To deliberately subvert divinely inspired ideas to absolve the inhumanity of imprisoning children, or to glean political advantage to enact even more draconian measures against the most vulnerable, crosses some kind of unseen line . . . .
Many have marveled at the citing of sacred texts to support even the most heinous of thoughts and acts. Others still have struggled to understand the mind and heart that could do such damage to holy writ. And people of faith take unique exception to the mangling of words that bind them to God.
And so, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on rooting an immigration policy of family separation in the holy justification of biblical texts, faith communities across the ideological spectrum united in opposition to a perversion that defied even our most jaded expectations for this administration’s chutzpah.
The outrage goes beyond the gall of employing a text as cover for a policy that embodies the very inverse of its meaning, or omitting the myriad expressions of compassion and welcome that represent the fullness of the Bible.
After more than half a century of occupation, most Israelis can no longer imagine themselves in the place of the Palestinians. But if we cannot imagine what it is like to live under occupation, we must at least confront its brutal reality.
Under an apartheid regime, it makes no sense to ask the white what he would do in the place of the black. To imagine the the tables turned has become impossible.
Twenty years ago, in March 1998, the head of the Labor Party Ehud Barak was asked by Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy what he would do were he a young Palestinian living under occupation. “If I were a Palestinian of the right age, I would, at some point, join one of the terrorist groups,” Barak answered.
Today, not only is it difficult to imagine a Jewish Israeli politician making a similar statement; the question itself sounds imaginary. Can we imagine ourselves as Palestinians? What a strange idea. If there is one thing 50 years of brutal military rule over another people has seared into the Israeli consciousness, it is that there is one law for us, and another for Palestinians — that our destinies as human beings were meant to be different.
When you consistently and systematically abuse the Other for decades, this separation of consciousness becomes a kind of survival mechanism. The fact that we cannot imagine ourselves in the place of those living in Gaza — for example, subject to a siege that forces one to live a life of suffering and extreme poverty — allows us to carry on without pangs of guilt.
“Half a century of occupation has taken a heavy toll on the human rights of virtually every Palestinian, regardless of where in the occupied territory they reside. The feelings of despair among Palestinians in the face of these developments cannot be overstated. . . . [Human rights violations include] home demolitions and forced evictions, restricted access to services, threats of violence — including violence at the hands of settlers — restrictions on freedom of movement, and a strict residency regime for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.”
— Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights
United Nations officials condemned the continued arbitrary detention of Palestinian children by Israel saying the practice has become “systematic and widely spread.”
A series of UN reports presented at the Human Rights Council shows how the living conditions of Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza have dramatically worsened over the past year, and how children are bearing the brunt of the Israeli occupation, said Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights.
ÆThe past year saw hundreds of Palestinian children detained by Israel, some without charge under administrative detention,Æ Gilmore said, addressing the council in Geneva on Tuesday.
“The impact of the conflict on the lives of children is entirely unacceptable. In this year alone, six children have been shot and killed in the context of protests.”
“It should be noted that the girl and her father are illegal immigrants in Israel, and therefore she was sent to Erez Crossing . . . entered the Gaza Strip.”
— Israel Prison Service statement
Israeli authorities deported a 14-year-old epileptic Palestinian girl from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip earlier this month, without notifying her parents, and despite the fact that she has never lived there a day in her life.
Ghada, who was born in Ramallah where she has lived much of her life, was arrested by Israeli Border Police officers on January 13 for being in Jerusalem without a military permit. She was traveling back to her home in a-Ram, just northeast of Jerusalem where she lives with her mother and siblings, from her aunt’s home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya.
Her father, though originally from the Gaza Strip, currently lives in the West Bank as well, her mother told Israeli human rights group HaMoked, which is representing the family. When Ghada was born, Israeli authorities listed her address as Gaza for an unknown reason.
The American author wanted to write an ABC rhyme book with lots of references to the Holy Land and Palestinian culture. However, her book risks being overshadowed by a ruckus about an entry called “I is for Intifada.”
“I wanted to write and publish a book that was greatly needed — a classic, playful and pedagogically sound ABC rhyme book with lots of references to the Holy Land (Christmas, Jesus Christ, Bethlehem, Nazareth), Palestinian food, dance, culture, and the geography, multiculturalism of the region.”
— Dr. Golbarg Bashi, professor of history at Pace University
Traditional children’s alphabet books have taught kids that “A is for Apple,” “B is for Boy,” and “C is for Cat.” But a new twist on the genre aims to teach kids the ABC’s of Palestinian culture.
The book, called “P is for Palestine,” was published last week and has quickly caused a stir among some Jewish parents in New York for teaching kids that “I is for Intifada.”
The author, Iranian-born Dr. Golbarg Bashi, promoted her book and a reading at a local bookstore in a post last week on a closed Facebook page for New York moms. Her post drew angry responses from women who called “P is for Palestine” anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda, a charge Bashi denies.
“The charge of anti-Semitism is a very severe one and it is not something I take lightly,” she told Haaretz. “This is a book written from a place of love not a place of hatred. It is a book celebrating Palestinians and empowering their children without an iota of animus towards any other people — Israelis included.”
The bill [introduced in] Congress this week is a significant step forward for all those who want to align our values with the actions — and aid monies — of our government. Now we need the rest of Congress to act by swiftly passing this breakthrough legislation. Looking at what has been accomplished since a small group of us sat at my kitchen table three years ago, agonizing over how to end these abuses, I know this vital change is possible.
Imagine you are a child between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. The army comes to your home in the middle of the night, wakes you from your bed, blindfolds you and ties your hands with plastic cuffs.
Your parents’ pleas do not stop the soldiers from roughly taking you and throwing you in their Jeep, never telling you or your parents what you are charged with or where you are going.
You arrive at a detention cell in an Israeli settlement where you are interrogated without a lawyer or family member present, and you are pressured to confess to throwing stones so you can go back home to your family. Once you sign the confession, written in a language you can’t read, you then face a military court hearing where a military judge sentences you to prison for three months, in a detention center in Israel where your family members are likely unable to visit.
“[We] strongly endorse Rep. Betty McCollum’s Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act. In order for the US to play a constructive role in bringing about a comprehensive and sustainable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must ensure we are not supporting the continued trauma inflicted on Palestinian youth entangled in the Israeli Military Detention system.”
— Churches for Middle East Peace
“Jewish tradition teaches that each and every single person has inherent dignity and worth and must be treated accordingly. This legislation recognizes and acts upon the inherent dignity and worth of Palestinian children and sends the message that the United States is committed to a future with freedom, safety, and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
— Jewish Voices for Peace
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) today introduced legislation — the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act — to prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children. The full text of the bill can be found here.
An estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch have documented that these children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15. In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has found that Palestinian children are frequently held for extended periods without access to either their parents or attorneys.
“This legislation highlights Israel’s system of military detention of Palestinian children and ensures that no American assistance to Israel supports human rights violations,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.”
“Our children don’t have normal childhoods. From the minute they open their eyes they wake into a reality of checkpoints, soldiers, settlers insulting their mom. They see the news from Gaza, children like them, bombed and homeless. They hear about a boy their age, burned alive by Israelis. They are sad and afraid. It’s not a healthy environment.”
Their plans were quite precise: they wouldn’t attack women, or the elderly, or children like themselves. Their targets, they agreed, would be men in their late teens and early twenties — young men of military age. All this was settled between them before they left the house. Hassan Manasra, fifteen, took a carving knife from his mother’s kitchen, but his cousin Ahmed, thirteen, couldn’t find the long, daggerlike knife he’d intended to use for his weapon. It took him a while, but finally he located it, concealed in a cupboard, where his father had hidden it for safekeeping.
The Manasras live in a compound of multifamily homes occupying almost an entire block in the Jerusalem hillside neighborhood of Beit Hanina. In the shared courtyard, half a dozen bicycles of various sizes are propped against a tree or lie in the dirt by the tall entry gate. Ten brothers and their families share the compound, and the children move fluidly through each other’s apartments, which are furnished rather formally: prints of alpine landscapes, velvet-covered sofas, lacy tablecloths. They’re the homes of a modestly prosperous clan whose breadwinners owned a grocery store, or work in trades or in transportation. Until October 12, 2015, Hassan and Ahmed followed the same schedule as all the school-age cousins in the household: go to class, come home, eat, change clothes, and then go play in an area that their uncles had cleared for them on the unused land beneath the highway overpass that separates Beit Hanina from the adjacent neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev. Sometimes the cousins played soccer, but Hassan and Ahmed particularly enjoyed training for parkour; the concrete pylons and grassy embankments under the highway were ideal for practicing vaults and tumbles.
The highway divides two East Jerusalem neighborhoods — the House of Hanina and the Peak of Ze’ev — that face each other across a shallow valley. Both are long-settled places. Beit Hanina was home to a few farming families as early as Canaanite times; in Pisgat Ze’ev, excavations have uncovered ritual baths from the Second Temple period. Both neighborhoods have seen tremendous population growth since 1967, when Israel captured this territory from Jordan in the Six-Day War. Now the busy highway is all that marks the division between the Palestinian neighborhood and the Jewish one. Pisgat Ze’ev is the last stop on the Jerusalem tramline, Beit Hanina the second-to-last. Residents of the two neighborhoods live cheek by jowl, yet they inhabit two different worlds.
“All families are grateful for the program. Many mothers were shy when speaking to me, but their concern or happiness comes across in their facial expressions and gestures. One mother, Tahreer, said her two year old boy had improved a little after completing the program. She would like him to go for a second round of treatment so that he could continue to improve.” — Dr, Julianne Stewart, ABM Programs Director
Since the 2014 bomb attacks, Australian Anglican Board of Mission (ABM) partner, the Al Ahli Arab Hospital (a medical facility of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem), has continued to help children restore and maintain their health. Parents and children are benefiting from this assistance in Beit Hanoun, a poor area of Gaza, near the Israeli border. People there were very hard hit in the 2014 bomb attacks.
The Child Nutrition Program seeks to build health profiles for children and help families that are struggling to cope. Over the course of three months, children are given a medical assessment by an expert pediatrician and a program of nutritional supplements is developed. The hospital provides the necessary supplements and monitors the children for signs of improvement. Dr. Julianne Stewart, ABM’s Programs Director, visited the Gaza Strip last year and met with some of the families that have been supported by the hospital.
On her journey, Julianne met with three year old Abdullah. Abdullah completed the program and is doing well according to the social workers and his mother. His mother Hyat is just 34 years old and has nine children under 18. Abdullah is the youngest. Hyat said, “Abdullah is doing well. I thank God he has improved. We give him his vitamins, enhanced milk, and food parcels from the Ahli. He is 12kg now.”