Al-Jazeera / September 14, 2021
But we cannot do this alone. For us to succeed, the international community needs to end its silence and stand with us.
Not many people across the world know what life is like for Palestinian children, how unsafe we feel in our homes and what we go through every single day because of the Israeli occupation.
I grew up in the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank. When I was seven, I started making films on my mother’s mobile phone about our lives to share on social media and with news outlets.
In my films, I try to show what daily life is like for us. The night raids – waking up at 3am to the sounds of gas canisters, bombing near your window, or Israeli forces trying to break into your house. There was even a time when I woke up to find an Israeli soldier in my room, breaking my toys with his gun. He went on to hold his weapon to my head.
This week, world leaders are meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and UN Human Rights Council meetings are taking place in Geneva. This is a great opportunity for the international community to end its silence on the abuses faced by Palestinian children. Israel is violating our rights and breaking international law with impunity.
Our most basic rights and freedoms, including our right to life, are being violated. We often struggle to overcome the feelings of sadness, stress, loneliness, and fear caused by the excessive use of force against us, the targeting of our families, schools and homes. My friends in Gaza live with the fear of being targeted by Israel’s bombs every day.
My cousin, Mohammad Munir al-Tamimi, was murdered on the last day of Eid this year.
Israeli soldiers were raiding our village and soon they started shooting at everyone they saw on the streets. When Mohammad went out of his house to look for his brother, a soldier shot him in the stomach with live ammunition. He was only 17 years old.
We mourn our lost friends and relatives, but we remain strong. Every bullet that does not kill us, gives us more hope and makes us more determined to resist this occupation.
Israel is the only country in the world that routinely arrests, detains and tries children in a military court system.
My cousin, Ahed Tamimi, was jailed for eight months in an Israeli prison when she was just 16. She was there with many other women and children. Some were under “administrative detention” – meaning they may be held in prison, without any official charge or a trial, for years.
Palestinian children who are detained in Israeli prisons face a great deal of trauma. Because of what they have been through, even after their release, many will not be able to enjoy their childhood again.
When I was only 12 years old, I was stopped on the border coming back from Jordan and interrogated for three hours by Israeli forces. I did not have a parent or a lawyer with me, so the interrogation was illegal under international law. But they did not care.
After this incident, I decided to register myself as a journalist. Soon I became the youngest press card-carrying journalist in the world. Being accredited provided me with some protection. But, of course, journalists too are routinely arrested, injured and even killed in occupied Palestine.
Today, I will be speaking as a witness at a public hearing, organized by the NGOs ActionAid and Al-Haq. I will talk about some of the human rights abuses and violations of international law that Palestinian children face. Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Givara Budeiri – who was violently arrested by Israeli forces while covering a peaceful demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem in June – will also be there to speak about Israel’s attacks on press freedom. Other witnesses will be testifying about the forced displacement of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, and the theft of land and natural resources in the Jordan Valley.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council is calling on member states to cooperate fully with its Commission of Inquiry into violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory. This investigation is long overdue. The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians.
Palestinian children, like all children, have a right to be safe in their homes and schools. They have the right to be free from harassment, violence, arbitrary arrest, and attacks from Israeli soldiers and settlers.
But despite all the difficulties we face, I am hopeful for the future. We are the generation of change and the generation that, I hope, will liberate Palestine. We will make the world a better place, a place where there is no occupation or colonization, where everyone is equal, where Palestinians can live their lives freely and with dignity. But we cannot do this alone – the international community needs to end its silence and stand by our side in our fight against oppression.
Janna Jihad – Palestinian journalist, activist and student