Newsletter December 2021 Children under Occupation | Machsomwatch
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Newsletter December 2021 Children under Occupation

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Friday, 17 December, 2021



Newsletter December 2021 Children under Occupation




I want to make my voice heard:
Like a bird in a cage

All the children of the world have a safe life, but has anyone asked how it is to live in the Jordan Valley?
This is what the damned occupation has left for the children of the Jordan Valley: grumpy faces, children on the margins, children whose hearts are broken. There is something that this world needs to know, and that is the right to everything, has not been given to any child in the Jordan Valley,
I want to live like the rest of the children of the world. I want you to know. I want to live safely, without fear and without anxiety. I was born to live and not to die. As long as I live I want my voice to be heard. The whole world must hear my voice. I want to play, I want to run. But, reality is not like that. I live like a bird in a cage, with no way out. I live in mountains higher than this life. Hundreds of settlements surround me.
I wake up in the middle of the night with the noise of bullets or the sound of planes, or from the soldiers of the Zionist occupation who are searching the house or who have come to arrest my father. I begin my day which is filled with  harassment and hard work. I go out to pasture with a flock of sheep early in the morning and again in the middle of the day.
Then I have to prepare food for the sheep. Later, my family and I start making the cheese, and when evening comes my first meal since this morning is served. The next day begins the same.  Another day, exactly the same as yesterday. I hope that one day change will come.
This is the life of the children of the Jordan Valley.
Waed Bisharat, Jordan Valley, April 2021  



This issue is dedicated to Palestinian children who live under the Occupation as we mark the International Human Rights Day. How can we talk about rights, when children are denied the basic rights to life and safety? In the first 10 months of this year alone, 11 children were killed and 584 wounded by the Israeli armed forces, while 24 more were wounded by Israeli settlers.


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The Occupation harms not only the psyches of Palestinian children, but those of our soldiers as well

God takes pity on kindergarten children,
 Less on school children.
On grownups, he won't take pity anymore,

He leaves them alone...

(Y. Amichai)

But God has not spared the children of the Palestinian villages and communities in the West Bank. The Israeli occupation does not spare either kindergarten or school children. For five and a half decades now, children are born who know no other life than life under the military occupation boot.
They are exposed daily to violence and humiliation, whether at the hands of violent settlers, as Galia Oz, who accompanied MachsomWatch members to meet Sujud, tells us, or at the hands of the Israeli soldiers.

The 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child provides minors with a more expansive defense than that of adults, because it recognizes that violent experiences might harm their development.
From the moment they are born, Palestinian children live in an unprotected environment. They are exposed to violence on their street and at the playground – for Israeli settlers invade and attack them. Their school is unprotected – Israeli settlers and soldiers throw tear gas grenades in and at it.
Riding the family car alongside their siblings is dangerous as well – this is how a soldier’s gratuitous shooting ended the life of twelve year old Mohammad Al Alami on his way to do some shopping.
There is no protection for a child inside his or her home in the Palestinian Jordan Valley – mighty bulldozers demolish it at dawn. There is no protection for children even in their beds at night – soldiers break into their homes in the dark, as they sleep and sometimes even arrest them – one of the more common ways to arrest Palestinian children.  In such a reality, parents are helpless to protect their children.

In their article “This child is (not) me," the authors (S. Alkalai et al.) quote psychologist C. Ullman (2006): When reality is traumatic, apparatuses of splitting and denial are applied, and the bad parts remain hidden under the surface. The perpetrator keeps his deed secret even to himself, while the victim holds in himself the secret knowledge of helplessness and humiliation… .

These children thus grow up with the feelings of humiliation, anxiety, and the basic lack of trust in themselves and in people in general. Mohammad Al Alami’s brother has been waking up at night for months, haunted by nightmares. N.’s son was arrested in his father’s absence and has since turned from a joyful boy to a depressed one. What will be the implications of this when these children grow up?

Our own sons and daughters, too, sent to carry out humiliating and violent missions, return to Israeli society with an inner dissonance. We are worried about the implications that this will have for them in the future, for our parenthood, for our very society.

In this issue, we shall provide you with a peek into the lives of these children, taken from the reports of our members. We shall also tell you about their activity and efforts to provide these children with a bit of light and trust in humans. It is in the interest of both peoples.



Child Arrests and Trials by the Military Court


Israel places 800-1000 Palestinian children under custody for interrogation purposes every year, for various and at times baffling reasons, and at any given moment, between 150 and 250 Palestinian minors are held in custody or imprisoned. Some of them are released, others are put on trial by the military court system.

Recently, the Minister of Defense ordered that the Army halt its procedure of breaking into Palestinian homes in the middle of the night, but it still persists. In front of their horrified families, children are taken out of their beds to an unknown destination, hands shackled behind their backs, blindfolded. Others are arrested as they exit their school. Only after many hours, sometimes days, are the children in custody allowed to meet a parent or an attorney.

Israeli military law does not defend the rights of minors, as is the custom under civil law inside Israel. Under military law, most minors are held in custody until the end of legal procedures. Thus, they are subject to ongoing pressure of threats, humiliations, and beatings in order to force them to incriminate friends or to confess everything in order to reach plea bargains and be released – without fair trial and evidence.

Machsom Watch has been documenting sessions of military courts since 2006. In the words of family members who arrive at the hearings:

  • Remand sessions are conducted in the “assembly line method” – even up to 55 minors’ cases in one session;
  • The main charge in the arrest and trial of Palestinian children is stone-throwing – even when testimonies are contradictory and the charges have no basis in reality;
  • Another common charge is participating in demonstrations – at times with the added charge of “disturbing a soldier in doing his duty.” This charge is leveled when the child runs away from the soldier who is chasing him after the demonstration has dispersed. A minor was even placed in custody after being wounded by a stray Israeli army bullet.
  • Minors are placed in custody even on the basis of other minors’ incriminations during interrogation. In recent years, arrests have increased following posts on  social media and false complaints of Israeli settlers.

Since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, military court sessions take place online, hidden from the public eye. During closures, minors have been allowed to speak with their family members for only 10 minutes once every two weeks, and attorney visits have been greatly restricted. The Palestinian branch of the international organization Defense for Children International, which helps children in custody, has lately been outlawed.



Humsa, Jordan Valley, February 1, 2021. Photo by Daphne Banai

Palestinian Children and Home Demolitions

Once every few years, The Committee on Rights of the Child in the Knesset holds deliberations on the impact of home demolition on Israeli children’s mental health. Psychologists bear witness to the damage, and the rights of a child to mental assistance and alternative housing are called for. But, who listens to the plight of Palestinian children?

Over a thousand Palestinian buildings have been demolished over the last 2 years, as Israel does not make it possible for Palestinians to build with permits on their land, leaving 574 children homeless.

We witness the steeply growing number of demolitions on our shifts. On nearly every visit to the Jordan Valley or the South Hebron Hills, where Israel has declared vast areas as firing zones or nature reserves, in order to chase away the local people who have inhabited the area for generations, we hear about demolitions. We meet frightened people having received demolition orders, visit families living on what is left after the demolition of their poor homes and battered belongings, and are deeply moved by the children and babies exposed to the harsh winds in the winter and  the scorching sun in the summer. Can anyone imagine their lives, or how they feel, seeing their parents unable to protect them? In collaboration with other volunteers, we help restore what has been destroyed and robbed - until the next time. The 97 members of the shepherd community of Humsa, which was demolished 8 times this year, finally gave up and moved to the edge of the firing zone, in the middle of nowhere.

Can these children have a normal life?


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A kindergarten and a school in the Jordan Valley, 24.1.21     Photo: Rina Zur

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic- A Hard Task for Children of the West Bank

Children the world over like to go to school dressed nicely, equipped with a school bag, notebooks, and a bursting pencil case. Unfortunately, this routine does not exist for some of the Palestinian children in the West Bank. The daily routine these children are facing is totally different, especially those living in Area C (60% of the West Bank, which is under both Israeli security and civil control), where no new schools or kindergartens may be built, for there are no building permits issued.

But, as documented by MachsomWatch members throughout the West Bank, there are definitely…

  • Demolitions and demolition orders issued for kindergartens and schools: in Simiya village, the Civil Administration demolished once more the schoolhouse that was rebuilt on privately owned land after the former was demolished, and issued a demolition order for the school at Izwidin.
  • Settler violence: In Hebron, children need protection from the harassment of extremist  Israeli settlers on their way to school: children of the surrounding villages cannot get to their school at A-Tawane without military escort (initiated by MachsomWatch). At Burin, children from an early age live in constant anxiety, feeling that nowhere – neither at home nor in school – are they safe from settler attacks, at times backed up by the Israeli army.
  • Stressful military presence and assaults: Two army jeeps came to the school gate at A-Sawiya village and began to hurl teargas grenades at it. In Jerusalem, even kindergartens have not been immune to the army. According to OCHA data, in 2019 in Hebron alone, there were 69 cases of teargas grenades hurled at schools,  hundreds of teachers and schoolchildren were affected.
  • Numerous detentions and checkpoints: on their way to school, children and teachers must go through checkpoints, which makes it difficult to reach the destination. The situation in the Palestinian Jordan Valley is particularly harsh- in order to attend school, children of the shepherd communities must leave their parents’ home and live with relatives in the hilly region of the West Bank, for the ways they used un the past to get to school from home every day were blocked by the army. Elsewhere, Israeli settlers, backed up by the army, cut off families from the main road. In spite of the difficulties, we meet young women with great motivation, and help them raise funds to go on to higher education.

All these are just a part of the daily routine – and the basic right to education is seriously affected. In spite of the difficulties, the rate of children going to elementary schools (97% of their peer group) is of the highest in the region, but descends to 60% in later years. A period that is supposed to be joyful and unique in childhood becomes traumatic, with harsh negative ramifications for the future of young generations.


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