Israel-Palestine News / July 15, 2021
Childhood in the Gaza Strip is unlike anywhere else in the world. Here, every ten-year-old has already experienced the violence of three wars and has spent his entire life under brutal blockade.
Palestinian children who were killed in Israel’s May attack on Gaza made international headlines – and rightly so, as they comprised 26 percent of the 253 killed (2 of the 12 Israelis killed were children) – but their trauma neither started nor ended in May.
Many Gazan youth live in poverty, most live with trauma, and all are victims of whitewashing and international neglect.
Poverty under blockade
Gaza is home to some of the highest unemployment rates in the world; 70% of the population are food-insecure, and almost 34% fall below the extreme poverty line. These conditions are not the result of natural causes like draught, or of ignorant mismanagement. Indeed, the region is fertile and the people among the world’s most educated.
The majority of Gaza’s economic woes are a direct result of Israel’s crushing, now 14-year-long blockade of the Strip’s 2 million residents – 67% of whom are families of refugees who were exiled during the creation of Israel.
In addition to the blockade, the so-called Jewish State has launched 4 major attacks on Gaza in the last 13 years, resulting in massive loss of Gazan life, livelihood, residences, and infrastructure.
The times between these attacks have been anything but peaceful, with smaller incursions, constant surveillance, sniper fire, and myriad interruptions of daily life.
Israel has also appropriated large swaths of Gazan farmland next to the Israeli border as a “buffer zone,” inside which farmers may be shot without warning. Israeli soldiers also regularly kill off Gazan crops, allegedly in order to get an unobstructed view of possible attackers.
The combined pressures of unemployment, constant low-level (and sometimes high-level) conflict with Israel, and the Covid epidemic have placed some families intolerable situations. Despair or failure can lead to divorce and broken homes. Under these circumstances, children sometimes drop out of school and take to begging.
During the pandemic, when all classes went online, many of Gaza’s poor youth were left behind because they lacked a computer and internet connection.
By one estimate, 400 Gazan children wander the streets – dozens work the cemeteries, offering to sweep gravesites and water flowers in exchange for a shekel or two (30-60 cents). Others peddle snacks at the beach or on street corners. Still others get involved in more dangerous activities – including clashes with the Israeli military, the face of their oppressor.
The violence of the Israeli project is kept well-hidden from Americans especially – but it is conspicuous every minute of every day to Palestinians – whether in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or inside Israel.
This violence includes extrajudicial killing (including medics, journalists, women, children, and disabled persons), torture, prolonged detention without charges, home invasions and abductions, home demolitions, and various forms of collective punishment.
Many of these practices constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes (or both).
Israeli and international human rights organizations inside have studied the situation in depth, and have declared Israel an apartheid state.
The United States has laws against providing military aid where such human rights abuses are taking place – but in spite of years of documentation and reporting by prominent organizations, Congress funnels over $10 million in American tax dollars to Israel every single day.
This can only happen as long as Americans remain in the dark or silent about Israel’s brutality.
Gaza’s children, the most innocent of the many innocent victims of Israel’s violent occupation and blockade, deserve better.
Kathryn Shihadah is an editor and staff writer for If Americans Knew