Nablus Project HOPE, February 09
Girls from Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

Children of Palestine

All children should have the same rights regardless of whether they live in Israel or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the International Human Rights framework.
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Israel has the primary resposibility for children living in the West Bank and Gaza, as the population there is under their control.
However, contrary to the obligations agreed upon by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Israel has neglected the responsibility to protect the children in the OPT. Instead, several humanitarian organisations report of serious violations of childrens rights in the OPT. There are reports of violations such as threats to childrens lives and to their security, arrests and arbitrary detention as well as violations of their rights to education and health care. It has been reported that Israeli policies have hindered actors including the Palestinian Authority (PA) and UNRWA from carrying out their work for the children living in the OPT and that Israel ignores its responsibilities to the UNCRC. 1 487 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers since September 2000, whereas 123 Israeli children were killed by Palestinians according to UN sources. During the Israeli attack on Gaza in Dec 08/Jan 09, 431 Palestinian children were killed according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Although the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for an end to the killing and injury of children in the OPT, Israel has made no progress towards this. Rather, 2008 saw a significant increase in killings and injury of children according to UN sources.
According to International Law, a child is defined as being a person under the age of 18. However, according to Israeli military Law, which is enforced in the OPT, a child is defined as being under the age of 16. Thus, the detentions and arrests of houndreds of 16-17 years old Palestinians are breaches to childrens rights and a violation of the CRC.
The PA and UNRWA are responsible for education in the West Bank and Gaza. But it is Israel's responsibility to ensure that children's rights to education is implemented in the OPT. However, humanitarian organizations report on the degrading of the education system in the OPT, and a failure to fulfill their obligations under the UNCRC.
The education system in Israel and the OPT is inherently discriminatory. For example in East Jerusalem, the education facilities and opportunities for Palestinian children are severely inferior compared to those offered to Jewish children in West Jerusalem. Human Rights Watch has outlined some grave forms of discrimination in the education system.
9000 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are not even registered as participating in the education system. Furthermore, the Separation Wall is restricting access to schools in many areas of the OPT.
'Save the Children' has raised concern about discriminatory practices in the education system as well as the infringement on children's rights in the OPT. It has strongly recommended that Israel guarantees for the safety of the children in the OPT and for their right to proper educational standards according to the UNCRC.
Violence, fear and anxiety which children experience due to the situation in the OPT, have naturally impacted on their performance in the school system.
When living in Nablus, learning about the human rights abuses committed against the people here, learning about the situation for Palestinian refugee children in general, both here in the West Bank and in Gaza, I am reminded of Haruki Murakami's speech in Jerusalem on the 20th of February 2009. He was using the metaphor of a fragile egg and a Wall, claiming the importance of being on the side of the fragile egg and of fighting the System. He said that "Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg." The wall is a metaphor for "bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells" and the egg is a metaphor for the unarmed civilian. Also, the "high, solid wall" which we are confronting is 'the System'. Indeed, the wall, that is, the System which people here are suffering under, is the Israeli state with it's inherent discrimination, it's racist zionist ideology and systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.
A System which provides human rights for Israeli children but continously abuse the rights of children living in the OPT.
It is this System which attacks a defenseless population in Gaza and kills 431 children. Young individuals; individual souls, fragile, like eggs against a wall. This solid and high wall, is also manifested as a real wall; the Separation Wall, separating Israelis from Palestinians as well as Palestinians from Palestinians. Thus, the symbolism of the fragile egg against a Wall has a high significance here in Israel and Palestine. A population facing continously hardship due to the Wall, the System, which to the outside world claims to be democratic, but which is inherently poised with direct and structural violence, a ruthless propaganda system postulating the demonization and dehumanization of the Palestinians, and where children throwing stones are regarded as potential terrorists. A System which carries out the systematic and continous oppression of a people as well as the expulsion of a people, as up to 900 000 Palestinians have been forced out of Palestine according to UN sources and 660 000 live in refugee camps in the OPT.
It is this System, this hard and cold wall of obstacles, discrimination, injustice and cruelty, which needs to be fought. Thus, the importance of being on the side of the eggs; the defenceless people, the individual souls who easily are crushed like eggs against the wall, when attacked by the Israeli military power, as in Gaza in Dec 08/Jan 09. The way that the System, in its grotesque ways of exersising power over the weak, deprives the people of of their humanity, of their human dignity. This Wall which creates fear and hatred, resentment and divisions, is truly an obstacle to peace. All the fragile, individual souls at the foot of the Wall, are feeling its coldness and hardness, it's hours of humiliation at checkpoints, it's refusal to let you go and visit you sick uncle in Jeruaslem, it's refusal to let you travel to the coast which is only a 1 hours drive away, it's closures, it's threats, it's restrictions to freedom. It's willingness to sacrifice human lives, to orcestrate the massacre of defenseless woman and children for the sake of it's own power and maintenance.

Children from Askar Refugee Camp

10 February 2009

Nablus. The dry air, the dust and pollution in the streets. No rain for three weeks and then suddenly. Rain. Floods of rain. Alhamdulillah. الحمد لله
Oh, to breathe

It's raining in Nablus, February 2009

23 February 2009

The girls at the UNRWA school, Nablus

The refugee girls (7 - 10 years old) that I teach at the UNRWA school in El Ayn refugee camp, are very happy and enthusiastic participants in my classes. Their eagerness to learn is increadible. When I ask questions, they all want to answer, jumping up and down, flicking their fingers saying "me!", "me!". I am overwhelmed by their enthusiasm. I try to let them all answer, I want them all to have the chance to express themselves. I try to encourrage their imagination. We look at visual images and talk about what we see, the more incredible and fanciful, the better… Or we talk about words, associations, making up stories.

The girls I teach at the UNRWA school in Nablus, February 2009

27 February 2009

Every night in Nablus; the sound of dogs barking, the sound of shootings. The Israeli soldiers are invading the Old City, arresting suspected people. Three days ago they bombed six houses in the Old City and arrested the people living there.
Recently, there is the precence of F16's, flying over the city several times each morning.
The right winged extremists have won the election in Israel, Netanjahu will form a new government and there are rumers that things are getting worse here. The Palestinian President Abbas' term is over, and the pepole here are facing a time when the prospects for peace seem to be diminishing.
How will peace negotiations here be carried forward with Netanjahu as prime minister of Israel, with extremist Lieberman in Government and without strong Palestinian leadership?
On Wednesday people gathered in the streets in support of Fatha, calling for the contunumation of President Abbas' term.

Maan News reports that: "The Israeli Jerusalem Municipality pressed forward this week with a plan to expel more than 1,500 Palestinians and potentially demolish their homes in the Bustan neighborhood of Jerusalem, just to the south of the Old City."
Tragicallly, the occupation, house demolitions and illegal expulsion of Palestinians from their himes and properties continues.

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