Print        

Palestinian Children Victims of Zionist Occupationism

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tahereh Goudarzi
Expert on Middle East Issues

The general age composition of the Palestinian people living in the occupied territories of 1967 is indicative of a young and dynamic population. According to statistics, the ratio of people under 14 years was about 40.8 percent of total inhabitants of those territories in the middle of 2011, of whom 38.9 percent lived in the West Bank and 42.2 percent in Gaza Strip[1]. Given the aggressive nature of the Zionists and their inattention to human and moral obligations, they are the most likely candidates for making the young generation of Palestinians the main target of their hostile measures. The situation in the occupied Palestinian lands is currently such that the primary rights of Palestinian children are easily violated and their human dignity is hurt. This article aims to cast a close look at internationally recognized rights of children and provide a brief review of the situation of Palestinian children and challenges facing them.

A. Children’s Rights in the Light of International Laws and Obligations

From the viewpoint of international law, including the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, “every person aging less than 18 years is considered a child unless the age limit is lowered under laws enforced in their respective countries.”[2] At the same time, the Zionist regime of Israel has reduced that age to 16 in an arbitrary measure before an independent Palestinian state is established and without giving an opportunity to the Palestinian Authority to do something about it.

At any rate, the main sources for the rights of children in international law include:

1. The  United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, approved by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1959;
2. The International Convention on the Rights of the Child, approved by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1989; and
3. The 4th Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, approved on August 12, 1949.

All the aforesaid international instruments have stipulated that recognition of the following rights is an international principle and an obligation for all governments, and they should cover all children without any discrimination on the basis of color, gender, religion, ethnic origin, wealth, affiliation, or familial status:

1. The right to life;
2. The right to suitable livelihood;
3. The right to medical healthcare;
4. The right to play and entertainment;
5. The right to psychological security and peace;
6. The right to education; and
7. The right to freedom[3].

B. Examples of Violation of Palestinian Children’s Rights

1) Victims of war

Children, as one of the most vulnerable groups in human societies, enjoy a special status in international law and humanitarian law. Both kinds of laws have put firm emphasis on the need to avoid of scaring children, but the Zionist regime of Israel has made Palestinian children regular targets of its savage attacks in blatant defiance of the aforesaid human and international obligations.

For example, during the 22-day war against Gaza Strip in 2008 and 2009, a large group of Gazan children, who made up about half of Gaza’s population, was among the main victims of the violence in war. Thousands of them are still refugees. They study in overcrowded schools or have had to drop out, are deprived of medical services, and do not have access to sanitary potable water.[4]

It is quite clear that many problems faced by the Palestinian people, especially their children, in Gaza Strip are the result of the destruction of water sanitation infrastructures as well as bombardment of the Palestinian enclave as a result of which chemical materials and phosphorus have penetrated ground water resources in Gaza during the 22-day war. The Israeli regime has even prevented the people of Gaza from rebuilding the ruins of war, which has further exacerbated the plight of Gazan people.

In addition, according to a new report published by the London-based organization, “Save the Children,” 605 children have been killed in Gaza between 2007 and June 2012 while 2,179 children have been injured in direct confrontations between the Zionists and Palestinians. Sixty children have been also killed during conflicts with the Zionist regime’s forces or due to other kinds of confrontations, and 82 children have been injured.[5]

In the meantime, according to statistics released by the Palestinian Ministry of Information, between the end of 2000 and March 31, 2012, a total of 1,453 Palestinian children younger than 18 years have been killed and 5,000 children have been injured during the same period.[6]

2) Detention and Arrest

The basic rights of the Palestinian children, especially those Palestinian children who live in the West Bank and who are more exposed to the risk of being detained or arrested by the Zionist forces, or whose families may be taken into custody, have been frequently violated by the Zionist regime’s soldiers. According to a report released on May 25, 2012, by Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, nocturnal raids and arrest of family members of the Palestinian children have had a horrible psychological effect on them. According to psychological studies on Palestinian children ageing 12 and below, there is a direct and close correlation between children watching one of their family members come to harm at the hands of the Israeli soldiers, and reduced life expectancy among them.[7]

Falk’s report also pointed to long-term detention of children away from their families, keeping them at unsuitable places away from their places of residence, torture and forced confessions, as well as preliminary interrogation of the Palestinian children inside Zionist settlements which are not accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as to the attorneys and members of the arrested children’s families.[8]

In this respect and according to Issa Ahmed Qaraqa, the Palestinian Minister of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, the Zionist regime’s forces arrest 700 Palestinians aged under 18, including children aged 12-13 years, per year and 90 percent of them are exposed to torture and other forms of pressure and mistreatment. As a result, a total of 280 Palestinian children were still kept at Israeli prisons by July 19, 2012. A number of Palestinian children living in the West Bank and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) have been sentenced to house arrest or have been exiled from their original places of residence.[9]

3) Victims of Legal Crimes

The Zionists have created their own specific legal tools in order to target the Palestinian children. Most of those tools are discriminatory and reminiscent of an apartheid policy against the Palestinians and, of course, in stark contrast to international obligations of the Zionist regime of Israel. A major example of this is the Israeli regime’s use of double standards when defining the concept of “child.” While based on international law, child is any person aged blow 18 years, according to special definition used by Israel’s military courts, the lowest age for trying a minor is 12 years and many Palestinian children aged 12 have been not only tried, but given heavy sentences. At the same time, when cracking down on Palestinians, the military forces of the Zionist regime consider any Palestinian child above 16 as an adult. However, when dealing with Zionist juvenile delinquents, they consider 18 as the age of legal responsibility.

Although Gadi Shamni, the commander of the Central Command of the Israeli regime, announced in 2009 that a special court for children would be established, Palestinian experts believe that the promise was just a false announcement and no actual change has taken place in the violent treatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli forces.[10]

In this relation, a group of British legal experts took a trip to Palestinian lands occupied in 1948 and 1967, and later issued a report on June 26, 2012, in which they announced that the Zionist forces had violated many articles of international law on the rights of children, including the provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among major instances of violations mentioned in that report were not translating orders given to children into Arabic as well as discrimination and haste in arresting children, lack of differentiation between children and adults, and exposing children to inhumane behavior and torture.[11]

4) Violence by Zionist Settlement Dwellers

According to Falk’s report on May 25, 2012, the city of Hebron and areas around it had witnessed regular incidents caused by the violence from Zionist settlement dwellers against Palestinian people. There have been regular reports about tensions between settlement dwellers and main inhabitants of Palestinian lands, including those involving schoolchildren. There have been Palestinian schoolchildren who were threatened by settlement dwellers on their way from and to school; some of them have been even abducted and raped.[12]

According to a report by Defense for Children International, Palestine Branch, from the beginning of 2008 up to February 2012, the Zionist settlement dwellers have physically abused, and at times killed, 91 Palestinian children.[13]

5) Human Shields

Another example of the negative effects of war and inhuman treatment of Palestinian children by Zionists is to use those children as human shields. There have been many cases in which the Zionist regime’s forces, in blatant violation of their international obligations and requirements, have tied Palestinian children in front of their military vehicles and their Zionist passengers in order to protect them. In other cases, they have forced the Palestinian children to inspect bags suspected of containing explosives, so that, in case of a possible explosion, Zionists would not come to harm. In addition, there have been many instances in which the Zionist soldiers have used dogs to harass Palestinian children and have violated their human rights and dignity through physical abuse and mistreatment of those children.[14]

6) Unhealthy Living Conditions

The occupation of Gaza Strip, which gradually started following the victory of Hamas in the election for the new Palestinian parliament in 2006, and was intensified after Hamas took charge of Gaza Strip, has had profound impacts on all aspects of the Palestinians’ lives in that region, especially with regard to healthcare. According to Falk’s report on May 25, 2012, official figures released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) show that 40 percent of Gaza citizens live below poverty line as a result of the Israel’s siege on their territory[15].

Under these conditions, Palestinian children are the main victims because they are going through the most sensitive part of their life, which is the growth period and puberty, and are greatly suffering from harsh conditions. Many of them have contracted various diseases as a result of malnutrition, so that, 10 percent of children below 5 years have been suffering from long-term malnutrition and subsequent short stature. Also, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren and 68.1 percent of children aged 9-12 months in addition to 36.8 percent or almost one-third of pregnant women are suffering from iron deficiency and resultant anemia. If not treated properly, this will have a very powerful negative effect on growth of Palestinian children and infants.[16]

In addition, diseases resulting from consumption of unhealthy and untreated water, including typhus and various kinds of diarrhea have greatly increased the mortality rate of Palestinian children especially those aged below 3 years, and have increased frequency of their reference to clinics for medical services. It should be noted that many untoward effects of drinking unsanitary water by the people of Gaza will be revealed in long run.[17]

A report released by UNICEF in Mach 2011 noted that ground water resources in Gaza Strip have shown a high concentration of chemical materials including chloride, nitrate, and other pollutants. Microbiologic contamination, for example, with various kinds of coliform bacteria and streptococci found in human feces, which can easily enter the water cycle in Gaza Strip, have also led to outbreak of various kinds of infectious diarrhea and other water-borne diseases among children as well as adults in Gaza.[18]

Despite the above facts, most children in Gaza do not have suitable access to medical and healthcare services. Due to long delays in sending Gazan children, who need medical treatment, to Palestinian lands occupied in 1948 because of obstacles created by officials of the Zionist regime, many of them are in grave danger. On the whole, a total of 1,704 Palestinian children out of 3,949 children who had to be taken out of Gaza to receive medical treatment during 2011, have been denied such an opportunity. Three of them were never allowed out of Gaza and another three died while waiting to receive medical treatment.[19]

7) Demolition of Houses and Refugee Status of a Large Group of Palestinians

Due to children’s serious psychological need for having a house within which they could experience psychological peace and live with their families, children are main victims of demolition of Palestinians’ houses and buildings by the Zionist regime of Israel. The policy that the Zionists seriously pursue for the destruction of Palestinians’ houses both in the West Bank (to speed up Judaization of that region and build more Zionist settlements), and in Gaza Strip (as a result of frequent aerial and artillery strikes) has rendered many Palestinians, especially children, homeless. The policy’s ultimate goal is to force the Palestinians to leave their lands and move on to other areas.

According to statistics produced by the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD) in 2011, a total of 1,006 Palestinians, including 565 children, have lost their families. The figure is twice previous statistics related to 2010.
In addition, the fear and panic resulting from homelessness has had a very destructive impact on the morale of Palestinian children.[20]

8) Children of Labor

Unfavorable economic conditions in the West Bank, despite promises of economic progress given by Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad and financial aid which is given to the Palestinian Authority, in addition to the consequences of Israel’s economic embargo on Gaza, has led to increased poverty in the narrow enclave, forcing Palestinian children to enter the labor market. Based on statistics released by Palestine’s Ministry of Information in 2010, a total of 65,000 children, which accounted for 6 percent of total Palestinian children aged 5-14, were working with or without a wage on the Palestinian lands.[21]

Also, according to figures released by “Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics” in 2012, the average figure of Palestinian children aged 10-17 who were working stood at 4.8 percent. Individual figures for the West Bank and Gaza Strip respectively stood at 7.1 percent and 1.4 percent.[22]

9) The Right to Education

According to OCHA’s report on the situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories, destruction of houses and forced homelessness in the West Bank, especially at Area C, has led to disruption of educational services and negative consequences resulting from lack of suitable access to educational services and high-quality learning environment. Meanwhile, according to UNICEF’s findings in Gaza Strip, homelessness of people in this area and registering children in schools other than those they have already been studying at have posed major educational challenges to both students and teachers. There are also other factors which have led to blatant violations of the educational rights of the Palestinian children and have made continuation of their studies difficult. They include unsuitable educational infrastructures; unhealthy and unsanitary installations; destruction of schools; violence from Zionist settlement dwellers and lack of security for Palestinian children on the way to and from school; mistreatment of children by Israeli soldiers; long distances to Palestinian schools; impossibility of rebuilding schools which have been destroyed in Gaza Strip; and the sense of insecurity among Palestinian schoolchildren in their schools, including during the Israel’s 22-day war against Gaza.[23]

10) The Right to Play and Entertainment

The Palestinian children’s right to play and be entertained has been also affected by the occupationist measures of the Zionist regime of Israel. Many Palestinian children do not have a suitable place where they can play and be entertained. Many Palestinian children have to play inside their homes due to fear of the Zionist regime’s soldiers who have on many occasions attacked and killed them without warning, or due to frequent aerial and artillery attacks. All across Gaza Strip, children play in contaminated environment, which has sometimes led to their death. The deaths of nine children from the same family at Al-Barij refugee camp in Gaza which was the result of children playing near sewerage, was an example of such deaths[24]. Many Palestinian children also have to play on the lands of evacuated townships in various parts of Gaza Strip which are usually infested with all kinds of dangerous materials.

Conclusion

One of the most inhuman manifestations of the Zionist regimes’ occupationist policies is to deprive the Palestinian children of their basic and human rights. A review of the plight of the Palestinian children will clearly prove existence of a regular and calculated plan by Zionists to target and inflict the highest degree of damages on the young generation of Palestinians in order to obliterate their opportunities for education and progress and even deprive them of their basic right to live. The Palestinian children, as innocent victims of violence, occupation, injustice and discrimination in an environment of siege and torture, have been witness to direct and indirect violation of their social, economic, health, educational and psychological rights by the Zionist soldiers and immigrants. Such a behavior on the part of the Zionist occupiers in addition to deadly silence of influential international organizations, are telltale signs of a gradual Holocaust and insidious genocide against the Palestinian society. 

Endnotes

1- www.pclos.gov.ps/portals/_ PCBS/Downloads/book/891.pdf

2- www.unicef.org/crc

3. Ahmed Al-Hila, Maryam Eitani (2008); The suffering of the Palestinian children under Israeli occupation, Beirut, Zaituna Center for Studies and Consultations, pp. 19-24

4- www.savechildren.org/uk/sites /.../gazaoneyearonreport.pdf

5- Ibid

6- www.minfo/ps/arabic/indexphp?pagess=main&id=1240

7- www2.ohchr.org/English/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/10session/A.HRC.10.20.pdf

8- Ibid

9- www.alzaytouna.net/permalink/20929

10- www.malaf.info/?page=ShowDetails&id=10824&table=padocuments&CatId=

11- www.raya.ps/ar/news/550061.html

12- www2.ohchr.org/English/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/10session/A.HRC.10.20.pdf

13-http://arabic.dci-palestine.org/content/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D8%B1000

14- www.amin.org/articles.php?t=repot+&id=2888

15- www2.ohchr.org/English/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/10session/A.HRC.10.20.pdf

16- www.savethechildren.org.uk/resources/online_library/gazas-children-falling-behinc

17- Ibid

18- www.unicef.org/...
/FINAL_summary_protecting_children_from-un

19- www2.ohchr.org/Englis/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/10session/A.HRC.10.20.pdf

20- www.icahd.org/...
/Demolishing%20Homes%20Demolishing%2opeac...

21- www.minfo/ps/arabic/indexphp?pagess=main&id=1240

22- www.alzaytouna.net/permalink/22810.html.

23- www.unicef.org/media56025.html.

24- www.samanews.com/index.php?act=show&id=138600

Key Words: Palestinian Children, Zionist Occupationism, International Laws, Detention and Arrest, Legal Crimes, Human Shields, Living Conditions, Children of Labor, Goudarzi

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم