Edna Yaghi’s Column
I am the Palestinian child. I have read the Children’s Bill of Rights and as a potential citizen of tomorrow, I want you, the adults who make the rules, to hear what I have to say.
I shall address most points as they are presented.
(1) “Children’s universal rights. Children under the age of 18 have the right to receive special care and protection. Children all have the same rights, no matter what country they were born in or are living in, what their sex is, what their race is, or what their religion is.”
Palestinian children do not have special care or protection from Israeli soldiers, from Israeli bullets, from Israeli shelling. I know I do not have the same rights as American children and I know I am persecuted because of my religion, my nationality and where I was born, though I was not given a choice of where my birth was to take place or what nationality I was to inherit.
(2) “Right to inherit a better world. Children have the right to inherit a world that is at least as good as the one their parents inherited.”
What I have inherited is a life of tragedy, a life of poverty, a life where Israeli sharpshooters shoot to kill. If they do not kill, they make sure that Palestinian children are shot in the head, the chest, the arms, the legs. Many Palestinian children have lost their eyes since Intifada Al-Aqsa began on September 28, 2000. Many Palestinian children have had their limbs amputated. I do not call such deadly intent the inheritance of anything that is good or positive.
(3) “Right to influence the future. Children have the right to participate in discussions having to do with the directions our society is taking-on the large political, economic, social and educational issues and policies-so that children can help create the kind of world they will grow up in.”
I do not recall anyone asking me if I like to be shot at. I do not recall anyone asking me if I like to be beaten and tortured by Israeli thugs and I do not recall anyone asking my permission to be thrown in jail simply because I throw rocks in the name of freedom, or simply because I happened to be playing on the streets and was abducted by Israeli soldiers. And every political, economic, social, and educational policies are made without even considering what my opinions are.
(4) “Right to freedom of thought, opinion, expression, conscience and religion.”
I have not been given the right to express my thoughts, my opinions, my conscience. If anyone really wanted to know my opinion about war, I would answer that wars are horrible and they are no place for children.
(5) “Right to media access.”
Of course, I have no access to the media. If I did, I would scream my head off over the Internet, on the radio, on TV, and over the phone every minute of every day to tell you about all the atrocities that are being committed against my people and against children like me.
(6) “Right to participate in decisions affecting children.”
Every Israeli war decision affects me. Every proposal by the Palestinian Authority affects me as well. Yet, no one asks my opinion and I am not allowed to participate in anything but my subjugation and the abortion of my childhood by Israeli conquistadors.
(7) “Right to privacy. Children have the right to privacy to the same extent adults have.”
When my home is shelled in the middle of the night, when my home is demolished by Israeli soldiers for no reason, when I have to be brave because even if I am afraid, there is no place to hide from death, then I can assure you, I have no privacy.
(8) “Right to respect and courtesy.”
Because I am Palestinian, Israelis do not respect me. On the contrary, they hate me and the only courtesy they show is bullets in my head, my chest, or brutal beatings and torture in their prisons. Just a few days ago, the Israeli army shelled a school for blind children in Occupied Palestine in the deep of the night. I ask you, do you consider this respectful or courteous?
(9) “Right to an identity.”
Every day of my life, Israelis try to take my identity away from me. The harder they try, the less successful they are.
(10) “Right to freedom of association.”
I wish that I could freely associate with my friends and not fear an Israeli bullet cutting me down while I walk home from school with my friends or while I play outside on my neighborhood street.
(11) “Right to care and nurturing.”
Though my parents do their best to nurture and care for me, all odds are against them, for every minute of every day my life is threatened and all Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are an endangered species.
(12) “Right to leisure and play.”
It is lethal when I play and it is deadly when I am at home and even when I am asleep. I never know when Israelis might shell my house or when an Israeli bullet might shoot me down or when I might see one of my family members killed in front of me. I so wish I could live the life of a leisurely child and not have to fear for my very existence 24 hours a day, regardless of whether I stay home or not.
(13) “Right to safe work.”
Every minute I breathe, my life is threatened. And every child may be forced to work because our cities are under curfew, under siege and under the Israeli blockade. The Palestinian economy is at its worst in yearsï¿½in fact, there is no economy. Things are looking very desperate. I fear the extinction of all my people.
(14) “Right to an adequate standard of living.”
There is no such thing nowadays as an adequate standard of living for Palestinian children. Soon, if we don’t die from Israeli bullets or shelling, we may die from starvation.
(15) “Right to life, physical integrity and protection from maltreatment.”
I wish I could say that I am protected from maltreatment, or that my life is not endangered, or that when Israeli soldiers catch me, I am safe from abuse and torture. I wish I could just be a child and not have to worry about survival on a daily basis. And every step of the way, the Israeli occupation tries to take my integrity away from me.
(16) “Right to a diverse environment and creativity.”
The Israelis do everything they can to make sure I have no environment but one of war and destruction. Certainly there is no room for creativity when a war is going on and when all children have to wonder if they are going to live from one moment to the next. How creative can you be when there are bullets flying everywhere, when we are bombarded by air, land and sea and when there is death all around?
(17) “Right to education.”
I do not call being shot at on the way to and from school an example of the right to education. And when Israelis are not shooting at Palestinian children on the way to and from their places of education, they storm into their schools and shoot live bullets into the classrooms in order to create more chaos and fear.
(18) “Right to access appropriate information and to a balanced depiction of reality. Children should be protected from materials adults consider harmful.”
I see graveyards full of Palestinian bodies killed by Israelis. I see a small coffin being prepared for me, for it is not known how long I will be able to live when so many are slaughtered each day. And yes, my parents do consider bullets harmful. Bullets are lethal. I would not advise anyone to try being the target of Israeli bullets, of Israeli shelling, of Israeli bombs.
(19) “Right not to be exposed to prejudice.”
I don’t know what to call the genocide of my people other than prejudice. I don’t know what else to call the Palestinian Holocaust other than the worst form of bigotry. There will never be peace as long as the Israelis view Palestinian children as those of a lesser god. We are all children of the one and only God. God created all children and adults equal and all are entitled to the same inalienable rights, to the sanctity of life, to freedom of speech, to a normal life.
(20) “The right to a clean environment.”
I do not think that when our water supply is cut off on us, our environment can be very clean. I do not think that when lethal gases are released on us, that the air we breathe is clean. I do not think that when depleted uranium is used on us, that there is much chance of our environment being clean or that children will be protected from its aftermath. I do not think that when we have no money and no resources, and no permits to build a sewage system in the refugee-ghetto concentration camps the Israelis have put us in, we have a chance of having a clean environment. Every step of the way, Israelis deny us the right to life, the right to a clean environment, the right to live in safety and all other basic human rights that all men and children are entitled to.
As you can see, the Bill of Rights for Children was not constructed for a Palestinian child like me. I urge you to work for change, to work for an end to the Israeli occupation of my land and I urge you to work for the end of the slaughter of Palestinian children. I am a child. I deserve to be a child and I should not have to worry about just staying alive.