Who kills their dreams?

Suffering of Palestinian children at the hands of occupation 

By: Ghufran Amin

Malak Barakat (4years) and Shahid Barakat (7years) were killed in their home in Rammallah on 30 April 2001 by a Zionist planted bomb Every time little Malak, 4, watched the sky brightening, she shut her eyes wishing it will not come near her tiny home in Ramallah.

What Malak was scared of was not any normal sparkling or fireworks but it was death that terrified her. The closer the sounds and lights of the Israeli bombing, and firing bullets, the more she would be startled in terror. But this time Malak’s eyes were shut forever and no bomb could ever traumatize her. This innocent child was killed with her brother Barkat, 7, by Jewish terrorist who planted a bomb near their home.

It is this merciless Israeli bomb that attacks their childhood and steals their future from them. Malak’s death experience is the harsh reality, which every child of Palestine dreads.

Hundreds of other Palestinian children never sleep spending all night running from one side of the house to another where they think it would be safer. The rings around their eyes are evidence for their terror and trauma which was aggravated by this last uprising "Intifada" triggered by the current prime minister and war criminal Ariel Sharon who deliberately insisted to provoke Palestinians by visiting Al- Aqsa mosque.  The eruption of this “Intifada” last September was not only to protect the Palestinians’ individuality but also the Muslims’ identity. Since then the death toll is rising by the hour, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured in the most barbaric and a savage manner.

Killing and maiming

The International Secretariat of OMCT reported that over 1,000 children have been wounded, at least 12 children were shot in their eyes, and 200 have been arrested during the first months of Intifada.

According to the Amnesty International, the Israeli forces wounded more than 10,000 Palestinians, killed about 100 children under the age of 18. It condemned the use of excessive lethal force, firing rubber coated metal bullets and live ammunition including high velocity bullets at demonstrators.

Those who died are considered as fortunate martyrs.  Although they experienced beatings, severe injuries and bled to death but at least their torture ended.

The survivals are enduring untold suffering; they are being hit by machine gunfire from helicopters, with live ammunition, dum- dum bullets that are internationally banned. They have inflicted wounds, which will have permanent disabilities. As the Palestinian doctors and other International experts from the Palestinian Relief Committee commented that there are 11,000 injuries inflicted during this Intifada, of which 1500 is a result of the fragmenting bullets fired by M16 ammunition.  The reality seems to be much worse, the brutality of the Israeli forces is escalating, the death toll is rising and the children are terrified. For them surviving the day is the hope for tomorrow.

Psychological Torture

So much torture, greater than their age and tolerance. The ordeal is too extreme to comprehend and yet these innocent children bear all of it. Their cry has not grasped any attention; the hypocrite peace accords deafened the whole world. This holocaust is not only causing a heavy toll of deaths but also leaving a traumatized society. The LAW society stated that since last September the Israeli occupation forces and their intelligence services detained hundreds of children from Jerusalem. The society reported that many were abused, maltreated and locked up with Israeli criminals, and were subjected to degrading and inhumane physical and psychological treatment or torture in Israeli prisons. Abu Snaini’s family told LAW that five criminals abused their 14- year- old son. There are many other youths whose cruel realities force them to face the pain and sorrow of the aggression and injustice of occupied forces.

International Laws and conventions?

Regardless of how and why this Intifada started this genocide is a major violation of the human rights laws.  It is submitted that detaining children and torturing them would amount to a breach of (Article 37) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment”.  Imprisoning children with adults seriously violates the law, as it is specified in Paragraph C of  (Article 37) that “ Every child deprived of Liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular every child shall be separated from adults”.

Further more, torturing prisoners violates (Article 137) of the Geneva Convention of 1949.

Many reports including, UNICEF, United Nations of High Commission for Human Rights, Palestinian Human Rights group revealed that all the injuries that have been inflicted on the Palestinians were on the upper parts of the body.  As 72% of those killed were shot in the head and chest, these reports as argued by many human rights organizations clarify that the intention of Israeli soldiers is not to defend them selves but to inflict permanent harm if not kill.

Long term traumas

Children who hear nothing but hails of bullet firing by the Israelis, and observe the funerals of martyrs and the big crowds mourning end up with long term mental and emotional disorders. The ongoing violence in the region and the danger they face knowing that the next bomb or firing bullet could target them or one of their beloved ones leaves them under constant trauma.  As the Palestinian Red Crescent Society stated that one of the reasons why children are suffering from psychological problems is witnessing acts of violence and humiliation being perpetuated by the Israeli military.

The severity of the Israeli occupation has become very obvious as the statement of Mrs Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, clarified after her visit to the occupied territories that the deteriorating conditions are causing physical and psychological effects.

According to voluntary organizations that take care of children traumatized by war, violence and exile, the children of Palestine are the most affected in this uprising.  They are suffering from a wide range of symptoms; anxiety, sleep disturbance, nightmares, lack of appetite, learning difficulties and depression. The Red Cross International committee reported that the young participating in this uprising is a tiny minority. As the UNICEF confirms that they represent just one percent in these confrontations. This contradicts the western media and the Israeli authorities explaining the heavy death toll amongst children claiming that they are being used as shields. Although we refuse justifying the killing of innocent children for any reason, the reality opposes such a statement. The brutal fact is that most children are in fear of the onset of violence, they are confined in their homes refuse to leave them, wishing to escape death.   But bereavement seems to follow them like their own shadow, as the Israeli bomb does not pity these children’s desire to live in peace like other youths all over the world.

Who kills their dreams?

They no longer sleep nor do they dream, and if for a minute of serenity their spirits hope for a better life, the sounds of Israeli bullets firing awakens them to the cruel reality which they were forced to embrace since their birth. This war is against them, slaying their dreams, exterminating their hopes in their souls and most of all destroying their future.  They are forbidden to hope and live in the harmony we all take for granted. This desire has become a crime punishable with death penalty. Israel is persistent to doom the future of Palestine through this holocaust against the children of Jerusalem.

This holocaust against those innocent youths is worse than any other massacre. The cry of mothers and children is begging for the concern of all human rights organizations and international community, leaving us wondering when the world intends to take action rather than just standby and watch them die.

· LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection for Human Rights and the Environment. 

· UNICEF- United Nation International Children Emergency Fund Report on Status