Palestinian Child Day
In the face of an every-deteriorating situation, including food shortages in Gaza, bantustanization of the West Bank, and scores of children's detention and deaths in both areas in recent weeks, Palestinians commemorated Palestine Child's Day today with actvities and events. Here is a statement by the Palestinian Network for Children's Rights (headed by Defence for Children International/Palestine Section) on Palestinian Child Day:
For the past few years, this day – Palestinian Child Day – has become synonymous with grief and pain. On the 5 April each year, Palestinian children have searched for their childhood and sought to renew their broken dreams. The event revives memories of their suffering and the suffering of their colleagues at the hands of the Israeli occupation. Since April 2002, when Israeli troops launched the largest military campaign against Palestinian civilians across the West Bank, the level of suffering increased. The campaign resulted in the killing, arrest, injury and bereavement of scores of children; and in the months and years that have followed, these atrocities have been repeated time and again across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
This year, the circumstances surrounding Palestinian Child Day are no different – our children continue to feel the pain of occupation. Israeli forces continue to deprive children of their right to life – since the start of this year alone, 12 children have been killed, bringing to 740 the total number of children fatalities since the start of the intifada. In the same period, around 4,000 minors have been arrested, of whom some 400 are still in prison.
This Palestinian Child Day, we remember with particular concern the Israeli practices and pressure against our children in the Gaza Strip. Despite the physical Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza last August – much hailed by the international media and politicians – the area remains a big prison with Israeli forces controlling all exit and entry points. The Israeli authorities have kept sealed for most of this year the only cargo crossing point into Gaza, and at the risk of triggering a humanitarian catastrophe have prevented food and medicine supplies from entering the strip. It is unacceptable that the Israeli authorities use the lives and rights of Palestinian children as a political bargaining card and we call on the UN and international community to exert pressure on the Israeli government to stop these cynical practices.
In the West Bank, Israeli actions impinge on all those fields of Palestinian children's rights which are supposed to be protected by international human rights standards. The repeated incursions to areas in the West Bank and the continued construction of the separation wall undermine Palestinian children's rights – including their rights to education, adequate standard of living, healthcare and in some cases their most basic right – the right to life.
As such the Palestinian Network for Children's Rights urges the international community and the States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to abide by their obligations to protect children's rights without discrimination. We also ask the international community to practice pressure on the Israeli government to abide by the international law through ceasing at once all violations against Palestinian children and implementing immediately the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the applicability of the CRC on the OPT.
On the internal level, as members of the Palestinian community, we too must act to protect, respect and implement Palestinian children's rights. One year ago, the Palestinian Child Law entered into force. We must now join together to push for the law to be activated, and for bylaws to be issued specifying the scope and responsibility of each ministry in fulfilling its part in relation to this law.
Moreover, we call on the Palestinian Legislative Council to accelerate the enactment of the Juvenile Justice law. This must be a priority, for without this children in conflict with the law will continue to suffer due to an of absence legislation guaranteeing their protection and taking into consideration their best interests.
Childhood should not be regarded as a preparatory stage for adulthood. It is an independent developmental stage which all children should experience. Today, we, as members of the Palestinian community, should work to transform this Palestinian Child Day into an occasion of fun and hope through enforcing respect for our children and their rights.