January 21, 2005
Two Palestinian children were murdered yesterday, the first day of Eid Al Adha. They were shot dead by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) while walking on the street near their homes. Sallah a-din Muhsin aged 13 was murdered on the street in his home village of Tayseer near Jenin, while Salah Abu Eish, aged 12 was shot dead near his home in Raffah camp. They were killed without any reason. Two children aged 13 and 12 are no more. Salah and Salah are no longer with us. They will never again hug their parents and siblings, nor will they ever play in the street, they will not go to school and will nurture no more dreams and expectations – because they are no more – their young lives are wasted. End.
The life of a Palestinian child is cheap, terribly cheap. Unbearably cheap. It's enough for a Palestinian child, on the occasion of his Holiday, to dress up and wear a costume of a soldier and hold a toy gun in his little hands in order to render him easy prey. Every soldier in the army of Occupation, who happens to intrude on his village as an uninvited bird of prey, can feel free to point at him a real gun and shoot him dead. And then the barrage of hollow excuses starts: The child with the imitation gun endangered the lives of soldiers…that's how the soldiers felt – really…the homemade toy gun carried by the boy resembled an M16. The child stepped out from a crowd of youths who surrounded the soldiers and some of whom threw stones at the soldiers…so the child carrying the toy gun looked very ominous …so they first shoot at him and afterwards they check on him – if at all. But by then it’s too late because the child who had gone out to celebrate his holiday is by now dead. Dead, finished. They promise to investigate.
Nobody asks "What the hell were those soldiers in the shielded jeeps, armored to their teeth doing on the first day of the High Moslem Holiday, one of the two most important Holidays for Islam, in the middle of the crowded streets of the small Palestinian village deep in the hills of Jenin or in the back-street of Raffah.? What were those heavily armed soldiers doing there on this specific day on the crowded street of that small village?" A day, when according to tradition people naturally crowd the streets, accompanied by their children, lots of children. There are many small Palestinian children who are most of the time locked up in their houses and school classes so they are naturally eager to take advantage of the holiday and take to the streets, just to go out for a walk and to have fun and sometimes to wear fancy dress as well. It is well known that many Palestinian children adopted the custom of dressing up on this specific day although this is not a religious custom. Children are children everywhere and they want to have fun and costumes are made for fun. Our soldiers and their commanders have spent enough days of Eid in the Occupied Palestinian cities and villages to be pretty well acquainted with the local customs, the traditional as well as the new ones, so that they could have easily known that children tend to dress up on this occasion. As the central and most influential experience in the life of these children who have been born into the occupation, and whose parents have also been born into the occupation, is the occupation and therefore the most thrilling challenge for them is confronting the occupation… Therefore they tend to dress up as soldiers and in their experience soldiers carry guns – so they carry guns too. So it could not have come as a surprise that people were crowding the streets, that there were many children and some were dressed up as soldiers. Could these facts not have been foreseen? Of course they could, but it seems that nobody on our side really cared about the outcome of that bizarre armed expedition into the heart of that village, as long as the losses and casualties were not "ours".
We are counting only our dead, as only our children count. "Their" children don't count. Four children were killed recently in Sderot by the qassam. Four children. Ayala-Haya Abeqassis aged 17, who was recently wounded by a qassam, died today. It breaks my heart that those children are no longer with us, that they have fallen victims to the inanity and senselessness of an occupation of almost 40 years. However, when we're moaning and lamenting our beloved, the four dead children from Sderot and other children who were murdered in suicide attacks against innocent civilians in our cities, we cannot forget the hundreds of Palestinian children who were shot dead, who were murdered by our soldiers. Israeli Occupation Army soldiers…
Who knows and who remembers the number of the dead Palestinian children in Beit Lahiyya and Beit Hanun? I don't know their exact number either, but I know for sure that there are dozens of dead children in Beit Hanun and in Beit Lahiyya, and hundreds of dead children in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. And there are thousands of wounded Palestinian children, many of them severely wounded, heavily crippled, with no legs and arms and sorely lacking not only adequate rehabilitation facilities but any at all. And there are also hundreds of Israeli wounded children and the pain and suffering of all those children – all of them – Palestinians and Israelis is unbearable. And no one should ever know the pain and the sorrow of the bereaved parents and the bereaved siblings who lost their most precious ones and will never ever hug them again.
We must put an end to this continual horror that has been going on for too long. It is in our hands and we can do it. This state of horror and nightmare will end at once, within an eye blink, the moment we truly understand that there is no difference whatsoever between a Jewish child and a Palestinian child, and that the pain and the sorrow stemming from losing ones beloved is exactly the same on both sides.
* * *
Sharon and Mofaz, Haim Ramon and Prof. Yuli Tamir and all those who sing the praises of the "disengagement", while their eyes go out and their hands are stretched greedily to grab more Palestinian lands in the west of the West Bank, west of the monstrous Separation Wall they have erected and the rest of it that they still plan to complete. Some more and some less. They make cynical use of the international and local "disengagement festival" in order to score points of favor in international and local public opinion. They are preparing the day when the "no partner" will be declared again, and when the opportunity will present itself to initiate more unilateral steps to clinch the Israeli grip over large chunks of the occupied Palestinian lands, thus dispossessing more Palestinians and pushing more of them off their land. But in the meantime they can use the smoke screen created by the 'disengagement' hustle to inflict more blows on the Palestinian society, to kill and destroy, to uproot and demolish thousands of residential houses businesses and other infrastructure, to destroy the livelihood of masses of people, to harm the nature and destroy the agriculture.
At the end of the day they must remember that those who want security for the children of Sderot must assure exactly the same security to the children of Beit Lahiyya and Beit Hanun, Jibaliyya and Hay Zeitoun, Han Yunis and Raffah, Nablus and Jenin. It's better if they begin to understand that the blood of all the children is equally red and equally precious.
After all, mutuality is the name of the game, stupid.
* An Israeli peace activist.