'In the future if I grow up, and in Gaza it's an achievement to grow up, because death is standing at your doorstep, I want to defend the rights of children - Yasmeen (Born 1996. In 'Gaza Monologues)
The stories we hear of little children being forced to become 'child soldiers' in armed combat are as horrible as you can imagine. We shudder at such cruelty. When thoughts such as these creep into our minds we tend to tremble and have a tendency to reach out to our children and hug them in a protective sort of way. But then how much do we care about children who are killed in their beds or in their schools or as they play in the modest open space they can find? Do we feel for them? Apparently not.
Take for example the latest news about Israeli courts giving light sentences of only 6 months ( and that too suspended) to Israeli soldiers who had been found guilty of using a Palestinian child as a human shield. We would have thought that there would be a hue and a cry from NGOs and other assorted organisations or individuals. But nothing. Not a word. Excuse me, Mr. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, doesn't this brutality amount to a war crime?
|Palestinian children are seen near the rubble of their family house after it was destroyed by Israeli army tractors early on November 25, 2010 in the West Bank village of Yatta near Hebron. AFP
Those of us who watched youths from Ladies College and Wesley College perform the 'Gaza Monologues' organised by 'Floating Space' couldn't help sobbing when the children were detailing the terror that Israel unleashed in its blitzkrieg on Gaza.
There was this girl who said she heard the bombs when she was at school and then all she can remember was the chaos and the carnage that ensued as she weaved her way through streets and bombs to reach home and the comforting arms of her parents.
We in Sri Lanka are quite familiar with such agonies and so can empathise with her and her parents as they anxiously waited for her to reach safety. Safety? Ha, that's a word that doesn't exist in what remains of Palestine. There is no place that is safe from Israeli attacks. Schools and hospitals have been deliberately targeted as a matter of course. Yet the world watches.
The words of poor 15-year-old Mahmud echo in the minds of those of us who watched 'Gaza Monologues' 'the war ended on the ground' he said 'but it's still there in my head. I want to be like any child in this world…' Oh dear.
Then take the story of yet another Palestinian child. He says that when he managed to reach home he saw his father clutching his brother's framed photo. 'And he was crying. Tears were rolling down his eyes like rivulets. I had never seen him cry. He didn't say a word. He didn't have to. I knew my brother had been killed in the Israeli assault. Imagine a child having to see a helpless father whom he or she has to depend upon for comfort, security and solace in times of need! What of the father? Would any father want his children to see him in such helpless and pitiable circumstances? He went on to tell us that his dead brother and he had shared a tiny room and that he missed him so much he could hardly sleep. Today his brother sleeps in an early grave while he sleeps alone in the room where they were once having fun like all children anywhere in the world. Memories they were making, to be shared when they grow older. But, alas, no such luck here.
Ponder the case of the little girl who said she wanted to dress well because she didn't want to die shabbily dressed. 'Oh, but I don't want to be blown to bits. I want to die in one piece'. We sobbed again. After all these are not words we want a child to speak.
It's not difficult to believe that all this savagery is a deliberate design to drive away the remaining Arabs from their homeland when you take into account Raphael Eitan's '(then Chief of the Israeli army) infamous words "When we (Jews) have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle."
Actress Mia Farrow was haunted by the image of a young Palestinian girl who spoke to her in a tiny voice telling her of the destruction of her home and the deaths of her loved ones caused by Israeli's vicious attacks on an indefensible Gaza. 'There was fear on her face and she spoke in a tiny voice' said Farrow 'of the injustice of the Israeli occupation.' She went on to say she was outraged by conditions for children in Gaza that's under Israel-Egyptian blockade.
This brings us to the poignant question that a 'Palestinian' child posed to us at the 'Gaza Monologues'. 'Children all over the world are treasured and protected. Why doesn't the same apply to us? Why is the world doing this to us?' Or listen to another say 'before the war I was a child… but after the war I discovered I'm not a child any more, and that Gaza, unlike all cities of the world, doesn't have children in it'.
It's about time the world's conscious is stirred to wipe out Zionism the same way White South Africa's Apartheid or Germany's Nazism were wiped out. There is no difference between Apartheid and Zionism. Indeed Zionism is worse than Apartheid according to the wonderful humanist Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
So will the world stand up for Palestine's children, please?
(The writer is the vice president of the Sri Lanka-Palestinian Solidrarity Movement)