Whilst most of the Palestinian children were forced to migrate to other countries due to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict that started in 1947, those who stayed are faced with a myriad of hardships. Among 2 million of them, more than 90% of children in the country are said to have been exposed to excessive violence. (UNICEF, 2019)
History of the conflict in Palestine
The Arab-Israeli war started 74 years ago, following the independence proclamation of the state of Israel. (United States Department of State, n.d.) It all happened after two major World Wars, in which millions of adults and children lost their lives. Many persecuted Jews were then promised a better life and a “national home” in a state that didn’t yet exist. Finally, in the 40s’ the United Kingdom left the colonized state of Palestine by dissecting the country’s cultural anatomy. With British support, Judaism soon became the main religion, aiming to unite all Jews who arrived from all over the world. (Aktas I, 2022)
In the first years of the conflict, the state of Israel occupied 78% of Palestinian territory. More than 750,000 people were expelled from their homes to make room for Jewish families. In the next couple of years, more than a million Palestinian families found themselves displaced and seeking asylum. Those who didn’t evacuate on time, watched entire neighborhoods disappear under bombs and flames. Many left to neighboring countries, hoping to come back home soon. (Al Tahhan Z, 2018)
Refugee camps in the Middle East
The Israeli authorities are keeping the families apart in what is left of former Palestine. In order to freely move within their country, Palestinians are obliged to cross Israeli territory. However, the police on the other side are enforcing new restrictions daily, by denying entry for no reason. (Arnaout, A.R, 2021)
Even without going into the conflict history thoroughly, the fact is that at the moment entire families are stripped of their right to reunification, as the state of Israel rejects entry permits thus deepening the conflict in the region and prolonging the suffering. (Melhem A, 2022) Living in an open-air prison with invisible walls, directly violates any child’s right (regardless of their nationality or ethnicity) to health, identity, and justice. (Children First Canada, 2020)
As a consequence, it is estimated that “more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognized Palestine refugees camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” (UNRWA, n.d.) Families and their children are only granted the right to use the land temporarily and have no claim to any property. Living conditions in the camp are of no quality needed for a human, or a child of any nationality or origin who needs to develop into their fullest potential. Whilst it is true that some schools were built to accommodate the displaced children, there is so much more it can be done. (UNRWA, n.d.)
The first camp was founded about 70 years ago. That means that many children were not only born in statelessness but also grew old in such conditions, and possibly died while waiting to leave the temporary settlement.
The children who are born in refugee camps, such as Palestinian children in this particular situation, don’t have the luxury of preparing for adulthood and, what’s worse, their presence in politically unstable countries, such as Lebanon or Syria, only worsens the situation. There is only hope that their perseverance and mutual coping mechanism, together with acquired immunity against hardships, might save the national family structures. (El Masri Y, 2020)
The deadliest year for Palestinian children
Although the world has been keeping a close eye on the territory, 2021 ended up being the deadliest year since 2014. Israeli attacks have been targeting densely populated residential areas, hospitals, women and children. In 2021, 67 children died in a matter of 10 days. Although very young, many of them already had criminal records in Israel, for throwing stones to defend themselves from fire arms. (Quzmar K, 2021) This is a direct violation of children’s right to protection from harm. (SOS Children’s Villages, 2017)
More than 685 Palestinian children and 60 Israeli children were reported injured in a single month, proving that conflict is never fair towards either side. (UNICEF, 2021) Those who still live in Gaza lost access to health institutions and drinking water after the air strikes.
To this day, humanitarian organizations are trying to improve living conditions for the most vulnerable by providing medicine, food, water, and counseling services, as well as organizing summer camps for the kids to socialize and learn. (UNICEF, 2021) Although Palestinian families want to stay in their country, all these factors have massively contributed to both forced and unforced migration.
The situation with the Israel-Palestine conflict in 2022
After thousands of bullets are fired and targets hit, the effects of war-related violence seem to only worsen. Israel’s tight closure policy jeopardizes everyone’s right to free movement. In today’s occupied Palestinian enclave of Gaza, 80% of the inhabitants exclusively depend on social aid. (Human Rights Watch, 2021)
Children are heavily affected by the limited resources depriving them of the opportunities to play, learn and develop into future peace-makers. Furthermore, there are also many unfortunate occurrences where innocent children get killed. (Human Rights Watch, 2021)
Palestinian children are not only prohibited from traveling or studying abroad but they don’t have opportunities to meet other nationalities or even work in their own country. Children are witnessing the use of excessive force and trials for crimes without formal charges that in the majority of cases end up against their favor.
There are thousands of instances of reported tortures and curbed freedom of speech and press. (Human Rights Watch, 2022) Growing up in illegally occupied Palestine makes children more susceptible to trauma, and brutality, which is exactly why the country suffers from a high rate of domestic violence. (UNFPA, n.d.)
The fact is that atrocities committed against children during a time of war are truly some of the most heartbreaking stories to be told, regardless of the causes and the foundations of the conflict, such as the one between Israel and Palestine. In this case, the family resilience and connection might be the light at the end of the tunnel.
We should continue to actively support all children who innocently get caught up in armed conflicts by giving them a voice. All children deserve to live in their home countries, united with their families. The forced migration of Palestinian children and families can come to an end only through peace negotiations and responsibility-taking from both sides.
The international community is actively involved in helping the people through donations that serve to build schools, hospitals and provide clean water. Even though the efforts continue to protect the children, there are still one million children in Palestine who can benefit from our aid. (UNICEF, n.d.)
All children deserve to live in a world free of conflict. If you like and support what we do to reinforce children’s rights worldwide, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on how to become a Humanium volunteer, or perhaps donate or support a child. We appreciate your help!
Written by Lidija Misic
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