Fourteen years have passed since the international community embraced the Convention on the Rights of the Child, providing the world with an unequivocal obligation on all State Parties to recognise, protect and promote the fundamental rights to which all children are entitled. But for Palestinians, these worthy sentiments are empty words in the face of sustained Israeli occupation. Today, the 5th of April - Palestinian Child Day - DCI/PS would like to draw your attention to the plight of Palestinian children who continue to suffer from the systematic and institutionalised violation of their rights.
Since the start of the Intifada in September 2000, not one Palestinian child has been left untouched by Israel’s continued brutal occupation: children too young to walk or speak have been shot dead by Israeli forces, others have seen friends and family members killed or injured, watched as their homes have been destroyed and parents humiliated, been beaten and tortured and thrown into prison without charges or trial. Physically and psychologically, socially and educationally their young lives are systematically being destroyed.
Such is the extent of the children’s suffering that concepts which are usually key for child rights organisations, such as the right to play, seem like unattainable luxuries. It is impossible to begin discussing these entitlements when Palestinian children are methodically denied even their most basic right: the right to life and personal security.
Over the course of 2003, a total of 130 children were killed by Israeli troops in the occupied territories, and a further 21 Palestinian children have been killed in the first three months of this year alone. The youngest of these, six-year old Khaled Maher Walwil from Nablus, died less than a fortnight ago. He was shot in the back as he turned away from the window on the second floor of his house. Khaled had stayed at home that day, too frightened to go to school because there were Israeli soldiers in the area.
Israel as a state party to the CRC has not just failed to implement this convention for Palestinian children, but systematically pursues policies which ensure the daily violation of the very rights it is obliged to uphold.
By citing emotive “security” justifications, Israel is able to ignore or deliberately violate the rights of Palestinian children. Because of “security” some 2,500 Palestinian children have been arrested, detained and in many cases tortured and abused in the past three and a half years; because of “security” at least 340 are being held today in Israeli military prison camps and civilian prisons within Israel; because of “security” at least 30 are serving time in a desert prison, having been denied the right to trial.
The impact of the occupation permeates every level of children’s lives and has a direct impact on their fundamental rights. A short journey to school is fraught with danger; obtaining a permit to travel to hospital can take weeks, and for the Palestinian children of East Jerusalem, even the right to be cared for by their parents is under threat. The Israeli stranglehold on the OPT is squeezing the life out of the Palestinian economy. Already half the Palestinian workforce is unemployed, leaving 70 per cent of the population living below the poverty line.
With the UN halting food deliveries to Gaza due to new Israeli restrictions, cases of malnutrition there are bound to increase, compounding the threat to the physical and mental development of Palestinian children. The protection of child rights, even in their most basic form, is absolutely necessary and vital in this worsening situation when the number and impact of violations are increasing daily. The international community has a responsibility to uphold and protect the rights of children and enforce these standards when states transgress. It is imperative that the world acts today to force Israel to abide by its explicit responsibilities to all children in the Occupied Territories as set down in the CRC and consequently, cease immediately the deliberate violation of their rights.
DCI/PS also urges the the international community to ensure at once that Israel implements the recommendations made by the Committee of the Rights of the Child on 4 October 2002 following consideration of Israel’s initial report to the committee Israel’s gross and persistent violations of Palestinian children’s rights cannot continue without raising serious questions over the legitimacy of international agreements, particularly the CRC. It is time to end these abuses. Let us start this action today - Palestinian Child Day.
DCI/PS has prepared a report on violations against Palestinian children in 2003 entitled Fragile Childhood. This analysis can act as your tool for action. It can be downloaded from our website in PDF format. Hard copies are available on request.
Defence for Children International/Palestine Section is an independent, Palestinian non-governmental organization, established in 1992 to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children as articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as in other international instruments.
DCI/PS, P.O. Box 55201, Jerusalem
Tel: +972 2 240 7530
Fax: +972 2 240 7018
(Note: Use +970 if the above country code does not work)