Palestinian Child Day 2010

[RAMALLAH, 5 April 2010] - Palestinian Child Day comes on 5 April of each year. On this day, the Palestinian community celebrates children, who represent the present and the future of society. This year, once again, this occasion comes at a time when Palestinian children still suffer not only from the violence and brutality of the occupation, but also from Palestinian internal strife.

The Israeli army continues to violate Palestinian children's right to life in many respects. Since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000, more than 1,330 Palestinian children were killed, including 352 children during the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009. In addition, during the same period, approximately 6,500 children were arrested; more than 340 of them are still in custody.

This year Palestinian Child Day is celebrated amid Israel's ongoing construction of the Wall and settlement expansion, resulting in further violations of children's rights, particularly their rights to life, personal safety, education and adequate health and standard of living. Recently, there has been a notable increase in the number of children harmed during popular protests against the Wall and settlement expansion. DCI-Palestine documented the cases of 75 children injured by the Israeli army in such protests in 2009 and the first quarter of 2010.

Further, the number of children victims of settler violence has increased significantly. In 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, DCI-Palestine documented 20 settler assaults targeting 28 children living in the West Bank.

In the Gaza Strip, there is little cause to celebrate Palestinian Child Day when the ongoing, Israeli-imposed blockade and closures threaten the development and survival of all children and constitute a major obstacle to the enjoyment of their human rights. Children in Gaza represent 56% of the population and bear the brunt of the siege, in place for now almost three years.

At the Palestinian level, the continuation of internal division threatens the Palestinian cause and the interest of the Palestinian people. On the occasion of Palestinian Child Day, and on behalf of Palestinian children, DCI-Palestine urges political leaders to do their utmost to resolve their disagreement and work to make child protection a priority in the context of the Palestinian national reconciliation.

At the community level, we still observe a disappointing performance of the yet promising potential of this ample reservoir of knowledge and capacity. Still, insufficient attention is given to children's rights and needs. Not enough is being done to improve their environment and alleviate its negative impact on children's development and natural growth.

On this day, it is necessary to emphasize that child protection and child welfare must be everyone's concern and responsibility. That all stakeholders should not only work towards improving child rights and child protection in Palestine, but also tackle the root causes of the problems that undermine these - rather than merely dealing with the symptoms. This will be achieved through the creation of a protective and supportive environment for children, by encouraging schools, families and social institutions to respect the views of children, and promote their active participation in issues that concern them.

On this day, DCI-Palestine calls for the prompt enactment of the Palestinian Juvenile Justice Law that guarantees minimum standards of fair trial to children. We also call for the development of juvenile welfare institutions, combating the causes of juvenile delinquency, and rehabilitating children in conflict with the law.

Let us make Palestinian Child Day a day of struggle in order to realise the human rights of Palestinian children and end violence against them.

Let us unite in order to defend Palestinian children and their society from violence and from injustice. Let us create in Palestine a society in which our children and beloved ones live in security and stability.