Suffer the Little Children

Edna Yaghi’s Column

“Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” – Prophet Jesus

Summer is a time when children fly kites high in the air-kites of all different shapes, sizes and colors. Summer is a time when kids spend lazy hours by ponds watching ducks and geese float merrily along lethargic lakes set against a background of manicured rolling lawns.

Summer is a time when children play soccer on fields of green. It is a time when they ride their bicycles and sell cool-aide at homemade stands. It is a time when they count the stars lacing cool summer evenings and a time when they dream of what their future might be.

Summer is a time when mothers take their infants out for a stroll on paved avenues. It is a time when infants stare wide eyed in innocence at the world around them.

Summer is a time when children bathe in the sea and build sandcastles on the beach. It is a celebration of life. It is in the summer when things take wing, gardens bear fruit and picnics abound.

But such things occur in places where there is peace and where there is no war. In Occupied Palestine, summer brings no special happiness for children. During the Intifada, it is almost impossible to fly carefree kites. There are no ponds to watch ducks and geese floating merrily on. Water supplies are cut off from Palestinian cities and villages. Israeli soldiers shoot water tanks on top of Palestinian homes to further exacerbate the critical water shortage. And fresh springs are filled with cement or polluted so that the people in the surrounding areas are not able to consume what little water there is.

With no water, there are no cool-aide stands and no chance for children to sell their wares to passersby and no peaceful moments anyway even if there were pure and bountiful supplies of water.

There is little opportunity for children to ride bicycles or scooters. And there is no time to stare at evening skies or count stars. Palestinian children are more preoccupied with merely staying alive.

For those children brave enough to confront a heavily armed enemy who occupies their land, there are Israelis snipers who aim at infant hearts and heads in retaliation for a single stone. Many children who have miraculously survived bullets aimed at their hearts and heads will have to go through the rest of their lives as physically impaired people. Thousands of such Palestinian children will never walk again or see.

Some children caught throwing stones are arrested by Israeli soldiers and taken to prison. There they are severely beaten and tortured. Some children have died due to torture. No human being should be tortured but to subject a child to such inhuman treatment is the highest form of savagery. One report about how Israeli police torture these children included these methods: forcing children to stand in painful positions for prolonged periods of time, beating minors severely for many hours and at times these beatings were carried out with the use of various objects, pushing children’s heads into toilet bowls and flushing the toilet, making death threats and cursing and humiliating these children.

A testimony from Mohammed Sabatin, a 14 year old, states that 4 policemen took him, searched him and beat him in front of his parents. Then the boy saw a strong dark-skinned man dressed in civilian clothes enter the room where Mohammed was being detained. The man kicked the boy with great force, beat him and then put him in a room where 4 policemen were seated. Two of these policemen tied the boy’s hands and feet and blindfolded him and took him to a room with the blindfold still on. The 4 policemen took turns beating the boy for about 4 hours. They hit him with a mop stick, kicked him all over his body and swore at him in filthy language.

Just recently, a family traveling to a wedding ceremony was attacked by Jewish terrorists. Three people were shot to death that day, including a tiny baby boy only 3 months old. His mother, who was not in the car at the time of the attack, held up his bloody clothes and wept. She had been trying to have a child for 10 years. Her son, Diya, was her only child. Five people from the same family, including a four-month old girl and a three-year-old girl were wounded.

On Friday, July 20, infant Diya was wrapped in a tiny Palestinian flag and carried in a funeral procession along with his dead relatives, through the West Bank city of Hebron to his home village, Ithna.

Baby Diya’s aunt, a young bride of 17, contorted from pain in a hospital. She had been holding the infant on her lap when the terrorists attacked. Her leg was full of shrapnel, studded with metal rods and encased in a cast. No one had the courage to tell her that her husband, Mohammed Salameh Tmeizi who was also in the car had been killed and was being buried that day as well along with tiny Diya.

This war of aggression against the rightful owners of their land is barbaric. But what about the effect of all this war and death and pain on the children? What will happen to these children who have either been the victims of Israeli atrocities themselves or have been witnesses of others being victimized? How will these children grow up and how will they be able to cope with the nightmare of war?

Every child has the right to live in peace. Every child has the right to be safe from physical harm. Every child has the right to go to and from school without being shot at. Every child has the right to be a child. And no child should ever have to fight for the freedom of his or her people.

Children should be brought up in a healthy and safe environment. They should be treated with sympathy and consideration and their basic needs should be met.

The demolition of houses, the uprooting of trees, the destruction of farmland, the pollution or stoppage of water supplies are all things that children should not have to face. Children should not have to live in constant fear that either they will be slaughtered regardless of whether they throw stones or not. And they should not have to witness the deaths of their relatives and loved ones.

The blood of these innocents stains all our hands but the hands that it stains the most are Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, American President George Bush, and all the Arab leaders who are either drunk or might as well be because they seem to be completely oblivious to the Palestinian Holocaust that is going on right under their upturned noses.