The Children of Gaza Have Names

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 the UK 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

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