By Nigel Parry, Laurie King and Ali Abunimah, The Electronic IntifadaOn 27 October 2000, Defence for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS) noted that current attempts to blame Palestinian adults for the deaths of Palestinian children greatly skew the reality of the present conflict and divert attention away from the roots of the problem: the ongoing and systematic abuses of Palestinian human rights resulting from the 33-year-long Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories.
DCI/PS has documented the deaths of 43 Palestinian children, with an additional 3 who have been declared clinically dead, and the injury of over 1,000 children.
The circumstances surrounding the deaths of these children range from children who participated in protests against the Israeli occupation, children who were hit with live ammunition while playing in their backyard or walking to school, and children who were denied prompt access to medical care.
The notion that Palestinian parents send their children to die is yet the latest reincarnation of a well-known scapegoating strategy known as ‘blaming the victim.’ In a clear attempt to avoid Israeli culpability for the deaths of Palestinian children, animosity or suspicion is directed towards the victim, thereby justifying or excusing the original violation the victim suffered.
Similar to the battered wife who “drove” her spouse to physical abuse, Palestinian adults are blamed for the death and injury of their children by Israeli military forces. No less, Palestinian parents are accused of placing their children in dangerous situations, the implication being that Palestinian parents do not love their children in the same way that other parents do. No mention is made that contact with Israeli military forces is often unavoidable as Israeli soldiers are posted near schools, homes, and community centers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In addition to the attempt to de-humanize the Palestinian people, such an approach allows for the oversight of how it is that these children are actually being killed and wounded. When attention is focused on the parents of Palestinian children, the Israeli soldier who points his weapon and fires at the child, along with the Israeli government that sanctions these actions, escapes all accountability.
Moreover, attention is diverted away from the countless other Israeli violations of Palestinian children’s rights, including the closure of over 30 schools and confining thousands of Palestinian children to their homes for days on end as a result of the curfew imposed on the Old City in Hebron.
The end result is that Palestinians are blamed for their own victimization. Of particular concern to DCI/PS is the article “Child Sacrifice is Palestinian paganism,” published in the 27 October 2000 edition of “The Jerusalem Post.” In addition to asserting that Palestinian adults use children as human shields during confrontations, the article’s author states that DCI/PS launches “propaganda attacks against Israel, while ignoring the abuses of children by the Palestinian leadership.”
As a child-rights organization advocating, in particular, for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), we work to ensure that all parties to the present conflict act in the best interests of the child and according to the rule of law.
With reference to Israel, we advocate that Israel upholds its obligations under international law, both those it has willingly assumed and those to which it is bound through customary international law. To date, and in addition to numerous other violations, Israel has failed to implement the CRC in the Occupied Territories, despite its 2 November 1991 entry into force in Israel, or to submit the required country report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
As a child-rights organization, DCI/PS mourns the death of each of these children. DCI/PS regrets that any child is forced to live in violent circumstances, but the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has made that an inevitable fact of life for approximately 1.5 million Palestinian children. These conditions will only improve upon the complete Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.