Gaza's dying children

Gazas dying children

A 6-YEAR-OLD Palestinian girl from Gaza was killed by Israeli fire, June 12. "Medics say the girl was decapitated by a (tank) shell," the Associated Press reported the next day. The Israeli military said the soldiers opened fire in retaliation to "militants launching rockets into Israel."

By Ramzy Baroud (Palestine Chronicle)

Published: Wed 18 Jun 2008, 10:50 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:22 PM

AP dispassionately elaborated that "Gaza militants fire rockets and mortars into Israel almost daily." The story of a few lines ends with another corroboration of the claims made by the Israeli military: "the shelling occurred near the border where militants fired 30 rockets into Israel on Tuesday."

But this is not another tirade about the dehumanising reporting of the media, where the death of innocent nameless Palestinians are often, if not always, blamed, one way or another on the 'militants". Neither is the evoking of this freshest tragedy — the child victim is later named Hadeel Al Smeiri — is meant to underscore the daily crimes committed by the Israeli military against Palestinians in the occupied territories, ones that largely go unnoticed, buried in the not-so-important news items, or used to accentuate cold-hearted assertions such as blaming Palestinians themselves for forcing Israel's hand to carry out such tragic 'acts of retaliation.'

The story struck me beyond its value in attempting to analyse mainstream reporting, or the callousness required of a military spokesperson to defend the decapitation of a 6-year-old as necessary retaliation. What is equally disturbing is the fact that Palestinian factions fail to see in Hadeel's untimely death a compelling reason for unity, and carry on with their political sparring as if they have the luxury of endless time, while helpless Palestinians are victimised daily; victimisation that is followed by no serious repercussions, save the firing of useless rockets that are used to fuel yet more Israeli 'retaliation', thus justifying the slow genocide and the starvation of the imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza.

Some Palestinians, especially those in Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' camp, are still struggling with their sense of priorities.

Jeremy Bowen of the BBC wrote, June 11, "The humiliation of June 2007 (when Hamas took over Gaza) will not easily be forgotten by Fatah's people. For the last 12 months, the suggestion that they should try to end their argument with Hamas has been guaranteed to get a testy response from senior figures close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas." He continued, "One of his senior ministers exploded with such fury whenever I asked him about it that his voice sent the dials on the BBC's recording equipment hurtling into the red."

Reading the above, I immediately wondered if the respected minister would respond with such intensity if Bowen sought his views on the murder of Hadeel? Or that the minister's own people are caged, not only in Gaza, but large parts of the West Bank, behind Israeli military barricades, electric fences and 'security' walls?

If the minister fails to appreciate the misery of Hadeel's generation, maybe he should take a few minutes away from his busy schedule to browse some of the grim data on the daily victimisation of Palestinian children.

UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Sigrid Kaag visited the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on June 9, the poorest of Gaza's slums, where the uprising of 1987, unsurprisingly, broke out. "To witness the impact of the current blockade on the children of Gaza firsthand was a daunting experience," Kaag said. "This situation must end."

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs "as of 26 May, 64 children had been killed in the conflict since the beginning of the year — more than the total child death toll for all of 2007. Fifty-nine of the deaths were in Gaza and another four victims were Israeli children."

Bowen wrote: "The fighter who emptied his Kalashnikov into the desk of Mohammed Dahlan, until that day the Fatah strongman in Gaza yelled 'This is the fate of traitors like the scumbag Dahlan' as he pulled the trigger, and it was recorded and put on television for all to see." The minister, of course, finds it difficult to get over such seemingly unforgivable action by Hamas, while himself forgetting reports in the US media — Vanity Fair to be more precise — that Dahlan headed the US-Israeli plot to carry out a military onslaught against the democratically elected government in Gaza. The plan was botched because of Hamas' pre-emptive take-over of the strip.

But consider this. Unicef reported: "Across the West Bank, some 600 obstacles to movement — and the barrier separating the West Bank from Israel — make it difficult for children to attend schools, patients to go to health centres and families to see each other. The closure regime is tightening even for UN humanitarian operations."

Yet, the minister, and many like him, finds Hamas' violence in June 2007 the pinnacle of humiliation. Puzzling, indeed.

What is more humiliating, I wonder: the site of Dahlan's office chair filled with bullet holes, or Palestinian mothers, elders, children lining up before an abusive group of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers, jeering in broken Arabic every racist word that they can conjure up?

Meanwhile, recent news reports spoke of assurances made by Abbas to the anxious Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that his offer to dialogue with Hamas is conditional. Why condition talks among brethren while allowing Israel the endless benefit of the doubt in stretching the meaningless 'peace process', with no end in sight, while allowing its army to kill kids like Hadeel, at will and without repercussions, whatsoever?

Perhaps Abbas, and the angry minister in the BBC report are not clear on how Israel envisions the Palestinian state they tirelessly promise. "The future Palestinian state must be established according to Israel's security needs, including supervision of border crossings and the disarming of militants," reported Haaretz in reference to comments made by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; so much for the 'sovereignty' aspect of any self-respecting country.

More, the Israeli paper went on to report: "Israel says it intends to keep major settlement blocs in the West Bank under any future peace deal with the Palestinians and that its network of roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank helps to prevent attacks on Israelis."

Even if the Israeli promise of statehood ever actualises, it has the word 'Apartheid' written all over it.

Palestinians need not pay much attention to Livni's futile visions, and focus their energies to unify their rank for nothing compels more fury than their disunity, and nothing is as humiliating as their reliance on Israeli and US arms and money to keep their own brethren in Gaza, starved and browbeaten, at bay.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and editor of His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle

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