjected to threats against their families.
The DCI-P data-gathering began in 2008 (the statistics from the report referred to here is from 2015), and little has changed. If anything, it is becoming even more extreme. At the time of the report, 42% of Palestinian children taken prisoner by Israeli soldiers had been abducted from their homes in the middle of the night. There is no refuge for Palestinian children and the so-called refugee camps are just as vulnerable to night home invasions as are Palestinian towns and villages.
On 2 July 2014, Muhammad Abu Khdeir (16) was abducted from the Shuafat neighbourhood and his dead, badly burned body was later discovered in a Jerusalem forest. Earlier, in Beit Hanina, two Israeli settlers had attempted to kidnap a ten-year-old boy, Mousa Zalloum but the boy’s mother and local residents managed to prevent it. The next day, 3 July, Israeli settlers attempted to kidnap, overnight, a Palestinian child in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina. Four settlers from the Pisgat Zeev Occupation settlement tried to kidnap the seven-year-old boy, Muhammad Ali al-Kiswani, as he played with friends near his home. The children alerted his family, who managed to intervene and rescue the child. The settlers fled on foot. Accounts of many more such horrors can be seen at http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/mohammed-possible-abductions/.
The Kufr Douma tragedy
Overnight on Friday, 31 July 2015, a group of masked Jewish settlers threw petrol bombs through a window into a bedroom where the Dawabsha family were sleeping peacefully. The family’s home in Kufr Douma, near Nablus, was set on fire and 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha burned to death. Ali’s brother Saad, who suffered burns to 90% of his body, died a week after the attack and, in the end, both parents also died, leaving one son, Ahmad, who spent 25 days in intensive care, with surgery, skin grafts and other treatment. The arsonists left graffiti, reading ‘revenge’ and ‘long live the Messiah’, alongside a Star of David on the walls of the Palestinian home. Witnesses said the terrorists were from the illegal settlement of Ma’aleh Ephraim, where approximately 1,800 armed settlers live under the security of the Israeli Occupation forces. Nasr Dawabsha, Ahmad’s paternal uncle, told The Jerusalem Post that Ahmad faces another eight years of treatment. Nasr also said that Ahmad still does not fully realise what happened to his parents and brothers. “He knows they died and went to heaven, but he does not understand what that means. He thinks that he can travel to Ramallah or Nablus to see his parents and brothers sometime soon,” he said. “He asks about them every day and their absence is taking a heavy toll on him.”
Wounded child left to die
This year, on 1 June, Israeli checkpoint troops in south Ya’bad, Jenin, shot and critically wounded a 15-year-old girl, Nouf Iqab Abd el-Jabbar Enfeat. The child died of her wounds later in hospital. This video shows Nouf Iqab Abd el-Jabbar Enfeat, still alive, lying on the ground, while Israeli soldiers stand around making no effort to cover, care for, or comfort her. DCI-P says it has opened an investigation into her case. Including Nouf, at least nine Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers so far this year.
Children of the largest displaced population in the world
Of the 12 million Palestinians around the world today, 66% are considered to be forcibly displaced. June 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military Occupation, the longest in modern history. Those that reside in militarily Occupied Palestine pay a high price for their determination to stay on their land. In July, Palestinians will commemorate the third anniversary of Israel’s 51-day offensive on Gaza, known as ‘Operation Protective Edge’. In that carnage, 551 Palestinian children died at the hands of the Israeli military. The abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli Occupation forces has consequences that persist for generations. For decades, the DCI-P’s “Israeli Military Detention: No Way to Treat a Child” campaign has co-ordinated with the American Friends Service Committee in documenting the escalating violations of the rights of Palestinian children by Israeli military forces.
Trauma and torture: the imprisonment of Palestinian children
An info-graphic published early in June highlights the mistreatment suffered by Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli Occupation. These abuses are in direct violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international agreements. Generations of Palestinian children have had their lives shaped under systemic discrimination, dominated by malevolent settlement expansion, home invasions, repeated military offensives and the Gaza blockade. Israeli military courts (90% of the children brought before Israeli military courts face ‘conviction’) are travesties of justice that exist solely to enforce the Occupation. At least 500-700 Palestinian children are held prisoner by the Israeli military every year. These children frequently suffer abuse, especially immediately following arrest. Terrified, often blindfolded and painfully manacled, they suffer abuses in captivity that can have lifelong consequences.
The makers of the documentary Detaining Dreams visited Palestinian homes whose children had suffered at the hands of the Israeli military. Boys described the terror of being awakened in the middle of the night, blindfolded, manacled and then beaten while being abducted in military vehicles. The boys would be subjected to ferocious and intimidating interrogation without the presence of their parents or lawyers. The effects on families of these abuses are devastating. Last year, the deadliest in a decade for West Bank children, there were 32 child fatalities at the hands of Israeli forces and, in just the first four months of 2017, Israeli forces killed six Palestinian children.
Growing up in Gaza
Israel’s Gaza blockade is almost ten years old, forcing Palestinian children ever deeper into health-threatening poverty. World governments continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence of war crimes committed by Israeli forces during the 2014 military assault on Gaza. There is no justice or accountability for the child victims of Israel’s direct targeting of civilian neighbourhoods and schools that killed at least 547 Palestinian children.
Targeting of children
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as a person under 18 years of age. The obligations of the state (in this case the Israeli regime that chooses to militarily-dominate the Palestinian people) are clear. Among the Convention’s 41 articles are the duty of special care for refugee children and their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Israel is responsible for having created refugees among the Palestinian people, and its militarily-imposed rule is, by its very nature, bound to cause resentment and resistance. Palestinians have a right to voice, and otherwise express, their opposition to the military Occupation. Unfortunately, even the raising of a Palestinian flag can result in a storm of rubber-coated steel bullets and even live fire from the heavily-armed Israeli forces. The Israeli Army presence amongst the Palestinian people is belligerent and reaction to the slightest sign of violent resistance is almost always disproportionate.
A post-mortem on the body of a 15-year-old boy, Raed Radeideh, carried out at the Forensic Institute in Abu Dis, revealed that there were about 15 bullet wounds. Among them, two were in the boy’s head, two or three in his left foot and two or three more in his shattered right foot. Raed Radeideh had been shot to death by the Israeli police on 22 May 2017, the same day US President Donald Trump arrived in Israel. No one had bothered to contact Raed’s family, apart from Israel’s Shin Bet agents who interrogated the boy’s father, and told him only that his son had been wounded. It took four days for the youngster’s body to be delivered to the family at an Occupation checkpoint. The family had so many questions. Raed’s right leg had been almost completely shattered. Why had so much firepower been used? There was no school on the day of the shooting and he had begun the day preparing for his fast-approaching final exam. The boy did eventually go out to visit his grandmother but never arrived – was he abducted? Many children are seized and held captive for a time by Israeli soldiers, and others often taken prisoner in the street. The schoolboy was too young to have an ID card. The Israeli police alleged that Raed had approached a checkpoint brandishing a knife. He was shot dead while still, apparently, some distance away from the checkpoint and while the police remained behind the barrier. Israeli Occupation officers refuse to show the boy’s parents the CCTV evidence taken at the checkpoint, even though they have asked to see it.
Knesset inquiry reveals history of Zionist child abuse
On 7 May 2017, The Israeli newspaper Haaretz displayed the following headline: ‘$5,000 a Head’ Yemenite Babies Who Disappeared in 1950s Israel Were Sold to U.S. Jews, New Film Claims. The introduction to the article began “US Jews believed children were orphans, that money would help new Jewish state, researcher says in ‘Lost Children,’ which claims WIZO [Women’s International Zionist Organisation] played role in sending infants to US.”
The Tikkun Olam website author, Richard Silverstein, posted an article on this matter on 18 June 2017. Silverstein says: “I consider myself a supporter of Israel.” According to the article: “The Israeli Knesset has, after sixty years of cover-up, exposed one of the most lurid scandals in the history of Israeli medicine. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, inspired by Ben Gurion’s philosophy that Israel must populate itself via Jewish immigration to compete with the Arabs, Israel airlifted tens of thousands of Yemenite Jews and resettled them. Within months of their arrival, reports began circulating of babies who disappeared from hospitals and medical clinics. The final count amounted to hundreds, perhaps even thousands of babies who were purportedly kidnapped from their parents or even killed. The grieving parents received no word about what had happened; no death certificate; no explanation. Even decades later, after three separate boards of inquiry spanning thirty years, the results of the investigations were sealed and victims learned nothing. The State refused to accept responsibility nor did it compensate the victims for their personal losses. It is perhaps the greatest medical scandal in Israeli history . . .” Towards the end of the harrowing article, Silverstein observes that the crime “is yet another reminder of the profound racism at the heart of the Zionist enterprise.”
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified in history. It was adopted by the General Assembly on 20 November 1959 and is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The charter enshrines an affirmation of faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person. The UN recognises the rights of the child without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The United Nations has also recognised that children are entitled to special care and assistance, with the right to grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.
In the Occupied Palestine territories, Palestinian children are subjected to foreign military rule in an atmosphere of oppression and dread. When taken prisoner by Israeli soldiers, Palestinian children are subjected to military rule and forced to appear before military courts. Jewish settler children living in the same land are subject solely to normal civil law. The discrimination is ideologically engendered and racist. The Israeli Army conducts its operations behind the façade of a code of ethics. An Israeli Army major, Eyal Harel. now with Breaking the Silence (the veterans’ organisation that solicits testimony from Israeli soldiers) describes in Haaretz how it works: “We caught a Palestinian boy of no more than 12, riding a donkey between Qalqiliya and Kfar Sava. You don’t want to know that after a ‘chase’ of about five minutes, the Border Policeman shooed the donkey away and beat the boy up – why, I will never know. Because I didn’t ask.” Nor did I tell anyone. None of us ever told anyone.” As the commander of a military post outside Rafah, Harel says he was was involved in “dozens (yes, dozens) of incidents in which all the positions in the outposts fired simultaneously at the houses in Rafah, using any weapon possible. In 98% of the cases, the shooting began because someone imagined that they saw something, and the rest was just part of the fun.”
Some soldiers do finally realise that they can no longer bear the ideologically-driven exercise of unbridled power that displaces the rational requirement to act with moderation, tolerance and restraint. Harel’s awakening occurred when, after holding up a Palestinian family’s motor vehicle, the sight of a terrified five-year-old girl made him suddenly realise that “for the first time in my adult life as a proud Zionist, reserve officer . . . the fate of an entire family that was only trying to get home safely was in my hands; that I could show them mercy or the whip.”
The UN charter recognises the importance of “traditions and cultural values of each people for the protection and harmonious development of the child.” Zionist military rule totally denies the traditions and cultural values of the Palestinian people and its aims are in direct opposition to the UN Charter’s recognition of “the importance of international co-operation for improving the living conditions of children in every country . . .”
New Zealand’s responsibility
In November 1947, New Zealand voted in favour of the UN General Assembly Resolution to partition Palestine, ignoring the Palestinian people’s protests and their right to self-determination. After 70 years of discrimination and cruel injustice, the non-binding Resolution has, as its critics had foretold, proved to be a humanitarian disaster.
In partial recognition of this, in December 2016, New Zealand sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The Resolution was adopted because, as the then Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, explained, “continuing settlement growth at anything like the current rate will render the two state solution a purely academic concept. There will be nothing left to negotiate.”
On the 13 March 1993 New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
With binding obligations to act in defence of international law and children’s rights, the passing of UNSC Resolution 2334 will be meaningless if Israel is allowed to ignore it. The Zionist regime is thumbing its nose at both the Resolution and the world community, yet the National Government appears to be turning a blind eye. The Jerusalem Post (JP) has reported that, “following discreet diplomatic contacts, Netanyahu and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English spoke by phone a few days ago.” According to the JP, Wellington had been informed that, “Israel has decided to end what it called ‘the crisis’ and send Ambassador Itzhak Gerberg back to the country.” So it is Israel that decides and, apparently, it is the National Government that gratefully accepts! The JP reported that “efforts to restore ties between the two countries started in earnest last month, when New Zealand’s new Foreign Minister, Gerry Brownlee, wrote a letter to Netanyahu on the occasion of Independence Day trying to smooth over the difficulties.” Instead of requiring a positive response from Israel regarding UNSC Resolution 2334, Brownlee spinelessly surrendered, saying, “Our goal is to get the relationship between New Zealand and Israel back on track,” while expressing the hope that “this will provide a positive platform to re-establish communication between officials from our respective foreign affairs ministries.”
Enforce observance of the rights of the child
Israel is militarily Occupying and colonising Palestinian territory, with the obvious intention of remaining forever, while UNSC resolutions condemn this military domination of a defenceless people. However, Gerry Brownlee callously dismisses all of this, saying “. . . the settlement issue is one that the parties that are in dispute need to sort out among themselves.” In case that was not clear enough, he added: “. . . in the end, it’s something for them to determine.” Brownlee’s statement flies in the face of international law and undermines the requirements of UNSC Resolution 2334. So what was it all for? It is high time to end the hypocrisy. New Zealand must stand in support of, not only UNSC Resolution 2334 but also the whole of international humanitarian law.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is universal and recognises no boundaries. The restoration of justice, equality and peace throughout an undivided Holy Land will not be achieved without determined action by the world community. After decades of Zionist opposition and contempt for UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, that means the enforcement of international law. Zionist separatism and division has engendered nothing but cruelty and injustice. Many anti-Zionist Jews deplore the ideology as running counter to the values of Judaism and a growing majority of world opinion sees Zionism as irrational and racist. Every child deserves security, and the removal of fear and division makes room for reconciliation and harmony. There could be no more joyful outcome than to see all the children of Palestine/Israel playing and learning together, as equals.