Palestinian children the greatest losers in Intifada
Nablus (dpa) - Eight-year-old Bashir has come up with a plan of how best to blow up Israelis.
''If I had an explosives belt, I would go into a Jewish area and start smoking,'' he says. Jews would then flock to him, and ''then there would be an explosion and many victims,'' he says.
Bashir is terminally ill with a metabolic disease and says he would like to do ''something good'' for his people before he dies.
Whether blinded by indoctrination or made many times over the victims of Israeli violence and the economic collapse, Palestinian chidren in the West Bank and the Gaza strip are in dire straights.
Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (or uprising) two years ago, 217 children have died as a result of the conflict, according to the United Nations children's organization UNICEF.
''Violence, curfews, and restrictions on the freedom of movement by the Israeli army are undermining the basic right of all Palestinian children to education,'' said a UNICEF report.
Because many schools such as those in Nablus have to remain closed due to curfews, children look for other ''sparetime activities''.
Ignoring curfews, children run out into the streets of Nablus and pummel each other, throw stones at one another or sword fight with sticks.
Especially popular is the game of cat-and-mouse with Israeli patrols.
''I am not afraid of the Jewish soldiers, the soldiers are afraid of me,'' says 11-year-old Mohammed, and flexes boyish biceps.
''We have lost control of our children,'' says Anan al-Kadri, a member of the city administration. ''They simply go into the streets... they have to play. They look around for tanks and bulldozers and then run away.''
Representatives of aid organisation all agree: if no political resolution emerges from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, today's stone throwers will be tomorrow's intifada leaders.
''Six- and seven-year-olds are again bed-wetters. Children are afraid of the dark and of every kind of noise such as car horns. They have crying jags, climb on their parents or wake up from nightmares,'' says a nurse from ''Caritas Baby Hospital'' in Bethlehem, and presents an awkward children's drawings of tanks and the Church of the Nativity.
The UNICEF reports says that fear, aggression, rebellion are often found in six- to twelve-year-olds in the Palestinian territories.
With children up to 18 years of age, comes additional at-risk behaviour such as helplessness, frustration, and withdrawal. Other disorders include headaches, stomach cramps, skin ailments, lack of concentration and rejection of any authority.
The UNICEF reports says that ''almost all children have been exposed to violence: indirectly through television, the description of attacks, violent posters or songs celebrating violence on the street or in school''.
The Israeli left sees as one of their greatest mistakes after the Oslo Accords was not speaking out more strongly against incitement and agitation in Palestinian media and school books.
The biggest idols in Balata refugee camp in Nablus are suicide bombers. They are pasted metres-wide on the walls of houses. Children proudly show their pictures in the streets. Suicide bombers are honoured by Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank in the same way that pop stars are in other countries.
A boy in a washed out pink-coloured teeshirt has incurred the wrath of Dalal Salameh, a leading member of Yassir Arafat's Fatah Movement in Balata. She asks the boy why he is not dressed like the others.
In Hebrew letters on the boy's teeshirt is the name ''Nachshon'', an Israeli kibbutz. The teeshirts of the other children sport portraits of suicide bombers with weapons in their hands.
Anan al-Kadri concedes that radical Islamic movements like Hamas have a great influence among women and children. In special lessons, Hamas representatives speak at length about life and death and martyrdom.
And it's an open secret that children in the camps receive weapons training from Palestinian radicals.
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Copyright (c) 2002 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 09/26/2002 12:53:01
Copyright (c) dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH