By Hannah Grossman
Published: March 21st, 2018
“We collectively continue failing to stop the war on children,” said the UNICEF Regional Director of the Middle East and Africa in February. “The protection of children is paramount under all circumstances.”
In contrast to this view, last week, Zainab Iqbal, Managing Editor of the Excelsior, published “Ahed Tamimi is the Palestinian Hero We All Need,” wherein Iqbal praises the “resistance” of an underage Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, who attacked two soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. Iqbal says Tamimi is “the face of resistance” and hopes her example will “give courage to young Palestinians.” However, it is inhumane to encourage or inspire children to endanger their lives. This is called child abuse.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that outlines the inherent rights of every child, recognizes a causal relationship between the mobilization of children in conflict, and their traumatized development or loss of life. It states, “Considering therefore that to strengthen further the implementation of rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child there is a need to increase the protection of children from involvement in armed conflict.” This means that to ensure that all other rights of children are protected, children must not participate or aid militant groups or the State.
Ahed has been groomed by her parents as a child soldier, or as her father calls her, “a young freedom fighter.” In one video, Ahed and her mother use debris to block the vision of IDF snipers on what appears to be an abandoned rooftop. In another on the outskirts of Nabi Saleh, Ahed puts her foot in front of the barrel of a soldier’s weapon. These videos reveal something that is, frankly, unfathomably odd, and also, unfathomably evil. Whereas heroic mothers stand in front of their children, evil parents put their children in the direct line of fire. Also, it is one thing to have one’s children commit crimes and interfere with army missions, it is another level of absurdity to post the evidence online. Under these circumstances the Israeli authorities are within their right to hold 17-year-old Ahed accountable, and thanks to Ahed’s parents, they have a solid case against her (Article 68. Fourth Geneva Convention).
Historically, Palestinian children have carried out other forms of “resistance” such as suicide bombings, stabbings, and violent protests. This is appalling. Though Palestinian youth, as Iqbal notes, sometimes elect to become child soldiers because of hostile external factors. But this doesn’t tell the full story either. According to a report from the Ramallah-based Palestine Section of the Defence for Children International, “The community’s appreciation for ‘martyrs’” is one of the “several reasons why Palestinian children feel motivated to join armed resistance groups.” Palestinian children must be protected from becoming human sacrifices. So enough glorifying death with martyrdom. Enough holding “young freedom fighters” in high esteem. We should not use children as a symbol for fighting as if that’s the highest their life is worth. We must only celebrate their lives and regard the preservation of their innocence as the utmost importance.
Former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir had famously said, “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” There is a cultural price that is being paid for mobilizing children. Palestinian youth will grow up without ever learning a distinction between life and war; they will only know how to destroy.