A Story of Palestinian children

The story of Arab children, and especially Palestinian ones, is not only tragic in the context of Israeli violence, but one that also remains ignored, deliberately marginalised, and purposely suppressed in the US and Western media – and in Western political discourse. When Zionist terrorists began to attack Palestinian civilians in the 1930s and 1940s, Palestinian children fell victims. The most famous of these attacks include the Zionist blowing up of Palestinian cafes with grenades (such as occurred in Jerusalem on March 17, 1937) and placing electrically timed mines in crowded market places (first used against Palestinians in Haifa on July 6, 1938).

While the violence of the 1930s was the first introduction to the Middle East of such horrific terrorist violence, it is in the 1947-48 Zionist invasion of Palestinian villages and towns that Palestinian children were deliberately not spared. In December 1947, one of the first attacks by the Haganah (the pre-Israel Zionist paramilitary army) first attacks – which would become typical in this period – targeted the Palestinian village of Khisas in the Galilee and killed four Palestinian children. This proved to be a small number compared with the subsequent mass murders awaiting the Palestinians. In the village of Al-Dawayimah, where the Haganah committed a massacre in October 1948, an Israeli army soldier, quoted by Israeli historian Benny Morris, described the scene as such:

“The first [wave] of conquerors killed about 80 to 100 [male] Arabs, women, and children. The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead… One commander ordered a sapper to put two old women in a certain house… and to blow up the house with them. The sapper refused… The commander then ordered his men to put in the old women and the evil deed was done. One soldier boasted that he had raped a woman and then shot her. One woman, with a newborn baby in her arms, was employed to clean the courtyard where the soldiers ate. She worked a day or two. In the end they shot her and her baby…”

Palestinian children were murdered along with adults in April 1948 in the Deir Yassin massacre, to name the most well known slaughter of 1948. This would continue not only during Israel’s wars against Arabs in 1956, 1967, 1973, 1978, 1982, 1996, 2006, and 2008, when thousands of children fell victim to indiscriminate Israeli bombardment, but also in more outright massacres: in Qibya in 1953 where even the school was not spared Israel’s destruction; in Kafr Kassem in 1956 where the Israeli army massacred 46 unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel, 23 of whom were children. This trend would continue. In April 1970, during the War of Attrition with Egypt, Israel bombed an Egyptian elementary school in Bahr al-Baqar. Of the 130 school children in attendance, 46 were killed, and over 50 wounded, many of them maimed for life. The school was completely demolished. The first Israeli massacre at Qana in Lebanon in 1996 spared no child or adult, and the second massacre in the same village in 2006 did the same – adults aside, 16 children were killed that year.

The number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli soldiers in the first intifada (1987-1993) was 213, not counting the hundreds of induced miscarriages from tear gas grenades thrown inside closed areas targeting pregnant women, and aside from the number of the injured. The Swedish branch of Save the Children estimated that “23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their beating injuries in the first two years of the intifada”, one third of whom were children under the age of ten years old. In the same period, Palestinian attacks resulted in the death of five Israeli children. In the second intifada (2000-2004), Israeli soldiers killed more than 500 children with at least 10,000 injured, and 2,200 children arrested. The televised murder of the Palestinian child Muhammad al-Durra shook the world – but not Israeli Jews, whose government concocted the most outrageous and criminal of stories to exonerate Israel. In the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008, 1,400 Palestinians were killed, of whom 313 were children.

Zionism and Jewish children

Interestingly, Zionism did not always show similar love towards Jewish children, whom it never flinched from sacrificing for its colonial goals. In the Nazi period, Zionist leaders, for example, protested strongly against granting European Jews refuge in any country other than Palestine. In December 1938, David Ben-Gurion responded to a British offer, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, to take thousands of German Jewish children directly to Britain by saying: “If I knew it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), then I would opt for the second alternative, for we must weigh not only the life of these children but also the history of the people of Israel.” In November 1940, the Zionists responded to the British-imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine, long demanded by the Palestinian people, by blowing up a ship with Jewish civilian passengers in Haifa – killing 242 Jews, including scores of children. For Zionism, Jewish children are as expendable as Palestinian and Arab children, unless they serve its colonial goals. In light of this, it becomes clear that it is not simply the Jewishness or Arabness of children that makes them expendable or not, but their insertion into a political project as figures that can advance its goals or constitute obstacles to them.

Israel’s recruitment of Jewish children in paramilitary organisations, which began in 1948, continues apace, and is perhaps best exemplified in its Gadna [“Youth Battalions”] programme, where young Jewish boys and girls are prepared early for their future military service in the most militarised state on earth. The most outrageous use of Jewish children, however, would be illustrated when the Israeli army invited them to write messages of hate on the missiles about to be launched against Lebanese children during Israel’s July 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Captured by an Associated Press cameraman, the picture of blond Jewish girls near the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona writing messages of death to Lebanese children circulated the globe.

 According to a report in January 2011 in the largest Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, Jewish teachers in Israel stated that anti-Arab racism among Jewish students reached alarming levels, advocating killing Palestinians. The teachers found graffiti written on school walls and even on exam papers stating “Death To Arabs”. According to the report, a student at a school in Tel Aviv told his teacher during class that his dream is to become a soldier so he can exterminate all Arabs; several students in his class applauded in support of him. This, in no small amount, is the direct result of the racist Israeli school curricula with which Jewish children are regularly indoctrinated.

This is an excerpt of an article by Joseph Massad. He is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. He is author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (Routledge, 2006).

30 May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera

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