Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Childhood in Palestine

by Jan Benvie (fellow CPTer)

A few days ago, while I was sitting on the hillside watching the shepherds and their sheep, some young girls from the village brought me flowers. Their kind act brought back memories of when my daughter was young. She too used to love gathering wildflowers (more often than not flowering weeds) and giving them as gifts.

I thought about how safe and comfortable children's childhoods had been compared to that of my young friends.

My children walked to and from school without threat of attack. My greatest worry was their safety as they crossed the road; I hoped they would do so under the protection of the friendly person at the school crossing point. Palestinian children walking to and from school in At-Tuwani often suffer attacks and threats by armed Israeli settlers. Israeli soldiers-the same soldiers who invade their villages or chase their fathers and brothers off their grazing land- escort them to and from school in At-Tuwani. The escort soldiers often shout at the children or make them run. On numerous occasions, I have heard Israeli escort soldiers refer to the children as ‘terrorists.'

My children grew up strong and healthy. They turned on a tap and fresh, clean water ran out of it. I was able to provide them with a healthy diet. The children do not have access to clean running water here. A few weeks ago, I spoke with a doctor at the village clinic (only staffed for a few hours, one day a week). She told me that most of the children in the area suffer from iron deficiency due to their poor diet.

Forty-two years of Israeli occupation has severely damaged the Palestinian economy, and the unemployment rate is over 20%. Israelis have stolen valuable Palestinian agricultural land to build their illegal settlements and outposts. Armed settlers, in collusion with the Israeli military, regularly chase Palestinians off their land when the villagers try to cultivate crops or graze their livestock.

The various illegal Israeli settlements and outposts in the area receive electricity and running water, yet none of the Palestinian villages have such basic infrastructure. Tuwani and the neighbouring villages are not without water and electricity because they are situated in remote, inaccessible locations, but because of the political will of the occupying Israeli regime. *

The fate of my children was not in the hands of incessantly prattling politicians, and their peace was not simply a ‘process.' For now, the lives of Palestinian children continue to be blighted by the Israeli occupation.

*At-Tuwani and surrounding villages are in Area C according to the Oslo Accords, placing them under Israeli military and civilian control. However, Israel does not fulfill its obligation under international law to provide necessary services to the Palestinian civilian population in the region.