Palestinian children embroiled in the violence
Ramallah - An increasing number of young Palestinians are joining the fight against Israelis, continuing the latest spate of violence that erupted in October over a Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.
Experts argue that youth participation underscores their frustration with the lack of progress towards a settlement that would end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians complain of humiliation at crossing points, constant closure of cities, random shootings by Israeli police, and beatings and killings by Israeli settlers.
While the majority of Palestinians generally do not condone violence, they see acts such as throwing stones at Israeli police or stabbing with scissors and knives as legitimate forms of resistance against the occupation. Israel terms such actions part of a “wave of terror”.
Ramallah University student Rahaf Jaradat, a Palestinian, said: “For a human being to live under constant oppression is enough reason to give up peace and resist.”
Ramallah pollster Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) said a recent study indicated that 37% of young Palestinians asked said the main reason behind the surge in violence was “frustration due to a failed peace process and an enduring occupation”.
The pollster also said that 57% of respondents stated they believed Palestinians should not stop acts of resistance against the occupation.
One of the respondents, a 22-year-old woman who asked not to be named, said she supported stabbing Israeli soldiers and that she saw the young people behind these operations as “heroes and martyrs who should be honoured”.
Most of the scores of Palestinians killed in the months of unrelenting Palestinian-Israeli violence were under the age of 25. Photojournalist Fadi Arouri was among Palestinians who questioned the involvement of children in such acts.
Some Palestinians support attacks against Israelis because they believe every Israeli has or will serve in the Israeli armed forces, making that person complicit in the military occupation, which has stifled the population of the West Bank and Gaza.
Arouri said that in the previous two uprisings against Israel “it was adult fighters who we saw on TV or in the field, but now it’s mostly children”.
“I oppose this because children are paying the price,” he said.
Some observers accuse the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership of turning a blind eye to young Palestinians taking part in the violence since it draws worldwide attention and often sympathy for the Palestinians and condemnation against Israel through images of Israeli troops using force to quell violence.
Pointing fingers at the leadership or asking why more youngsters are taking part in the violence enrages many Palestinians, who accuse those who publicly address such issues of collaborating with Israel.
Israeli columnist Gideon Levy questioned the Israeli surprise at violence by Palestinian youth, saying Israel’s occupation, excessive force used by Israeli Defence Forces against Palestinians and settlers’ attacks, including the torching of West Bank homes, were to blame.
”When the lives of Palestinians are officially the army’s for the taking, their blood cheap in the eyes of Israeli society, then settler militias are also permitted to kill them,” Levy wrote in the daily Hebrew-language Haaretz, which has been increasingly critical of the Palestinian casualties.
The newspaper has also been publishing more articles about excessive force used by Israeli security and settlers against Palestinian demonstrators.
Levy said Israel killed hundreds of Palestinian children in the July 2014 war on Gaza and considered it “legitimate, and doesn’t even compel a debate, a moral reckoning, then what’s so terrible about setting a (Palestinian) house on fire, together with its inhabitants”.
Jamal Jumaa, coordinator of a national group called Stop the Wall, said he believed the PA’s unwillingness to pay the price of a new intifada is the reason children are caught up alone in the violence.
“This is an indication of a socio-political crisis in the Palestinian society rather than a pointer that liberation is near,” he said. “But no one has the courage to say, ‘Do not fight’ because there is no alternative.”